Barney Hall played a major role in bringing NASCAR to the forefront on radio during his illustrious broadcasting career.
Four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon summed it up best in an earlier interview and then followed his statement with a Tweet after Hall’s passing on Jan. 26.
“Barney was a legend,” Gordon said.
For over 50 years Hall covered NASCAR racing and was with the Motor Racing Network from Day 1, broadcasting live lap-by-lap action until retiring from the booth following the 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
“He put our sport out further than any one person with his announcing,” said NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson. “If anybody ever needs to be in the Hall of Fame, Barney Hall does. He’s done more for racing than anybody.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of Hall’s biggest fans. It started by him listening to the MRN broadcasts while growing up. Hall was good friends with his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., and helped call both Earnhardts to victories in the Daytona 500.
“Every Sunday morning, it was what you were used to hearing,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “You’d get your die-casts out on the carpet, start racing, and listen to Barney Hall tell you how the race was going and how dad was running. He was always there. He’s had such a long career and there are certain guys who come along that really can articulate what’s happening on the racetrack and deliver it so well. He was the best.”
Along with being a legend of the sport, Hall was a mentor to his broadcasting colleagues and a friend to not only everyone in the garage area but also the race fans. So many broadcasters in the motor sports world pointed to Hall as a pivotal figure in their career including Mike Joy, who was a key member of the MRN team for years before moving to his current television play-by-play role for NASCAR on FOX.
“As a broadcaster, he’s a model of restraint,” Joy said. “You rarely heard him get very excited and when he did, you knew it’s really something big. Of all the people I’ve worked alongside and listened to, there’s nobody I’d rather hear call a race than Barney Hall.”
Another MRN graduate to the television booth was Allen Bestwick, who once worked with Hall and Joe Moore as a co-lead announcer.
“There are a few characters in this sport that are true originals at what they do and Barney Hall was one of them,” said Bestwick, who now calls IndyCar races and college football games for ESPN. “You knew when something came out of his mouth, you could believe it 100 percent that it was going to be spot on.
“He’s greatly responsible for the growth of the sport even though, typical to him, he’d deflect any credit for any role in it at all.”
Mike Bagley, current MRN turn announcer and co-host of SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive,” remembers Barney as a major influence on his life and career.
“Barney was my friend on the radio long before I had the opportunity to work with him,” Bagley said. “I listened to him growing up and once I was able to become a member of the MRN team, he was always an inspiration as well as a teacher. Barney helped me tremendously in learning my craft.”
Gordon, who will follow in Hall’s footsteps but on the television side with FOX Sports in 2016, still remembers listening to Barney for the first time when he made the transition from open-wheel sprint cars to the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the early 1990s.
“His voice was so distinct and he’s so witty and knowledgeable, and fun to listen to,” Gordon said. “They (MRN) do such a great job bringing the action of the race to you when you’re driving down the road or listening at home and nobody did it better than Barney.”
One of Hall’s good friends in the garage area was NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson. Both Hall and Person had pilot licenses and would sometimes fly to races in Pearson’s twin-engine airplane.
“He and David Pearson were buddies, they ate dinner together every night and so we got real close with Barney,” said Eddie Wood of Wood Brothers Racing. “We used to tell jokes and things about each other. Barney was always full of stories.”
Hall lived by three rules when calling a race: tell the people what’s happening on the track, cover the pit stops and catch the guy who falls out of the race. When they’re in the garage, talk to them, find out what happened and why.
“Barney didn’t have an enemy in the world,” Johnson said. “He didn’t have a favorite driver that he would give more stuff to. He put them all on the same plane. He’d give them a whole lot of publicity for what they did do.”