Where Are They Now? NASCAR announcer Barney Hall

1 Comment
source:
(Photo courtesy Motor Racing Network)

A grandfatherly demeanor, a measured and smooth Southern drawl, and an on-air trustworthiness endeared Barney Hall to millions of NASCAR fans for more than five decades.

One of the sport’s most respected and beloved personalities, Hall –  more specifically, his voice – was a welcome guest in homes, businesses and cars everywhere, most notably from 1979 until last July as the lead anchor for Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcasts of the sport.

That voice is now, for the most part, off the air. Hall retired following last July’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, after being diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s Disease.

The news of Hall’s retirement caught the NASCAR world by surprise, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., who tweeted when he heard the news, “Barney Hall is a legend. Grew up listening to him. Forever grateful.”

Hall remained a consummate professional in his final farewell broadcast.

“I tried to bring back a lot of memories,” he said. “To walk away from it after 54 years was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

“I miss the people really a bunch, especially the people I worked with. I don’t miss the travel or that sort of thing that much, but I do miss the people and the things we did together.”

Longtime NASCAR fans haven’t forgotten Hall, who celebrates his 83rd birthday today. NASCAR Talk caught up with him recently and took a walk down his own personal memory lane.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

source:
Barney Hall interviews NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison in 2014. (Photo courtesy MRN)

MRN bills itself as “the Voice of NASCAR.” And for 35 years, Hall was its lead announcer,

Until TV coverage became widespread, Hall was NASCAR’s verbal Picasso, with his words painting pictures of the sights, sounds and scenes of the sport, as well as its triumphs, defeats and tragedies.

Hall was in the booth when the fight between Donnie and Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough erupted after the 1979 Daytona 500.

He met, interviewed and bantered on air with Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Hall was there when Dale Earnhardt finally broke a 20-year jinx when he won the 1998 Daytona 500.

Hall also described the wreck that ultimately took Earnhardt’s life.

Even though Parkinson’s Disease occasionally affects his memory, Hall still recalls countless stories – from funny to poignant to sad – that include NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty, David Pearson and Earnhardt.

source:
Close friends Richard Petty and Barney Hall shown last year. (Photo courtesy MRN)

It was Petty who offered advice when Hall announced his retirement.

“Richard told me two of the hardest things he ever did was, one, climb the mountain to get to the top,” Hall said. “And the other part was the hardest part of (his) whole career, according to Richard, was coming down the mountain on the other side.

“Going up, it’s kind of slow and you lead the thing. All of a sudden, you turn around and you’ve been doing this for 50 years plus. It takes some getting used to.”

And as for Pearson, Hall said he never played favorites with drivers, but his affinity and friendship with the “Silver Fox” has lasted more than half a century.

“We traveled together all the time and David is a pilot and I was, too, so we flew to all the races together,” Hall said. “We could talk about anything in the world. David was something special. He was one of the best. If not the best, certainly one of the top three of all-time in NASCAR, no question about that.

“One thing people probably don’t know is he helped a lot of drivers get a permanent ride at that time. He was a very unassuming guy. He’d help a lot of them. David was the man and he helped out for a long time.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

No driver had as much an impact upon Hall than Earnhardt. Hall fondly remembers when Earnhardt won the 1998 Daytona 500.

“That would certainly be one of the two or three (race calls) that you look back on as being one that you’ll be talking about for the rest of your life,” Hall said. “When he did finally win and went down pit road, I think everybody that was at the racetrack got on their feet and applauded him.

source:
Barney Hall, right, with then-future NASCAR Hall of Famers Rusty Wallace (left) and Dale Earnhardt. (Photo courtesy MRN)

“It was amazing to watch the whole pit road, from Turn 4 to Turn 1, everybody out on pit road shaking hands, reaching in the window or whatever. You could see every pit crew member and NASCAR official down there. You looked down and said to yourself, ‘This is going to be a moment in time.’”

