Legendary NASCAR announcer Barney Hall stuns listeners with announcement Sunday’s race will be his last

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Motor Racing Network has billed itself as the “Voice of NASCAR” for more than 44 years.

But the real voice of NASCAR, Barney Hall, stunned fans and listeners everywhere Saturday when it was announced that the legendary Hall would call his final race in Saturday’s (rescheduled to Sunday) Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

“The voice of NASCAR is the voice of MRN and that’s Barney Hall,” David Hyatt, president and executive producer of Motor Racing Network, told MRN.com. “To have him still be a part of what we do in a way that highlights all the memories that he has, all the history he’s brought to the sport, everything that he’s done, not just for this MRN brand but for the NASCAR brand is an important part of this transition. MRN isn’t MRN without Barney Hall.”

The 82-year-old Hall has been in the radio business for more than 60 years, starting with a stint with Armed Forces Radio in Okinawa, Japan.

He is in his 56th year of calling NASCAR races at tracks big and small, from Darlington to Daytona and from Loudon to Los Angeles.

“The years have gone by so quick, it’s just so hard to believe,” Hall told MRN.com.

Later during Saturday afternoon’s rain delay, Hall appeared on TNT’s telecast.

“It really has been one heck of a ride, there’s no question about that,” Hall said. “I still enjoy doing the races. This will be 154 races at Daytona (that he’s broadcast), I guess. A long time.”

Hall is an institution not just in NASCAR, but in all sports broadcasting, with a tenure rivaled by very few. The first name that comes to mind – and Hall is definitely NASCAR’s version, for sure – is legendary baseball announcer Vin Scully.

Hall was the first public address announcer at Bristol Motor Speedway, eventually becoming one of the first announcers when MRN was formed in 1970, first as a turn announcer before he moved into the broadcast booth.

From a personal standpoint, the Elkin, North Carolina native and still resident is a true Southern gentleman, a gentle soul and walking encyclopedia of all things NASCAR.

His measured broadcast tone was his trademark. He never gets too excited or too mundane. More than anything, he is a constant stream of information, making listeners feel as if they’re listening to a trusted family member.

And trust is what best describes Hall’s style. If he says something on-air, you can take it to the bank. He also is one of the few individuals in the sport that drivers, crew chiefs, team owners can confide in and relate secrets, knowing he will not betray their confidences.

And then there’s Hall’s intimate relationship with listeners and NASCAR fans, many who have spent years, if not decades, listening to him and how he helped bring broadcasts to life, leaving fans with the feeling they are right there in the broadcast booth with him.

“It’s always a good feeling … when the fans pat you on the back or shake your hand and say, ‘I really enjoy listening to MRN,'” Hall told MRN.com. “I get a bigger kick out of that than almost anything.”

Thankfully, Hall, who has missed only three Daytona 500s in his career, is not retiring. He will shift to work on special projects and features for MRN and will occasionally still make appearances at races.

Hall, who was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 2007, is unquestionably a shoe-in to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the next few years.

One of the best stories Hall ever told was during an interview with NASCAR.com a few years ago, before the death of Bill France Jr.. When asked what was the best advice he ever received, Hall replied in his typical humble way.

“I guess (it was) from Bill France Jr., a long time ago,” Hall said. “I had been in radio a few years and MRN came into existence. He came by the booth after one of the races — I think it was in Atlanta — and he said, ‘You did a hell of a job today, pal. I like the way you do things. You tell it sort of like it is and you tell it so people can understand what you’re talking about.’ And I never forgot that.

“Bill Jr. is a man of few words. If he didn’t like something you said, he’d say, “You could have handled that better.” But he taught me to not try to make something out of nothing and just be dead honest about what you’re broadcasting.”

That describes Barney Hall so perfectly. While we’ll miss his dulcet voice on NASCAR race broadcasts, we wish him well in his new role at MRN.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Marchionne: ‘About time’ Ferrari returned to winning ways in F1

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Ferrari president and CEO Sergio Marchionne was quick to congratulate Sebastian Vettel on his victory in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, saying it was “about time” the Italan manufacturer won again in Formula 1.

