As one of NASCAR’s pioneer TV broadcasters, Ken Squier helped share the stories and success of the sport’s biggest stars.
Now, he will take his place among many of the same legends whose exploits he so artfully delivered to fans.
Squier, 82, who coined the phrase “The Great American Race” to describe the Daytona 500 and was co-founder of Motor Racing Network, will officially will be inducted Friday night into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C.
Actually, Squier is already there. He, along with Barney Hall, were the first recipients of the Squier-Hall Award, created in 2012 to honor the contributions of media to the success of the sport.
While his tenure goes much deeper, Squier is perhaps best known for his broadcasting work of the 1979 Daytona 500, the initial flag-to-flag coverage of the event that included the now-famous fistfight between Bobby and Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough.
“They were short track racers,” Squier said. “They were used to that kind of in-your-door, side-by-side, you ain’t rubbing, you ain’t racing kind of stuff. When it came down to it, they both came down from two laps down, made it up, and there they were scrapping to win, their Kentucky Derby, whatever you will.
“So, they were on each other, both as determined as any race drivers that ever walked the face of the earth. They were not going to give it up. There you saw the result. It was a very dramatic moment.”
The Great American Race
Squier said he initially received blowback on his use of “The Great American Race” to describe the Daytona 500 but thought it was a perfect fit.
“What was Daytona? Well, it was all-American stock cars in those days, and pretty much the neighbors sounded like your neighbors, particularly if you came from a small town. What would come to mind? I fooled around with that for a long time.
“I was in Australia doing a show. They had a great race over there. It was a long one, it was a dinger, and it was a national holiday. On the way home, I thought, ‘God, that's what Daytona is. It's The Great American Race.’
“I got chewed up pretty good about that. Hadn’t I ever heard of Indy? I sure as the dickens had. This was coming from a different place. Sure enough in 1959, when those three cars came across wheel-to-wheel at the end of 500 miles, that was ‘The Great American Race.’ ”
Squier continues his racing broadcast work to this day. You are just as likely to hear him as the public address announcer at Charlotte Motor Speedway and showing up occasionally on NASCAR TV specials.
During the course of his career, Squier said the one thing that has impressed him the most in NASCAR is the change in competition.
“When we see them out there today racing, it’s a whole different world than the world I live in. That's not to say that those days with (David) Pearson and Cale and Richard (Petty) and the Allisons, all that crowd, weren’t great races, great personalities,” he said.
“But today what they have effected in NASCAR is a form of racing in which you have to be part of it, you have to be able to stay the course under the incredible pressure that they exert on each other. We see the crisis and chaos when just one guy puts a wheel out of line midway through an event.
“That kind of thing, I thought, would buoy the whole sport up again. It hasn’t come to pass yet, but I’ve got to think that as time goes on it will help NASCAR and racing to be understood for what it is, because it sure is different.”