Fans of NASCAR racing remember Ken Squier for his historic CBS Television broadcast of the 1979 Daytona 500 and his description of a post-race rumble that helped to propel the sport from a regional pastime to its place today as America’s most popular form of motor sport.
|Ken Squier, left, newest member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, in the broadcast booth at Darlington Raceway in 2016 with fellow Hall members Ned Jarrett, center, and Dale Jarrett (Ned’s son).
Credit: NBC Sports
But the newest member of NASCAR’s Hall of Fame — inducted in mid-January — has even more solid credentials as a radio broadcaster.
He was one of the co-founders in 1970 of the Motor Racing Network (MRN), which broadcasts the majority of all Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and other NASCAR series races on the radio. Squier drew upon his experience at WDEV Radio, literally growing up behind the scenes and even behind the microphone at the family-owned Waterbury, Vt., AM since age 9. That, and his experience around racing at “short tracks” (small racetracks of less than a mile in length as compared to tracks like the 2-and-a-half-mile long Daytona International Speedway) in New England helped to guide MRN through its inception and early years.
The co-founder of MRN was NASCAR founder William H. G. “Big Bill” France.
“That was the France family, who really understood the value of radio. They did some of the best missionary work I’ve ever experienced in radio,” said Squier.
France wanted NASCAR to have a voice similar to baseball play-by-play broadcasts, so France named Squier as its on-air voice. Squier painted many a word picture, with phrases such as “common Americans doing uncommon deeds” and the now-famous description of the Daytona 500 as the “Great American Race.”
Squier took over WDEV when his father died in 1979.
He says WDEV began broadcasting on July 15, 1931, for all the right reasons: “Providing a service that was based upon public good, need and necessity. If you took care of that, the world would take care of you.”
Squier continued to own WDEV and its parent company, Radio Vermont, until the fall of 2017. He and his late father Lloyd were inducted as charter members of the Vermont Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1995.
|Ken Squier during a media availability at Darlington Raceway in September 2017.
Credit: Harrelson Photography for Darlington Raceway
Squier mentored Dave Moody, host of SiriusXM’s “SiriusXM Speedway” daily auto racing show and turn announcer for MRN race broadcasts. Moody worked for him at WDEV calling basketball and was the public address announcer at Thunder Road Speedway, a track Squier owned in Vermont.
Squier says Moody has come a long way: “He’s become quite an authority; his home is where the race tracks are. He (Moody) speaks with a very powerful voice.” The show, he says, “has gone past the business of cars going around a track; it gets into why the racing was successful or unsuccessful.”
Amy McGovern, now a midday air personality at WKOL(FM) “KOOL 105” in Burlington, Vt./Plattsburgh, N.Y., also worked for Ken Squier at WDEV.
“For so many, he was instrumental in getting us to learn motor sports, by learning first at the small arena of Thunder Road then pushing us to go further. If you had a love for the kind of music he shared, he would encourage you and see if there were ways that he could use you to help you build your skills,” she said.
“For me, he knew my passion was racing, and producing; so right off the bat, I became his producer for Ken Squier Productions and I began producing audio for national radio stuff, then working at Thunder Road and finally going on to NASCAR and PRN,” the Performance Racing Network, which broadcasts most of the races not broadcast by MRN.
Squier, 82, makes an occasional television appearance to call the Darlington Raceway’s Southern 500, and will continue to have a role at WDEV, to include his popular Saturday morning program “Music to Go to the Dump By.”
Asked for advice for aspiring race broadcasters, he said to get into American short-track racing (the kind one sees in small towns and fairgrounds, usually run on smaller dirt or paved racetracks on Friday or Saturday nights in the spring and summer).
“Everybody thinks that what they see and hear on television is it. They’re wrong. It’s something where you’ve got to learn about people and fans and what they really call their sport, no matter what the sport is,” he said.
“If you get in on that level, you begin to feel what they (the fans) feel and what they want to know about, you can pretty much figure you can deal a steady hand any time you try it. People want to know about people; that counts for everything.”
Paul Kaminski, CBT, is a Radio World contributor and columnist. For many years, he covered all forms of auto racing on the radio for national and international broadcasters and the Motor Sports Radio Network. His Twitter handle: msrpk_com. Find him on Facebook as PKaminski2468.