Longtime NASCAR announcer Ken Squier dies

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 19:  NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Ken Squier poses for a portrait during the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Charlotte Convention Center on January 19, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Longtime NASCAR announcer Ken Squier was a member of the 2018 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Longtime NASCAR announcer Ken Squier died Wednesday. He was 88.

Squier is the most recognizable voice and face in NASCAR television history. He was the announcer for the 1979 Daytona 500, the race that put NASCAR on the national map.

The famous race was the first NASCAR race to be broadcast live on television in its entirety. As a massive snowstorm had hit much of the United States, 16 million people watched Richard Petty’s win as Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough crashed while racing for the lead on the final lap.

It’s Squier who viewers hear exclaim “and there’s a fight, between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison” as the two drivers tangled near their crashed cars. The moment is one of the most iconic in NASCAR history.

"Though he never sat behind the wheel of a stock car, Ken Squier contributed to the growth of NASCAR as much as any competitor," NASCAR chairman Jim France said in a statement. "Ken was a superb storyteller and his unmistakable voice is the soundtrack to many of NASCAR's greatest moments. His calls on TV and radio brought fans closer to the sport, and for that he was a fan favorite. Ken knew no strangers, and he will be missed by all. On behalf of the France family and all of NASCAR, I offer my condolences to the family and friends of Ken Squier."

Squier served as the voice of CBS’ NASCAR coverage from 1979 through 1997 before current NASCAR on Fox announcer Mike Joy took over. Thursday morning, tributes to Squier from fellow NASCAR Hall of Famers started pouring in on social media.

Before getting into broadcasting, the Vermont native built Thunder Road Speedway in his home state as a weekly site for short-track racing in the Northeast. Squier is also one of the co-founders of the Motor Racing Network, one of the two networks that broadcast NASCAR races on the radio.

Squier was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of its 2018 class and is the only member of the NASCAR Hall who is enshrined primarily because of his duties as a broadcaster. The NASCAR Hall of Fame also created the Squier-Hall Award in 2012 named in honor of Squier and longtime radio broadcaster Barney Hall. The two were the inaugural recipients of the award.