Legendary NASCAR announcer Barney Hall dies

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Barney Hall, the legendary Motor Racing Network announcer whose voice was synonymous with Sunday afternoons for NASCAR fans, died Tuesday from complications following a recent medical procedure. He was 83.

Hall was the longtime play-by-play voice of MRN and had been a part of the network’s NASCAR race coverage since its founding in 1970.

His homespun style and distinctive delivery made him a favorite among fans and competitors alike. Upon Hall’s retirement, Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted, “Barney Hall is a legend. Grew up listening to him. Forever grateful.” Seven-time champion Richard Petty was among those who paid tribute to Hall by stopping at the MRN trailer before his last broadcast for the July 6, 2014 race at Daytona International Speedway.

He called his first Daytona 500 in 1960 and missed only four broadcasts of NASCAR’s biggest race in 57 years, retiring after being diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s Disease. In the drivers meeting before his final race, Hall’s signature flair for storytelling was singled out by NASCAR executive Mike Helton, who said his early knowledge of stock-car racing was derived from listening to Hall.

“It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that Motor Racing Network must today convey the passing of our friend and colleague, longtime MRN anchor Barney Hall,” MRN President David Hyatt said in a release. “For many of us in the racing and broadcasting industries, Barney was more than just ‘The Voice’ who brought us the NASCAR action each week on the radio.  He was an inspiration, a teacher and mostly, a friend.  Barney was a consummate professional whose style and honesty made him one of the most revered voices of the sport and perhaps the most trusted reporter of his day.

“In a world that can have its share of egos, Barney’s humor and humility kept everyone around him firmly grounded.  His smooth and easygoing delivery was the mark by which others were measured.  His co-anchor, Joe Moore, once commented that ‘Barney was the calming force in the midst of a raging storm and simply by listening to him, you knew there was safe passage through it.’  Barney Hall was the true voice of NASCAR and although his own voice has gone silent, his presence will live on in the many current motor sports broadcasters who learned at the knee of such a great storyteller.”

An MRN release said at the time of Hall’s death, he was in the company of longtime companion Karen Carrier, “the love of his life.”

In a June 2015 interview with NASCAR Talk‘s Jerry Bonkowski, Hall said walking away from NASCAR broadcasting “after 54 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,” Hall said.

He laughed when asked 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.”

Three years ago, the NASCAR Hall of Fame created the Squier-Hall Award in honor of Hall and TV broadcaster Ken Squier. The award, which salutes accomplishments and excellence in NASCAR media, was awarded Saturday to the late Steve Byrnes.

“First and foremost, I want to offer our most sincere condolences to the longtime love of Barney’s life and best friend for more than 35 years, Karen Carrier, and their families on Barney’s passing,” NASCAR Hall of Fame executive director Winston Kelley, who worked with Hall on MRN broadcasts, said in a statement. “Barney’s accomplishments and contributions to NASCAR are immeasurable and without parallel. Covering NASCAR for nearly 55 years through seven decades, he became known by millions as ‘The Voice of NASCAR.’ He was that recognizable voice that you would hear with every broadcast. You may not have known the face, which he would joke with his ever-present wit that it was “made for radio,” but his voice was unmistakable.

“Whether you met him or not, you felt like you knew him. His easy, conversational delivery made you feel like you were listening to one of your closest friends or relatives tell you a story – the story of the very NASCAR race he was describing. He could paint a picture that would make Picasso or Rembrandt proud and tell a story that would awe Hemingway or Twain. He was not just a trusted voice to listeners and race fans, he became what many believe is the most trusted journalist in NASCAR by the sport’s competitors for decades. Barney has also tutored dozens of broadcasters throughout his career, many of whom you hear on the air today on both radio and television.

“NASCAR has lost its most recognizable voice and one of the greatest broadcasters ever of any sport; and I have lost one of my dearest friends. His legacy and legendary calls of NASCAR racing will live in our minds, our archives and at the NASCAR Hall of Fame forever.”

Hall was born June 24, 1932 in Elkin, North Carolina, where he called home for the rest of his life. He served four years of active duty in the Navy after graduating high school, returning to North Carolina to work as a disc jockey for 13 years at WIFM.

Before joining MRN, he also worked as the first public address announcer at Bristol Motor Speedway, leaving a lasting impression around the country with his plainspoken and pleasing pipes that instantly were recognizable.

In a 2014 interview with Dustin Long for MRN.com, Hall shared an amusing anecdote about being stopped by a highway patrol officer for speeding.

“He recognized the voice, and he said, ‘Mr. Hall, you were speeding a little bit, but I’m going to give you a break,’ ” Hall said. “He said, ‘I’m going to give you some good advice that you need to pay attention to.’ He said, ‘If you ever decide to rob a bank, don’t say this is a stick-up. Hand them a note because the minute you speak, they’ve got you.’ ”

It was that famous intonation that resonated so strongly with his lifetime fans.

“All of them always say, even if it’s a guy with a beard down to his navel, they’ll say, ‘I’ve been listening to you since I was 2 years old,’ and they look like they’re 150,” Hall told Long. “It’s always a good feeling … when the fans pat you on the back or shake your hand and say, ‘I really enjoy listening to MRN.’ I get a bigger kick out of that than almost anything.”