Monday, January 14, 2008
Ken Squier Kept The Excitement High
As ESPN Classic continues its series of Daytona 500 highlight shows, fans on this Monday were treated to "The Dean" of American motorsports, Ken Squier.
The 1979 race was shown in two hour edited form without the intrusive graphics of other ESPN Classic offerings. The network let this program stand alone to pay homage to the incredible content and the outstanding announcing that thrilled viewers decades ago.
Back then, Squier had to do some smooth talking to get CBS to carry the race live. "It was a tough sell," Squier said. "There was a general feeling that this was more of a novelty thing and that it wouldn't work on a national level."
Needless to say, it did. Squier wound-up announcing every Daytona 500 from that original 1979 race right up to 1997. He then passed the baton to Mike Joy, who follows closely in the Squier mold of continually updating the action and keeping the fans interested throughout the event.
Now in his seventies, Squire is a proud Vermont resident and still owns and operates the Thunder Road Speedway in Barre, VT. He has won many awards in his life, is a member of several Halls of Fame, and continues to have an impact on the national motorsports scene.
The 1979 race allowed viewers to watch the very different style of racing in those days, despite the high speeds. Everything seemed to be a bit more casual, from the safety workers to the track security. The one thing that was not casual was the racing.
Squier was a master at informing the viewers about an individual driver while simultaneously providing the call of the race. His frequent reference to hometowns, rookie status, and past racing experience layed the groundwork for the focus on the individual drivers in this personality-driven sport.
While the last lap of the race became a classic, it was Squier directing the cameras from the announce booth that put the focus first on Richard Petty and his crew, and then turned the attention to the continuing action between Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers on the backstretch.
Once again in this program, viewers saw much wider camera shots than we see in today's NASCAR coverage. The old CBS style almost never showed just one car, and rarely put the focus of the telecast on the leader. Squier understood that every story needed to be updated, and used his pit reporters in just that way.
It was clear throughout the program that Squier was totally prepared, and his background information on even the drivers not running up front made it clear that he valued everyone in the race equally. He made it clear that he appreciated their effort, and not just their results.
This series continues on ESPN Classic next Monday with the 1990 race which saw heartache for the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. and unexpected success for Derrike Cope. Once again the program will be in a two hour format for those of you recording this series.
In the middle of the off-season, with testing at Daytona in-progress and the anticipation of a new season building, it was quite fitting to hear the voice of Ken Squier at the speedway bringing home another flag-to-flag telecast.
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