Ken Squier, one of the most recognizable and trusted voices of NASCAR broadcasting, died on Wednesday. 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 chairman and CEO Jim France said. “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 worked with the Motor Racing Network (MRN), which he co-founded, during the 1970s. One of his most iconic calls was the 1979 Daytona 500, when he started calling the battle for the win between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough, which ended with both cars crashing in Turn 3.
Despite the last-lap drama and having to move from one narrative to another, Squier never missed a beat. The most memorable part of the call was exclaiming, “And there’s a fight,” when the cameras caught the scuffle between Yarborough and Donnie and Bobby Allison.
Squier also coined the phrase “The Great American Race” for the Daytona 500.
Throughout his illustrious career, Squier called races for MRN, CBS, and TBS through 1997. He then became a host until 2000. But even after that, he was never far from racing and was brought back to do segments of the Southern 500 for NBC Sports in 2015, and again over the last few years.
Squier’s broadcasting career started at his father’s radio station, WDEV, in his native Vermont. In 1960, he opened Thunder Road Speedway in his home state.
In 2013, the NASCAR Hall of Fame introduced the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR media excellence, named after Squier and fellow broadcast Barney Hall. Squier was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2018.
“Ken’s contributions to and accomplishments in NASCAR are incalculable,” Winston Kelley, the executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, said.
“The breadth and depth of his legacy cannot be overstated. Demonstrations of this range from co-founding Motor Racing Network with NASCAR Founder Bill France, Sr.; to convincing CBS executives to televise what became one of NASCAR’s most pivotal moments in the 1979 Daytona 500 as NASCAR’s first nationally-televised race flag-to-flag; to his iconic calls and commentary for more than seven decades on both radio and television; to being arguably the very best storyteller in our sport’s history to owning and promoting the renowned Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Vermont for 57 years. There is little in NASCAR that Ken Squier did not impact.
“While perhaps best known for his memorable last lap and postrace descriptions of the 1979 Daytona 500, he had the incomparable ability to so effectively articulate the human side of all NASCAR competitors. Among his signature phrases, used at just the right time, was ‘common men doing uncommon things,’ which helped audiences and we mere mortals understand the unique skills, risks and gravity of manhandling a 3,400-pound racecar at speeds in excess of 200 mph with 39 other snarling competitors entrenched around one another.
“Whether you had the pleasure to meet him or not, race fans felt like they knew him. He was trusted and respected in the garage area just as much as he was relied on by millions of fans to cover the action on the track and stories off the track.”