MRN Announcer Spotlight: Barney Hall

Barney Hall

"It’s fun to listen to the fans and it makes you feel good when they say, 'We really like what you guys do.'". (Photo: MRN)


Barney Hall, Lead Booth Announcer, is this week's MRN Announcer Spotlight. The Hall of Fame broadcaster is one of the Network's original announcers and got into motor sports announcing by "dumb luck" in 1960 when the Bristol Motor Speedway needed a public address announcer.

Q: You've been with Motor Racing Network since its inception. Take us back to how you got involved with the network?

Hall: They contacted me in 1970 and said Bill France Sr. is wanting to put together a radio network to cover the races. They came to see me because I'd been around, even then, a long time. I knew very few of the people that were going to be on the network. I knew Ken Squier. Our engineer back then, the best I can remember, was a motorcycle mechanic full-time and an engineer for the network part-time. I think everybody that's in (NASCAR) television today came through Motor Racing Network. That’s good, for us and for them.

Q: Do you sometimes stop and think about how the sport has evolved since MRN's first broadcast?

Barney HallHall: The biggest change is the equipment. The technology has come along. I can remember going to racetracks where - if we had a pit position and if the driver fell out, crashed or whatever, we didn’t have the portable equipment to go talk to him. They had to drag him over to where we were, hooked up to a telephone line, to get his opinion. There's been a time or two we had a couple guys get a little aggressive. Buddy Baker ... if Baker wants to talk to you, that's fine. But if he doesn't, leave him alone. You learn that real quick.

Q: What's your favorite part about the atmosphere and interactions with fans at a NASCAR race?

Hall: What's fun is to sit out here (behind the MRN hauler) in this chair and watch the people go by. I would buy a ticket just to sit here and look at the race fans that come and go through the place. Something that makes you feel real good is when you walk from here to the garage area or you're out in the infield and people holler, "Barney Hall!" and they come over and say, "I've been listening to you since I was about two feet tall." It’s fun to listen to the fans and it makes you feel good when they say, "We really like what you guys do."

Q: You've seen them all race. Where does Jimmie Johnson rank and who are some of the great ones?

Hall: In the current era, Jimmie would certainly be one of the best drivers I've seen in a long, long time. Back in the early days, Richard Petty was a given (to win) every weekend. He had good equipment from Chrysler. I'll never forget when they brought that big Hemi engine to Daytona for the "500." It was the first time anybody had seen that thing. Richard won the race, obviously. He didn’t wreck or have any problems. The car was so quick that he once was quoted as saying, "I could have come into the pits, got out of the car, went to downtown Daytona, had a burger and come back ... and still finish on the lead lap."

Q: What about drivers like David Pearson and Cale Yarborough, Hall of Famers, and your memories of their time in NASCAR?

Hall: Both David and I had pilot’s licenses, and David had an airplane. I got to know Pearson well and travel with him for about seven years. He was one hell of a driver. Everybody thought his equipment was far superior to everyone else's. Some of it was, but a lot of it was David Pearson. As for who was the best back in those early days, you can’t pick one because each one in his own way was kind ofBarney Hall special. Cale Yarborough raced for two things: he loved it and he always wanted to know how much money he won. If I went to Victory Lane and did an interview with him, the first thing he would do is lean down and ask, "Barney, what did this race pay today?" Before you could tell him, he would turn around and say, "Did it pay any lap money?" Junior Johnson told me one time that when Cale drove for him, "We put him in a car four or five times in his career that barely was a 10th- or 12th-place car, and he would either win with it or finish in the top three." He would get out of the car sometimes and there would be a blister on every finger because the car handled so bad, but he would stay in there until that checkered flag waved. There's no way any of us, whether you've been here as long as I have or not, can single out one driver and say he's the best that's ever been. That's for Charlie Daniels, "... the best that’s ever been," I guess.

Q: When I say "Dale Earnhardt," what do you think of?

Hall: I think about him back in the early days. He was a diamond in the rough. I got to know him because he came to me at Martinsville one time and said he needed some help. I asked, "What kind of help do you need?" He said, "I want you to tell people on the radio that I'm not a dirty driver. I don’t wreck people for the fun of it or whatever. I want you to let them know that I'm a driver that wants to go out there and race hard, but I’m not going to deliberately wreck anybody." I said, "I don't know. You have turned a few people around." He kind of laughed and said, "Not that many." I made a little spiel for him on the radio at Martinsville about what a great driver he was or was going to be at that time, and that he wanted his fans to know he was racer and not somebody out there to wreck people. I think it helped him a little bit and we got to be pretty good buddies after that.

Q: Which race that you have called stands out the most in your career?

Hall: There's a couple. When David (Pearson) won his first Daytona 500 and that crash with Richard Petty on the final lap. That will always be a call that will be repeated in history for years and years to come. David never really knew he was a star or that he was anything special. He would ask me - I'll bet a half-dozen times in the early years, "Why do these people want my autograph?" He really didn’t realize what he meant to this sport at that time. One of the saddest memories that took me a long time to get over was when Dale Earnhardt lost his life at Daytona. It was a month or so before all of us ... and I bet you would include yourself in this ... understood what an impact he had on this sport and what an impact he had on the fans out there. The world literally stopped for three or four days. For a couple years in the booth after that, I would be halfway through a broadcast and all of a sudden a thought would go through my head ... now where's the "3" car, and it would take a split-second to realize he's not with us anymore. Another sad one was when Neil Bonnett lost his life at Daytona.

ParlourQ: I have been asking all the MRN announcers for their favorite restaurants to visit on the NASCAR tour. What are some of your favorites?

Hall: There's a place in Talladega called Top O’ the River (Anniston, Ala.) with the "Riverboat Special." They've got the best fried catfish in the world. There's a place near Boone, N.C., called Shatley Springs. And finally, there an ice cream place in Michigan that all of us at MRN like. That's one of my favorite places. It used to be called the Jackson Dairy Bar, but they've changed it to The Parlour. If you like ice cream, there's no way in the world you can visit that state and not go to that place.

Be sure to check back every Wednesday for the latest MRN Announcer Spotlight.

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