Friday, May 25, 2012

Media Award Small Step In Right Direction

There was an interesting twist on Wednesday during the Hall of Fame selection day. A new award was introduced. It was the first official confirmation that the NASCAR media was finally going to be acknowledged as a vital part of the sport.

Here is the announcement:

NASCAR and the NASCAR Hall of Fame have announced the creation of a new award to honor the media’s contributions to the success of the sport and it carries the names of two legendary broadcasters from the Motor Racing Network.

The careers of Barney Hall and Ken Squier have now been permanently woven into the sport’s historical timeline with this week’s unveiling of the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.

A special exhibit will be incorporated into the existing Media Section within the NASCAR Hall of Fame, honoring Hall and Squier – who received the inaugural award during Wednesday’s introduction of the Class of 2013. They now join former MRN broadcaster Ned Jarrett in the halls of the NASCAR shrine, who was inducted in May 2011 as a two-time Cup Series champion.

“Media have played an important role in the growth and popularity of NASCAR over the years,” said Chairman and CEO Brian France. “The voices of Ken Squier and Barney Hall are an indelible part of our sport’s history and we couldn’t be more pleased to recognize their long and outstanding careers.”

Hall is widely known for his calm voice and unmatched storytelling. He’s been a part of MRN’s award-winning race coverage since the network’s debut in 1970.

“I don’t think I could have picked anybody I’ve ever enjoyed working with as much as I did Ken,” Hall said. “He taught me that you don’t scream and holler on the air. You get excited in your voice, but there’s a way to do it without screaming and yelling.”

Squier also was part of the MRN team starting in 1970. His golden voice helped take NASCAR to a national audience thirsting for live coverage. He moved from the radio booth to network television at CBS, perhaps best-known for his work during the 1979 Daytona 500. That day, Squier welcomed millions of viewers to the first live flag-to-flag coverage of “The Great American Race” … his phrase which has stuck with the event ever since.

“I was blessed and fortunate with how things worked out,” Squier said. “To be a small part of anything as large as this is a pretty good deal.”

Each year, five nominees will be selected by a panel that includes NASCAR executives, Hall of Fame staff and the president of the National Motorsports Press Association. From there, a voting panel will select the winner of the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence, which will be announced in conjunction with annual Hall of Fame festivities.

“Ken Squier and Barney Hall provided my primary education about the sport and fueled my passion for it,” said MRN President and Executive Producer David Hyatt. “No other broadcasters have had as much impact on the development and popularity of NASCAR as Ken and Barney. They each played pivotal roles in the history of the Motor Racing Network, drawing the blueprint for our success. I’m thrilled that the inaugural award has been given to them, and humbled to be part of the industry and the network they helped create.”

Here are some comments on the award:

Darrell Waltrip: "The constant between both of these guys is the humility they bring to the table." "One of NASCAR's original broadcasters, Ken Squier worked with Motor Racing Network to take NASCAR to a broader audience. His distinctive voice took listeners to the track no matter where they were. Squier first showed his face to audiences with the 1979 Daytona 500, when CBS aired the Great American Race - a name he coined - live for the first time on national television." "Barney Hall has been part of my Sundays for as long as I remember. The southern gentleman who calls races on the Motor Racing Network is simply the smoothest voice in radio. Race day without Mr. Hall is not race day and yet I wonder where is Chris Economaki? Where are Tom Higgins and David Poole?"

One of the fundamental drawbacks to the Hall was the lack of acknowledging the radio, TV and print media contributions to the sport. On my visit, I was struck by the contrast between the amount of videos featuring NASCAR personalities used to explain the various exhibits and the lack of any designated area that focused on the contributions of those same individuals.

Nothing would make the dry as toast NASCAR Hall of Fame come alive more than having fans sit in a mock MRN radio booth, pick a classic race video and then call the action. How about digging up the original Hollywood Hotel, putting it in the Hall and letting fans record themselves taking a turn at the microphone?

These days, families visiting the Hall come equipped with smart phones or a digital handicam to record the visit. The best part about it is they bring all the technology needed with them. Maybe adding a live webcam so that friends and family back home could watch and listen would spur the kind of interest that cars you can't touch and firesuits behind glass just can't muster.

Happy to have your thoughts on the media's role in NASCAR over the years and what you think the best way to incorporate these reporters, radio announcers and TV personalities into a historical perspective might be. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


HarpAmy/Amy in FL said...

