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Only Yesterday: Ken Squier Was NASCAR’s Broadcasting Icon

The Racing Gods couldn’t let NASCAR get more than two weeks into the 2023 offseason without handing out some sad news.

On Thursday, Nov. 16, legendary racing broadcaster Ken Squier passed away at the age of 88 due to complications from an intestinal blockage.

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The NASCAR world will forever be indebted to the role that Squier played in NASCAR broadcasting.

In the days leading up to his death, fans, drivers, and media alike gave an outpouring of sympathy, mainly recollecting on fun times and stories they had about Squier.

Squier’s role in the development and production of NASCAR, transitioning it from a regional sport into a national following, cannot be understated. It was Squier who pushed NASCAR and CBS to broadcast the entirety of the 1979 Daytona 500, providing live, flag-to-flag coverage for the first time. That launched NASCAR into the spotlight, a blizzard over much of the country providing a record-setting audience.

And the finish? Just that call alone from Squier will live on as one of the best in history.

Along with his NASCAR influence, Squier’s presence in his home state of Vermont helped elevate their local racetracks. Most notably, he founded Thunder Road International SpeedBowl, due to host a Camping World SRX Series race this year before statewide flooding forced a move tosummer 2024 instead.

Decades of Squier’s dedicated commitment to the improvement and continued support of calling races culminated in his 2018 election to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. One of the sport’s most influential media members of all time, he’s also the co-namesake of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Squier-Hall Award for Media Excellence. The award is named after him and his Motor Racing Network teammate Barney Hall, who passed away in 2016.

Squier’s soothing broadcasting voice made him a joy to hear on television when fans tuned in to watch the races. Along with comfort came complexity; he was inclined to use words not commonly utilized in broadcasting vernacular (affectionately known as “Squierisms”) which made his style of play-by-play unlike any other.

In particular, four moments from Squier’s illustrious broadcasting career come to mind.

1988 Daytona 500: A Father-Son 1-2 Finish

In 1988, Squier called the ending of the 30th Daytona 500, in which Bobby Allison held off son Davey for his third Daytona 500 victory. What transpired became the first ever 1-2 finish between father and son, a true family affair in the sport’s Super Bowl event.

“And the winner of the 30th annual Great American Race: Bobby Allison,” Squier said to the folks at home. “Davey Allison, his son, in second. Judy Allison [Bobby’s wife, Davey’s mother] ecstatic. What a tremendous family performance […] The Alabama Gang has conquered the Daytona 500 in its 30th running.”

2001 Daytona 500: Recounting the Loss of A Legend

Squier retired from his NASCAR on-air career at the end of the 2000 season. But he maintained his presence as the dean of NASCAR broadcasting, popping up during key moments of the sport’s history.

One of those came following the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Squier tried to put the loss into words after getting ushered into FOX Sports’ “Hollywood Hotel” with Chris Myers, Mike Joy, and Jeff Hammond.

His first sentence encapsulated the magnitude of Earnhardt’s success brillilantly.

“Whatever stock car racing is, Dale Earnhardt was,” Squier said.

He later went on to state that “Dale Earnhardt died happy” as his two Dale Earnhardt Incorporated cars of Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the pack out of turn four toward the checkered flag.

2015-2017 Southern 500 Throwback Weekends

When throwback weekend first came to be at Darlington Raceway in 2015, NASCAR on NBC made the decision to bring back Squier to call a portion of the race’s action. NBC made the choice to have him return in both 2016 and 2017.

Though Squier had long been retired at the time, he still presented the race as if he’d never missed a beat. He analyzed Darlington in a way that hadn’t been described in years, especially now that the track is reversed from the way it was when Squier was a regular broadcaster (turns 1 and 2 used to be turns 3 and 4 and vice versa).

In 2017, during Erik Jones‘ rookie season, Jones found himself battling up front when Squier took to the booth. Squier seldom referred to Jones as “Jones” or “Erik Jones” or even “The No. 77” (Jones’ number at the time with Furniture Row Racing).

Instead, Squier dubbed Jones with a new nickname: That Jones Boy.

Normally, a nickname like that may have been seen as too boring. Instead, getting labeled that way from a broadcasting legend like Squier made it stick, even though Jones is now 27 years old.

1979 Daytona 500: The Race That Changed Everything

Like I mentioned earlier, Squier and his co-anchor David Hobbs pressured CBS and NASCAR to allow this race to be broadcast live, flag-to-flag, for the first time in TV history. As fate would have it, a massive snowstorm along the eastern seaboard left people snowed in. With limited channel selection back then, CBS was one of just a handful of options.

Boy, were they in for a surprise. This broadcast turned out to be one of the most iconic races in NASCAR history.

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There are several moments from this race Squier made famous. There was then-rookie Earnhardt charging to the lead in his first 500. There was the crash between the Allison brothers and Cale Yarborough that sent them all a lap down early in the race.

And, of course, there’s the iconic finish shown earlier that saw Yarborough and Donnie Allison crash out and get in a fight, along with older brother Bobby, while Richard Petty went on to win his sixth Daytona 500, holding off Darrell Waltrip and A.J. Foyt to do so.

Due to where this race stands in the context of NASCAR history, you’re better off watching the whole race to understand part of why Squier is so beloved.

Of course, there are other legendary moments Squier became the voice of. But if I list them all, this article may never end. These are a few personal favorites and iconic ones that come to mind as a younger NASCAR analyst.

Squier may be gone, but the legacy he left behind in NASCAR will forever be ingrained in NASCAR history. He helped shape the landscape of motorsports media on television, and for that, we will forever be grateful. Squier’s infinite wisdom and grandiose verbiage will not be forgotten; it’s no secret he has inspired many people to become motorsports journalists that aspire to be just like him.

To paraphrase Squier himself: Whatever motorsports broadcasting is, Ken Squier was.

Thank you, Ken Squier.

About the author

Frontstretch.com

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. 

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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Johnny Cuda

Anthony – a great article about a great man! Thank you. And may Ken rest in peace……but still hear those engines roar!

Ecaro Modo

I’m 79 and Ken Squier is one of six people I never met in my life that I truly wish I had. I grew up on Squier’s reporting and it makes me wonder after all these years how he improved me as a person.

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