Farewell to a Friend
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on January 27, 2016 | 1:15 P.M. EST
Barney Hall left an indelible mark on the sport of NASCAR racing. He passed away Tuesday at the age of 83.
They say no man who has friends is a failure. By that measure, Barney Hall was the polar opposite of a failure.
The legendary broadcaster, who passed away Tuesday night at age 83, had literally millions of friends from his 50-plus years in NASCAR. But the remarkable thing is that Hall never met most of them.
It was his style, charm and expertise as a broadcaster that captured the imagination of race fans around the world as he described the exploits of the NASCAR drivers he watched for a half-century. Hall’s easygoing, smooth style was the perfect connection for those who could only imagine what was happening on the racetrack by his picture-perfect words.
Barney Hall was every NASCAR fan’s friend.
In a profession that has seemingly evolved into a shouting contest of the loudest mouths with the biggest egos, Hall was a calming voice that relied on two guiding principles; trust and accuracy.
He spent more time in the garage area than in the booth building, fostering and nurturing relationships with the drivers and other participants. Those relationships paid off when Hall sat behind a microphone, and shared stories and information nobody else had.
Everybody in the sport no doubt has a "Barney Hall story" and as he is remembered this week, many will be told. Mine starts the same way as millions of others, by listening to him on the radio.
Before the 24/7 world we live in today, there weren’t as many opportunities to consume NASCAR racing as we have in 2016. Radio, specifically MRN, was the staple every weekend of the season and when you tuned in, there was Barney Hall's voice.
Every February in the middle of another cold, harsh and snowy Chicago winter, I counted down the days until I could dial in the MRN broadcast from Daytona to hear Barney Hall kick off another season. It was a beacon in the dark of winter that brightened my day and told me spring wasn’t far away because the NASCAR season had begun.
Summer family vacations were spent driving up and down the highways and byways wrestling the radio dial away from my sisters in hopes of trying to find the next MRN affiliate we encountered passing from town to town. As the static cleared from one station to another, there were the dulcet tones of Barney Hall and I knew instantly I was listening to a NASCAR race.
Through a trail of career paths and eventually "dumb luck," as Barney would call it, I wound up joining the MRN team and working with the legend. My first assignment was a Camping World Truck Series race in the spring of 2010 at Martinsville Speedway. I was on pit road and as nervous as could be. There are, no doubt, indentations on the microphone I used that day because I was holding it so tightly.
In pre-race, I’m in position to interview Rick Crawford and Barney gives me the wind-up, ending with "and standing by is Pete Pistone of Chicago, Illinois."
It’s a moment I’ll never forget. The voice I’d listened to for so many years was somehow throwing it to me on an MRN broadcast.
It was surreal.
I somehow managed not to mess up the interview or the rest of the broadcast. Later that night, we gathered at the hotel to head out to dinner and Barney quietly walked up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, "good job out there, son." I was in awe.
Over the next few years I got to know him a little better, work with him a little more and although I didn’t think it was possible, respect him even more. Like so many others who worked with Barney, I learned a few things about the broadcasting profession – preparation, honesty and personality being just a few.
Motor Racing Network is known as "The Voice of NASCAR." Barney Hall’s voice may now be silent, but his contribution to the sport will live infinitely.
That’s a pretty good legacy for one of NASCAR's best friends.