The Intimidator also figured in the darkest call of Hall’s career, the day Earnhardt lost his life on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

“I didn’t know at the time, for the first 10 minutes or so after that accident happened, that it was as serious as it was,” Hall said. “Because to look at it, even today, most of the guys that have been racing for any length of time will tell you that the accident he had … didn’t look that bad. I thought for sure that he’d climb out of the car and walk away.

“I usually had real close contact with one of the NASCAR safety officials up in the tower. We always had a kind of a deal between us that if it was a bad accident, he’d give me a thumbs up (if the driver was OK). But the thumbs up never came to let us know that it was a pretty serious accident.

“When Kenny Schrader jumped out of his car and went over to Dale’s car and then came back, when I looked over to the safety guy, you could see it eye to eye that this was not going to be good.

“It took about two weeks for that to soak in, that we’ve lost him and he’s not here anymore. When I announced my retirement, the one thing I would have wanted was to have him there because he was a close, personal friend. He could cry on my shoulder, and I could cry on his shoulder.

“It still hurts to talk about that thing.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Hall also experienced some rather humorous incidents in his career.

source:
Barney Hall had one of the most memorable and humorous episodes of his career when then-President George W. Bush visited the 2004 Daytona 500. (Photo courtesy Getty Images)

Right near the top was the time he interviewed President George W. Bush before the 2004 Daytona 500.

“President Bush was scheduled to come up into the booth and talk with Joe Moore, my co-anchor, and me about 20 minutes before race time, visit with us and then go back downstairs – but it didn’t happen the way it was supposed to,” Hall said. “Once he got a hold of the mic, he kept on talking.

“He came in and congratulated us for being with MRN and the years we’ve had and all that. We put a headset on him to talk a little bit. He was saying how great it was to be in Daytona and things like that. All of a sudden, I looked up at the booth clock, it was getting close to just about a minute before they were to start the engines on the track. I realized that Mr. Bush wasn’t going to quit talking and go back downstairs. I gave him the cue to (stop) three or four times, but he just stayed there with the headset on.

“Then, when he left the booth, he still had the headset on and the mic was still live. We went to a commercial break, or we thought we did, and one of our guys in one of the turns asked me what was it like talking to the president. One of the other announcers said, ‘He ain’t no Barney Hall.’

“Mr. Bush still had the headset on, pushed the microphone button and said, ‘Boy, you’ve got that right.’ It was a wild moment. It ain’t every day that the president comes into the booth and puts a hammerlock on you when he greeted you, but he enjoyed the heck out of it. He said it was about as much fun as he’s ever had, and he was serious.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

These days, Hall still lives in his hometown of Elkin, N.C., a town of about 4,000 residents located 75 miles north of Charlotte. It’s the same place that has kept him grounded his whole life.

source:
Barney Hall began his role as lead NASCAR announcer for MRN in 1979. (Photo courtesy MRN)

“I stay busy just doing a little cleaning up around the house, catching up on a few things like that,” he said. “Other than that, right now I’m not doing a whole lot. I still do a couple things at MRN like a podcast.”

Then, he adds with a laugh, “I’m still alive.”

He also laughs when asked if he knows how many races he called in his career.

“Lord, I wouldn’t have any idea,” Hall said. “I’m not sure I’d want to know such a thing.”

In 2013, the NASCAR Hall of Fame established the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence, which recognizes significant contributions made to the sport by media members. Hall and veteran TV announcer Ken Squier were the inaugural winners of the award named in their honor.

As he reflects back over more than half a century of broadcasting, Hall admits it’s been bittersweet in the few races he’s attended as a spectator since retiring.

“It’s not the same, you feel like you’re out of place sometimes,” he said. “You feel like when they drop that green flag that you should be somewhere, ready to get to work.

“When you see the green flag and the race gets underway and you’re standing on pit road, it puts a pretty tough feeling in the pit of your stomach to know that I used to do this almost every weekend.”