I'm thrilled about this addition. I know that owners, crew, and drivers will be enshrined, but they wouldn't be as known with out the media covering them. I wonder if officials will go in like the drivers will.?.

I can name a long list of media that I think will earn this award. That list includes the following and many more: David Poole, Chris Economaki, Mike Joy, Allen Bestwick, Nate Ryan, Monte Dutton, Tom Jensen, Jenna Fryer, Rick Allen, Chris Meyers, Steve Byrnes, etc.

Again, I'm so happy and relieved that the media gets recognized at the Hall.

Anonymous said...

This quote caught my attention:
“He taught me that you don’t scream and holler on the air. You get excited in your voice, but there’s a way to do it without screaming and yelling.”

Well. Now that is a class DW should be in.

Great for Barney. All-time great.

I hope Eli Gold gets in there soon. I really miss his voice calling races. When you heard his distinctive voice, you knew what you were listening to. He was a brand for NASCAR. And now he is all but gone.

My wish list includes: Bob Jenkins (he was the NASCAR voice in the 80s), Jack Arute, Dick Brooks (loved his down home style...), Dr, Jerry Punch, Benny Parsons (we miss him), Ned Jarrett....I'm sure I'm leaving out someone.

OSBORNK said...

I think it is a nice addition to the HOF. However, I don't think anyone who is still active in the sport in any way should be in the HOF. Those still involved in the sport can and probably do pressure their peers to vote for them and push their supposed qualifications on the air unfairly to influence their good voting friends.(DW, etc).

LongTimeRacingFan said...

Really glad they added this honor for journalists and media. Other Halls have this honor, NASCAR should be no different. I didn't realize they don't have live cams at the NASCAR Hall of Fame as I have not been there. Webcams are such a big deal these days as a way for people to have fun while on vacation. If cruise ships and beaches all over the world have live cams, I would hope NASCAR could find someone in their organization to figure out how to make this happen. Really cannot believe they don't have this already. Great column, JD, as usual. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

The media should have been part of the HoF from the beginning. I am glad the nascar suits finally corrected that situation. About JD's suggestions, it would take a leader with vision - maybe some day. MC

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
And lest we forget those 'media' members who served as track announcers ...for me, the one who quickly comes to mind was Ray Melton at Richmond and Darlington ...also, Robert Montgomery at Martinsville ...on the broadcast side in pre-MRN/PRN days, I recall Dick Jones (?) ...among the static from a station miles away, those radio voices created the racing action in the window of my mind.

GinaV24 said...

Very nice to have this acknowledgement for the media. This quote from Barney Hall struck me - “I don’t think I could have picked anybody I’ve ever enjoyed working with as much as I did Ken,” Hall said. “He taught me that you don’t scream and holler on the air. You get excited in your voice, but there’s a way to do it without screaming and yelling.” - maybe someone should tell DW!!

I also agree with Osborn - anyone still active in the sport - whether it be owner, driver or in broadcasting should not be eligible to go into the HoF.

Sam said...

I had the pleasure of meeting Barney at the Publix in Daytona Beach Shores around 6 years ago and he was very humble and couldn't believe I knew who he was. I'm very glad that these two pioneers have been recognized.

Garry said...

Wow. Yet again, DW's article on FOXSports about the HOF selection is all about :Me, I, Myself," God, really? Really Darrell? Then he throws in his hidden agenda that all drivers that won a Championship should automatically get in. What?? I'm sorry, but Mark Martin was once tabbed"The greatest driver to never win a Championship." He certainly could get in based on alot of other things in NASCAR than getting a Championship. Shallow thinking once again from Darrell. If all you needed was to win a championship to get in, then the Hall would only have a handful of drivers over the next 30 years. And at this rate, it would all be Hendrick drivers.

AncientRacer said...


OMG. Why am I not surprised? I am certainly glad, however, you subjected yourself to the abuse of reading it so that I would not have to.

You have to be needy to do that kind of thing to yourself, you know ;)

Buschseries61 said...

Fantastic news. There are a lot of people in the NASCAR media that deserve to be recognized for their contributions to the sport.

With the news Dick Berggren and Bob Jenkins might be putting down their microphones, it's a bittersweet week in the media.

Anonymous said...

Dick Berggren is retiring next week. The classiest guy on the entire FOX crew - he will be missed.

Garry said...

