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January 19, 2018

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Ken Squier

Charlotte, North Carolina

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Each NASCAR race has a soundtrack, the roar of the engines, the cheers from the crowd, and the person who tells us all about it. But one man didn't just tell us about the race, he took us on a journey, a journey with freight trains, Oklahoma land rushes, barn burners, and calamity corners. Journeys with fellows from the same hometown as you. That was the genius of Ken Squier. He made watching a race an introspective portrait of our own journey. And tonight fittingly, the NASCAR Hall of Fame becomes part of his journey.
(Video shown.)
Please welcome 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Ken Squier.
GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT: Ken's first version of his remarks ran about 26 minutes over, and there was not one single mention of himself. It was all about everyone else. But I guess we shouldn't be surprised. He's been telling us the great American story his whole life, but we never hear his story. It is now my honor on this 19th day of January, 2018, to present the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee ring and officially induct Ken Squier into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
KEN SQUIER: 30‑time winner at Thunder Road. Took his last main this year. That's a good governor.
So Travis Graham, just a little fellow, says to his mother, "I want to get my father a birthday present." And his mother said, "All right, what do you want to get him." And Travis Graham said, "I think I want to get him a watch." And she said, "Oh, that's a good idea. He probably has a watch." He said, "Oh, no, mom, he's just an announcer." That's the kind of support you got at home. Same to you, fella.
Between the end at Homestead and the beginning at Daytona, during this season when the engines are silent, tracks pretty much snowed under, we reflect. We ponder the purpose of our sport, what its gifts are, what it teaches us.
In our sport, there are innovators, builders, advocates, challengers, heroes, and an announcer now and then, who all have a part to play. And those who play the parts with utmost passion, we take this season of reflection to recognize them and their craft.
This is always a thank‑you time speech, so many to deal with. Some of us are inconceivably lucky to call these folks friends. I think we all call them heroes. And I'm feeling like an odd duck in a flock of fancy geese, let me tell you.
The heroes in this room who earned their way through tenacity, courage, and their ability to accomplish something they believe worthwhile, vital, and now they've added a storyteller. And believe me, I can tell some stories. Most of them aren't true, so don't be concerned.
Let me tell you about my beginning. Morrisville, Vermont, C C Miller's pasture, where old C C had built his own superspeedway, scraped off the sod, put up the chicken wire, you know, security, safety, and I was the announcer. And standing tall in my judge's stand, the back end of an old logging truck with a loudspeaker on each side, I was ready to describe the battles between the north and the south. Now, that was the northeast kingdom of Vermont and those fancy schmancy guys from the big towns a little further south: Barre and Burlington.
It turned out to be a very short season. Promoters invested in Albert Killer Kincaid to deal with the southern rebels. Things got a little testy, and they had to call out the National Guard to quell the massive upheaval which followed. It continued for several hours, and my trusted scorer and myself stayed the course right there with that logging truck. Well, not exactly. We got under the logging truck and hid until cooler heads prevailed.
And that's pretty much the story of the life of the Morrisville Speedway. I was 15. As you imagine, it had everything, including a big crowd.
My dad used to broadcast the harness races at the local fairs, and my mother was the believer in trotters and pacers. In kid time, an afternoon of harness racing lasted between one and two years, but at the big fairs, there were race cars, weekends, daring drivers, dancing with death and danger in every corner, bobtail streamed liners. Why, they'd take your breath away. I was fully involved. It was a book of marvels for a kid.
It was the people, and it is the people today. Now, think about those nominations for 2018: A preacher's son who built not only great engines but great teams of people, human beings who harmonized like a finely‑tuned engine, the late and great Robert Yates. And drivers like Hornaday, Ron Hornaday. It was Jean Shepherd who wrote, "If horse racing was the sport of kings, then auto racing was the sport of friends." Ron Hornaday represents that character of drivers that comes from every short track in America. He's it.
And there's Ray Evernham, modified star, Wall Stadium, Belmar, New Jersey, who learned and listened every time, everywhere, and was to develop a race team that brought Dodge back to racing. Remember Homestead 2001? What a race.
For some of us, there's one story this year that I believe deserves special place in this or nearly any Hall of Fame. Red Byron represents the spirit and the passion of NASCAR racing. He was the common man doing uncommon deeds, which has been the history of this country, when the chips are down.
So I'm told you want to all hear my story. Well, that's the biggest part of it as far as I'm concerned. I invented the Great American Race, as you know, stole it from the Australians really while I was busy doing bodybuilding in the Sidney, Australia, opera house. But I was always just the announcer.
1979, you've heard about the Daytona 500, I'm sure, the first serious effort by CBS. To get the day started properly, it rained for two hours, and up on the roof, we were practicing our opening endlessly, and Bill France was right there with us. And we were about to go into the count to the opening, finally, of the Daytona 500, '79. And Bill walked over. He had this pad, sheet of papers on it, and he said, Ken Squiers ‑‑ Squires ‑‑ find a place to get this into the opening, and he handed me a note. It said, "Remind them that there are a limited number of choice seats still available for the next event, the 4th of July at Daytona." Now, there's a conundrum. So here I am now still telling stories, somehow got through that one, passing on advice. The best advice I ever got for this night came from Ned Jarrett, who said when he joined this Hall of Fame, "I don't deserve this, but I will do everything in my power to help build and develop this Hall of Fame." Ned Jarrett, 50‑time winner, twice national champion. Quite a guy.
But they all were. The people in the radio network, the Motor Racing Network, which Roger Bahre and I were favored to get started. Bill said he'd give us a place to work. He did. It was a Pepsi‑Cola cooler, and we had two telephones on top out in the hall, and Bill would show up every hour or so and say, how are you boys coming, have we got a lot of stations? Yes, sir. We didn't know how many we had, but by God, we knew we had to find some. And we got them. And that was the beginning of MRN.
So between that and the good opportunity that CBS offered, because they did quality television, and they gave us the extra dollars to really tell the stories, to tell the stories of the people who are involved in this sport. And so many others along the line. My family, most of them are here tonight. They put up with a lot. And I'm just very, very thankful to be here this evening to share my feelings about receiving this award and glad that you're here to enjoy it and to consider it and think about what this sport means, what it really means to the American public.
And I hope that you'll take that message along that this sport is so special, so unique, and so beautiful in so many ways.
So that's it. That's all the stories I have to tell tonight, all the time, and I'll just tell you good night, and get ready for one whale of a great year. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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