Then, he added wistfully, “But those days are over.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

0 Comments

TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

0 Comments

The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

0 Comments

Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.

 

 

Friday 5: Will fan access to in-car cameras lead to calls for penalties?

1 Comment

Did NASCAR make the right decision to penalize William Byron 25 points and $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution two days after the incident happened?

It’s a question that will be answered in Hendrick Motorsports’ appeal. 

But this reaches a broader issue. With fans having more access to video elements of the sport, how much influence could or should they have in exposing potential penalties moving forward?

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, admitted after last weekend’s race at Texas that series officials did not see Byron hit Hamlin.

MORE: Alex Bowman to miss Talladega race 

While video from the USA broadcast suggested that Byron spun Hamlin, an official could question if Hamlin brake-checked Byron and initiated the contact as opposed to Byron running into him.

That question was cleared up three minutes after green-flag racing resumed when NASCAR’s Twitter account posted video from Byron’s in-car camera that showed him running into the back of Hamlin’s car. 

After the race, Byron admitted he ran into Hamlin, although Byron said he did not mean to spin Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin had raced him a few laps earlier, causing Byron to hit the wall.

“I didn’t mean to spin him out,” Byron said after the race. “That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did.”

The in-car camera video from Byron’s car was a view that fans can have as part of a program that began with the start of the playoffs. Fans can watch in-car camera views from every car in the race through the NASCAR Mobile App and on NASCAR Drive on NASCAR.com. 

The TV broadcast did not have access to those in-car views. Miller noted that the officials also did not have access. That likely will change.

In this case, it was NASCAR’s social media account that made people aware of what Byron did. Moving forward, what if it is a fan that spots something that officials don’t catch and TV doesn’t show? What if that fan posts a video clip of an incident from a particular in-car camera? Should that lead to a penalty either during the event or days later?

Golf faced a similar issue within the last decade before stating that effective Jan. 1, 2018, the game’s major professional tours would no longer accept calls or emails from fans who think they had spotted a rules violation. Instead, the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA of America, among others, stated they would assign at least one official to monitor all tournament telecasts and resolve any rules issues.

“It’s a tricky deal,” Ryan Blaney said. “Especially with the rise of social media and all the accessibility that the internet can give with all these live feeds from every single car, which I think is a good idea, but there could be some controversy in certain situations.”

Those watching last weekend’s Cup race posted video of a violation. NASCAR didn’t penalize Ty Gibbs after door-slammed Ty Dillon on pit road during the race. Video clips of the incident quickly showed up on social media shortly after the incident. 

Series officials typically review the races on Tuesday and that’s an opportunity for them to assess penalties on incidents they’ve gathered more information on.

NASCAR docked Gibbs 25 points and fined him $75,000 for the incident Tuesday. It marked his second penalty this year for contact on pit road. Gibbs was fined $15,000 for hitting Sam Mayer’s car on pit road after the Xfinity race at Martinsville.

Another key is issue with officiating in any sport is if it is better to be right, even if it comes a couple of days after an event, or if is something is missed during the event, then so be it?

Section 4.4.C of the Cup Rule Book states that drivers can be docked 25-50 points (driver and team owner points), fined $50,000 – $100,000 and/or suspended a race, indefinitely or terminated for a series of events, including “Intentional wrecking another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from competition as a result.”

So, even if NASCAR had penalized Byron during the event, officials could have further penalized him on Tuesday. It’s not a situation where there is either a penalty during the race or after. It can be both. 

Ryan Blaney says he would prefer a decision made in the moment and if not, let it go.

“I don’t want to have to wonder if something is going to happen days later,” he said. “I think you’ve got to take a little bit more time and try to get things right in the moment because a lot of these things can be game-changing outcomes.”

Byron’s penalty is an example. He left Texas third in the playoff standings, 17 points above the cutline. With the penalty, he’s eight points below the cutline. 

2. Race for stage points

One of the questions going into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC) is what should playoff drivers do. Should they ride at the back to help their chances of making it to the finish to score big points? Or should they run at the front and go for stage points while also being at greater risk of being collected in a crash?