Jayski has a link from (which is actually FOX) that announces Dick Berggren's retirement. But to read it, all it mentions is he started way back in 1981 with Mike Joy, his NASCAR on FOX partner, etc. blah blah. No mention of MRN, or what he did prior to that. AncientRacer, I agree: I have a headache now from the FOX overkill...

Anonymous said...

I think Chris Economaki should have been the first inductee and this year not next. The only reason I say that is he is still alive but in poor health. Then next year David Poole. From there you move on.

GinaV24 said...

Garry, glad you read that article and summarized it here for me, so I don't have to. I make it a practice to not click on anyone's column that I figure will annoy me so I saw the link on Jayski and annoyed it.

My list of "ignore" has gotten longer than when I first found Jayski's site.

glenc1 said...

And soon we can add Dr Dick Berggren...who just announced his retirement after Dover. Bon Voyage, Dick, you will be missed...I hope he enjoys his 'retirement', though it sounds like he'll be busy.

Let's not forget the great Tom Higgins. And yes, eventually they should include those great track announcers.

The quote anon 10:13 and Gina mention was the one that jumped out at me too. You know, a few blogs ago one of the anons suggested listening to a few old race clips (wrecks) on Youtube, and I was there listening for a half hour. They did raise their voices a bit, now and again, but overall, it was amazing how the broadcasts were exciting yet not over the top. Many were Bob Jenkins. But SOOOOOO much more professional than Darrell (if only he'd let Mike handle the pxp....).

Sophia said...

I'm glad Ken & Barney were recognized. I think folks that have been around for DECADES should live long enough to see themselves honored. Neither Ken nor Barney seem the type to ask others to vote for them.

Some other modern broadcasters? Not so much. Not naming names but one is a former driver.

Don said...

I'm not impressed. The [b]National Motorsports Press Association[/b]has had a Hall of Fame since 1965.

Not that Hall and Squier don't deserve recognition, but the NASCAR HOF has problems with the current voting stystem and they should have been working on that before thinking about honoring the press.

Hall, Economaki, Higgins, they're already in the NMPA HOF. They've got a better selection of drivers, owners, promoters and officials too.

As usual, NASCAR is busy arranging deck chairs as the ship sinks.

PS: if NASCAR's a Southern sport, how come the best broadcastewrs (Economaki, Berggren, Joy, Squier) are from the North?

James said...

Very happy to hear of this award, very sad to hear about Dick Berggren and Bob Jenkins, two of the classiest men you could ever meet! I have also met, Mr Hall and Squire, both of these men are as humble as your next door neighbor. Together these folks along with Chris Economaki, who IMHO was as much a pioneer as Ken and Barney, deserve the thanks of all the fans who listened to each of their unique and distinctive voices with reverence, NEVER questioning their HONESTY or MOTIVES. THEY helped create the image of NASCAR that has been so tarnished by the faux clan! It certainly appears that the lack of attendance has put NASCAR in full blown spin mode, too little too late.

53 said...

Sad that DW recognizes humility,
yet never uses it with all of his
I, MY, ME, MINE ego.

We are going to miss the class that
Dr. Dirt has shown to everyone.

Anonymous said...

The growth of NASCAR owes a lot to these pioneering broadcasters, and they deserve their own place in the HOF. They shouldn't have to compete with France family members, drivers, etc.

Going back to the Wide World of Sports, the common denominator of these great broadcasters was respect for the sport and respect for the fans. I read somewhere that Ken Squier referred to it as "common men doing uncommon things." The broadcasts were educating a national audience about a regional sport. It was about the racing competition and the competitors, and that included the little guys trying to compete with the established teams. It was never about the broadcasters themselves or some artificially imposed plot or story line.

Fox and ESPN have decided that isn't good enough any more. They are no longer interested in the racing, and the lesser teams aren't even worthy of a mention. For Fox, it's all about their own personalities, their high tech toys, and a few favorites. For ESPN, it's their high def cameras and a beauty contest amidst a cult of personality. ESPN knows the story line before the race begins.

Today's broadcasters don't identify with the audience but with the NASCAR establishment. They speak down to the audience and insult them when the fans dare to question any part of the establishment. We are supposed to accept the blatant favoritism, conflict of interest, lousy camera work, forced plot lines, the cult of personality, and everything else with a smile.

I yearn for the early days and the great broadcasters noted in other comments. The racing competition has all the drama and entertainment that I want or need. Give me the whole race and all the participants. NASCAR will survive the current TV contract with Fox and ESPN. I just wonder how much damage will be done by that time and how many fans will be driven away, never to return.