Hall's Role Changing at MRN
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on July 5, 2014 | 5:30 P.M. EST
Barney Hall's new role with MRN will include features on tracks, races and drivers he's encountered through more than 50 years of broadcasting. (Photo: MRN)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The voice, as melodious as a choir, as familiar as family. It has been a part of the soundtrack of our lives from childhood and adulthood to weddings and funerals.
That sweet Southern dialect carried many listeners through lazy summer afternoons and those cold February Sundays.
Even now, the man behind the voice can slip into some places unnoticed ... until he speaks. Then, they know. That’s Barney Hall. That’s the man who has brought NASCAR to them for decades.
With more than 50 years of calling races, the 82-year-old Hall will remain a vibrant part of Motor Racing Network broadcasts, but tonight’s Coke Zero 400 will be his final as MRN’s lead play-by-play announcer in the booth.
“The years have gone by so quick, it’s just so hard to believe,’’ Hall said with a smile during a break at Daytona International Speedway.
As Hall embarks on his new role, he’s celebrated for what he’s done.
“The voice of NASCAR is the voice of MRN and that’s Barney Hall,’’ said David Hyatt, president and executive producer of Motor Racing Network. “To have him still be a part of what we do in a way that highlights all the memories that he has, all the history he’s brought to the sport, everything that he’s done, not just for this MRN brand but for the NASCAR brand is an important part of this transition. MRN isn’t MRN without Barney Hall.’’
Hall’s future includes various features on particular tracks and races to highlighting drivers through the years and more. Hall seamlessly weaves stories about his experiences with such drivers as David Pearson, Richard Petty, Fireball Roberts and Dale Earnhardt.
NASCAR President Mike Helton recognized Hall’s contribution to the sport during the drivers meeting, noting that his early knowledge of the sport came from hearing Hall’s work. Petty visited Hall on Saturday afternoon in the MRN trailer.
Helton and Petty are just among the many fans Hall has. Many have shared their thanks with Hall through the years.
“All of them always say, even if it’s a guy with a beard down to his naval, they’ll say, ‘I’ve been listening to you since I was 2 years old’ and they look like they’re 150,’’ Hall said. “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.’’
Some fans stand out, though, including that highway patrol officer who stopped Hall for speeding once.
“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.’ ‘’
Hall smiled and chuckled. His easy-going style, those quips and fun stories collected in a lifetime of traveling from track to track are what have made his broadcasts so personable and enjoyable. Fans also relished the knowledge he gleaned in the garage and the conversations he had with drivers.
Funny thing is, there was a time when Hall didn’t want to be in the booth, didn’t want to be the center of attention.
“I wanted to stay in the turns,’’ Hall said. “I liked it out there. All you had to do was talk about what you were looking at in the turn.
Hall admits that he didn’t think he’d be good enough for the booth. Then Bill France Jr. made it known that if Hall would continue to work for MRN that “it would be in your best interest” to work in the booth. So Hall made the move.
Imagine, if he had stayed in the turns. Imagine what might have been missed. Instead, he’s been in the booth for decades, sharing stories, describing the action on the track and and doing it with a grace and humility many aspire but few reach.