Kyle Larson, who is 23 points above the cutline in third place, said he doesn’t see playoff drivers riding in the back.

“There’s so many stage points on the line, and if you can get those stage points, then even if you do wreck, you’ll have a decent points day out of it,” he said. “I foresee everybody racing pretty hard.”

Should any driver ride in the back early in a stage, they’ll likely need to be in the top 10 with 10 laps in the stage to have a good chance at stage points. 

In the spring Talladega race, 75% of the drivers in a top 10 spot with 10 laps to go in either of the first two stages finished in the top 10 and scored points.

Larson scored 17 stage points at Talladega. Add that to his fourth-place finish and he left there with 50 points. Only three other drivers scored more than 40 points that race: Martin Truex Jr. (45), Chase Elliott (44) and winner Ross Chastain (42).

All four of those drivers also were in the top 10 with 10 laps to go in the race. Chastain ran no lower than fourth in those final laps before taking the lead on the final lap. 

Chastain won that race after overcoming a pit road speeding penalty in the first stage. He did not score points in the first stage.  He got his lap back at the caution for the stage break and steadily worked his way up in the second stage, finishing ninth. 

As for his plan Sunday?

“We’re still talking through them,” Chastain said. “It’s not race day yet … we don’t have to have our plan yet. It would be bad if we already had our marching orders written down and we knew what we we were doing because it needs to be a more fluid experience. We’ll see how the race starts.”

3. RCR Turnaround

In the 14 races since NBC/USA took over broadcasting the Cup season, Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing have each won a series-high four races. 

RCR’s wins have been by Tyler Reddick at Road America, Reddick at the Indianapolis road course, Austin Dillon at Daytona and Reddick last weekend at Texas. 

That’s four wins in a 13-race stretch for RCR. It took the organization 192 races to win its last four races before this recent stretch.

“The new car did level playing field,” said Andy Petree, competition director at RCR. “That was one of the things. What happened over the years is that some of these mega-teams have been able to build an advantage into their equipment.”

It’s more than that. The four wins by Reddick and Dillon double what the organization had the previous fours seasons. They’ve combined for 13 top-three finishes, including a 1-2 run at Daytona in the regular-season finale in August. 

In comparison, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott — the past two Cup champions — have combined for six wins and 12 top-three finishes this season.

Reddick and Dillon also have combined 14 top-five finishes. That equals the number of top fives the organization had the previous four seasons combined. Reddick’s 439 laps led is more than the organization’s combined total (410) the past four seasons. 

“Obviously the drivers are more important now because everything is so close,” Petree said. “The drivers can make a big difference. Our pit crews have stepped it up this year. There are a lot of reasons why we have been as successful as we’ve been.”

4. Number crunching

A few things to ponder:

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the last two races with Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher. That’s more than the organization had led in the previous 105 races combined. RFK Racing’s 417 laps led this season is the organization’s most since 2013.

The driver leading at the white flag finished fifth or worse in each of the last four Talladega races that went the full distance. Erik Jones led at the white flag in the spring race. He finished sixth.

The driver winning the Talladega Cup playoff race has never gone on to win the championship that season.

Kyle Busch is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all three races at Daytona and Talladega this season. He placed sixth in the Daytona 500. He was third at Talladega in the spring. He was 10th at Daytona in August.

A stage winner has not gone on to win the event in the last 11 races.

The 19 different winners this season is tied for the most in a season all-time with 1956, ’58, ’61 and 2001.

5. 600th race

Sunday will mark the 600th career Cup race for Rodney Childers as a Cup crew chief. He becomes the 15th crew chief in series history with at least 600 starts.

He and Kevin Harvick have been together since 2014. Their 313 races together is the longest streak among active driver/crew chief combinations. 

Harvick and Childers have combined to win 37 races, including two this season, and the 2014 championship in that stretch.