Race Weekend Central

Ken Squier, Famed Broadcaster, Dead at 88

Ken Squier, 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, longtime TV and radio commentator and co-namesake of the Squier-Hall Award for Media Excellence, passed away Wednesday night (Nov. 15) at his home, surrounded by his family. He was 88.

“Though he never sat behind the wheel of a stock car, Ken Squier contributed to the growth of NASCAR as much as any competitor,” NASCAR president Jim France said in a statement Thursday morning. “Ken was a superb storyteller and his unmistakable voice is the soundtrack to many of NASCAR’s greatest moments. His calls on TV and radio brought fans closer to the sport, and for that he was a fan favorite. Ken knew no strangers, and he will be missed by all. On behalf of the France family and all of NASCAR, I offer my condolences to the family and friends of Ken Squier.”

Squier has had an immeasurable impact on motorsports. He first began calling races at the age of 14 in 1949, shortly after he first got involved in radio. Squier’s father, Lloyd, owned WDEV, a radio station in his hometown of

In 1960, he opened Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, Vt., a quarter-mile short track known for close racing and “The Widowmaker,” the tight exit of turn 4. He eventually sold the facility in the late 1970s, but reacquired it a couple of years later.

Squier also co-founded Catamount Stadium, a quarter-mile track in Milton, Vt. north of Burlington, in 1965. The track hosted local racing and events on the NASCAR Coors Tour (aka the NASCAR North Series) through 1987.

Squier’s work was noticed by NASCAR founder Bill France, who hired him to call races in Daytona in the late 1960s. His work went national when he helped co-found the Motor Racing Network (MRN Radio) with France in 1970. MRN Radio quickly expanded the number of radio affiliates to become one of the primary methods to follow races in the days before live coverage of races.

He would crossover into television in 1971, when ABC Sports televised the Greenville 200 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. This was the first live, flag-to-flag broadcast of a NASCAR Grand National (now NASCAR Cup Series) race. Squier served as a pit reporter on the broadcast along with Chris Economaki, while Jim McKay was in the booth.

While radio was his primary gig in NASCAR in the 1970s, Squier began expanding his resume with additional work with CBS. The network was expanding their motorsports coverage with highlighted Winston Cup broadcasts and USAC races with Squier on the call. He was joined by David Hobbs, who would contribute when not competing in sports car events.

Squier was pivotal in convincing CBS Sports and the France family to broadcast the Daytona 500 live and flag-to-flag in 1979. Both sides had different issues. CBS thought that the race wasn’t going to draw a big audience. The France family (and by extension, NASCAR) thought that it was going to hurt the gate for the race. A blackout of the race in the Southeast was proposed, but ultimately didn’t happen.

Despite these issues, CBS Sports agreed to cover the race in full. A snowstorm socked in a decent chunk of the country (it also resulted in the race starting with a yellow-green period due to early morning rain) and 16 million people watched Richard Petty win his sixth Daytona 500 over Darrell Waltrip and AJ Foyt after Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough wrecked on the last lap. Then, Yarborough ended up in an infamous fight with Donnie Allison and his brother Bobby.

The success of the broadcast saw CBS continue to expand their coverage of NASCAR. Other entities such as ESPN started covering the sport as cable television grew in the 1980s.

During this time, Squier founded MotorWeek Productions and got a deal with Turner Sports that resulted in not only race broadcasts on TBS for NASCAR and IMSA, but a weekly racing show, MotorWeek Illustrated, that covered all sorts of racing. MotorWeek Productions also produced some race broadcasts that aired on the USA Network in the mid-to-late 1980s. The IMSA broadcasts and MotorWeek Illustrated eventually moved to ESPN with Squier on the call.

TV personalities that longtime fans would be familiar with, such as Dave DeSpain and Bob Varsha, were regulars on MotorWeek Illustrated.

Squier even made contributions outside of motorsports. If you ever saw the 1986 movie Rad, then you heard Squier announcing the final BMX race in that movie. He also had a cameo in Stroker Ace, both films being directed by Hal Needham.

Squier also contributed to other sports. During the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, Squier called short track speedskating events.

Squier continued to work play-by-play on NASCAR broadcasts on CBS, TBS and sometimes TNN until his retirement from the booth after the 1997 season. He continued to serve as a host for CBS’ coverage until it ended in 2000.

When the NASCAR Hall of Fame created a media award in 2013, it was named the Squier-Hall Award to commemorate Squier and his MRN Radio colleague Barney Hall’s contributions to the sport. As the co-namesakes, Squier and Hall were the first recipients. Since then, 10 more individuals have earned the award. The family of the late Shav Glick, the 2024 Squier-Hall Award winner best known for his work with the Los Angeles Times, will receive Glick’s honors in January.

Squier-Hall Award winners are also eligible for regular induction in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Squier was inducted as part of the Class of 2018. Squier’s display in the NASCAR Hall of Fame at the time, included an old television playing races that he called, a comfortable chair and artifacts from racing in Vermont.

More recently, Squier had settled into something resembling retirement in Vermont. He sold Thunder Road International Speedbowl, the quarter-mile short track in Barre, to Cris Michaud and Pat Malone. He also sold off his radio stations.

Squier made a couple of appearances in the broadcast booth on NBC during the Southern 500 as part of a Throwback booth. You may remember him referring to Erik Jones as “That Jones Boy” on-air, which actually led to some t-shirts being sold with that statement on there.

Squier had been in poor health since contracting COVID-19 in 2020. He eventually recovered, but took months to do so. A stroke further debilitated him and he was in and out of the hospital for much of the final couple of years of his life.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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janice

and a blizzard in the northeast was responsible for everyone snowed in hearing him say “and there’s a fight….” when the allisons and yarborough decided to make things even more interesting in february, 1979. i remember him speaking about dale sr when he passed away. he really brought the sport to television besides being a clip during the wild world of sports. racing was his life. condolences to all who crossed paths with mr. squire.

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