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The Mount Rushmore of NASCAR Commentary

NASCAR goes full throwback this weekend at Darlington Raceway in Myrtle Beach. NBC Sports has the coverage. Looking back gets the mind wandering: who’s the ultimate commentary team, a Mount Rushmore, if you will, that should call the race?

Barney Hall

Hall was one of the few booth men there for NASCAR from its grassroots in communications. Before the series made it big on TV, Hall, a veteran of the United States Navy, was one of the first to call races for the Motor Racing Network. It was Hall, in fact, who coined the term “flag-to-flag” coverage, meaning covering the race in its entirety.

Through 2014, Hall had called all but three Daytona 500s in MRN’s booth. Two years before his retirement, Hall was immortalized in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, as a wing dedicated to NASCAR’s finest commentators now bears his name.

Hall passed away in 2016 at the age of 83.

Ned Jarrett

Jarrett was among the first great athlete-turned-broadcasters. During his career, which featured 50 wins and two titles in NASCAR’s primary level, Jarrett foreshadowed his broadcasting future with a local radio show in North Carolina.

That would be the precursor to having Jarrett’s voice call some of the greatest moments in NASCAR history. Notably, he became the first NASCAR announcer to interview a sitting United States President, as he spoke with Ronald Reagan during the 1984 Firecracker 400 for MRN. That race also turned out to be Richard Petty’s 200th and final victory.

Another memorable Daytona finish saw Jarrett openly side with an on-track competitor, as his son Dale took the 1993 Daytona 500 from Dale Earnhardt. Ned was embarrassed about the obvious bias and apologized to The Intimidator, who simply smiled and mentioned he was a father as well. Ned would go on to call several races with his son, a NASCAR champion in his own right, during previous Darlington throwback races.

Jarrett was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.

Ken Squier

If not for Squier (pictured above with Hall), who knows where NASCAR racing would be today? The early days of televised NASCAR were a risky bet. Originally, the second half of races would be supplemental coverage for programs like ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Squier was called upon to call CBS’ “flag-to-flag” coverage of the 1979 Daytona 500.

Squier played a part in convincing CBS to broadcast the entirety. He admitted to The Auto Channel in 2003: “It was a tough sell. There was a general feeling that this was more of a novelty thing and that it wouldn’t work on a national level.”

Thanks to Squier and a legendary race, NASCAR grew. The race earned a massive rating thanks to a snowstorm in the Northeast, and enjoyed a historic finish when Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough fought in the infield after they wrecked each other going for the lead. Once it was clear lap-to-lap coverage was sustainable, Squier was the play-by-play for several networks through 1997. He’d make sporadic appearances for Fox and Turner Sports as a studio host until retirement in 2014.

Darrell Waltrip

Waltrip, an accomplished driver to the tune of 84 wins and three championships at the Cup Series level, made his booth debut in the best and worst of NASCAR times. The 2001 Daytona 500, the first broadcast for Fox, allowed Waltrip to see his younger brother Michael earn his first Cup Series victory. Joy turned to grief when it was later revealed Darrell’s competitor and friend, Dale Earnhardt, passed away after a crash on the final lap. The elder Waltrip handled the situation as gracefully as he could, especially for someone making his broadcasting debut.

From there, the rest was history. Waltrip would just under two decades calling races for Fox. His enthusiastic demeanor may have become polarizing to some, but his general joy in the booth opened up NASCAR to a new generation of fans.

His catchphrase to open each race (“Boogity, Boogity, Boogity! Let’s go racing, boys/drivers!”) became a household term among the sports-loving public. Waltrip recently ended his time with Fox, retiring after the network’s portion of this season’s schedule.