(Photo credit: Alex Gould/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK)
Ken Squier, a broadcaster who helped to put NASCAR on the map, died Wednesday night in his native Vermont. He was 88.
He had been in failing health.
A member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Squier was the one who dubbed the Daytona 500 "The Great American Race."
He was on the call of the 1979 Daytona 500, which NASCAR reported was the first live, flag-to-flag NASCAR race aired by CBS, partially at the urging of Squier. Richard Petty won the race after the leaders, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison, crashed on the final lap and fought after the race, which Squier captured.
He was CBS' lead announcer of the Daytona 500 from 1979 to 1997 and was the studio host until 2000. He also worked for TNN and TBS, and in 1970, he co-founded the Motor Racing Network with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.
"Whether from a bed of a logging truck at the Morrisville (Vt.) Speedway, or high atop the grandstands of 'The Great American Race' in Daytona, Ken Squier's eloquent voice entertained and educated millions of race fans, no matter the medium. His passion for stock car racing contributed mightily to its rapid growth throughout his 70-plus year career," said Chris Schwartz, president of Motor Racing Network.
"Though he never sat behind the wheel of a stock car, Ken Squier contributed to the growth of NASCAR as much as any competitor," Jim France, NASCAR chairman and CEO said in a statement. "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."
Dale Earnhardt Jr, Dale Jarrett and the family of Richard Petty were among those to post tributes to Squier, as did Vermont Gov. Phil Scott.
"I will always cherish the memories of all the time we spent together," Scott posted to social media on Thursday. "From the booth, he often described those racing as 'common men doing uncommon things.' But in reality he was describing himself -- because Ken was indeed a very common man who did extraordinary things."
Squier was one of the founding owners of Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, Vt.
Born into a radio family -- his father owned and operated radio station WDEV in Waterbury, Vt. -- Squier started calling races at age 14 via bullhorn as he watched motorsports at local county fairs. He later went on to run the station.
--Field Level Media