Vettel fought from second on the grid to leapfrog Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton through the pit stops and win the opening race of the 2017 season by almost 10 seconds.

The result marked Ferrari’s first victory since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix, and the team leads the constructors’ championship for the first time since the start of 2013.

“It was about time,” Marchionne said in a statement issued after the race.

“I am delighted for the team and for our Tifosi who stood by us throughout this whole period. We’ve been waiting for this victory for almost a year and a half. Hearing the Italian national anthem again was very moving.

“Sebastian delivered a great race and I am sure Kimi [Raikkonen, P4] will be soon up there battling alongside his teammate.

“Of course, this victory is something to share with the entire team, both at the circuit and back in Maranello, because teamwork is the only way to achieve major goals.

“Now, however, it is absolutely essential to remember that this is not the destination but the first step on a long road that must see us all focused on improving each and every day.”

Bottas takes podium on Mercedes debut, eyes room for improvement

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Valtteri Bottas claimed a comfortable podium finish in his first Formula 1 appearance for Mercedes on Sunday in Australia, but has already identified areas for improvement in his display.

Bottas joined Mercedes for 2017 following world champion Nico Rosberg’s shock decision to retire at the end of last season, making his first race appearance this weekend in Australia from third place on the grid.

Bottas ran a trouble-free race en route to third, catching Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton towards the end but falling 1.2 seconds shy of the Briton. Race winner Sebastian Vettel was a further 10 seconds up the road for Ferrari.

“I think it is a start and there’s always things that could’ve gone better, but you know I think it is a good starting point for the jorney for me driving for Mercedes,” Bottas said.

“I think the main things were obviously yesterday in qualifying I didn’t get everything perfect, but it was the first qualifying with the team and this track hasn’t really been fantastic for me ever in qualifying.

“There’s a long season ahead and today I think the race was good I think we as a team we did a good job with the car we had. I think Ferrari was quicker today, there’s no doubt about that. So they’ve obviously done a great great job as well and a better job for this race.”

Like Hamilton, Bottas struggled in the early part of the race on the ultra-soft tire, but hopes to learn from the difficulties ahead of the next race in China on April 9.

“I struggled a lot with the ultra-soft tires, and it felt like I was sliding around and always missing front grip and rear grip especially after ten laps of the first stint.

“So that wasn’t easy but once we’ve put the soft tires on it was actually quite a good feeling with the car, the car was behaving really nicely. It was really nice to drive. Just a bit too late and still missing a little bit of pace.

“But overall I think not a disaster for a first race weekend with the team, but I do have my points I will take and I will be better next time. Looking forward to that.”

Lewis Hamilton: My decision to make early pit stop in Australian GP

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Lewis Hamilton has revealed it was his call to stop early during Sunday’s Formula 1 season-opener in Australia, having struggled to hold on to the lead of the race due to his fading tires.

Despite tipping Ferrari to be the team to beat in Australia, Hamilton took the 62nd pole position of his career on Saturday, beating Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton retained his lead in the early part of the race from Ferrari driver Vettel, only for the German to turn in a sequence of quick laps ahead of the first round of pit stops.

Fearful of losing the lead on-track to Vettel, Hamilton opted to pit early at the end of Lap 16 so that he could put his fresh tires to good use and try to get the undercut on his rival.

Ferrari did not react immediately, keeping Vettel out until Hamilton hit traffic, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen holding the Mercedes driver back and creating a bigger gap between the two victory contenders.

Vettel was able to pit and come back out ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton, immediately forging a buffer that would sustain until the end of the race.

Hamilton explained after the race that he decided to come in early due to his tire concerns, believing that Vettel would have overtaken him anyway.

“We had a really good start, which is fantastic, it’s great to have a good getaway – but then we were struggling with the grip from the get-go,” Hamilton said.

“Sebastian was able to always answer in terms of lap time and the majority of the time do faster lap times. Towards the end I got a bit in traffic and overheated the tires and was struggling with grip, so it was to the point that I needed to come in.

“The gap was closing up and I was sliding around so it was my call, because otherwise he probably would have come by anyways. I came in and then I obviously got stuck in some traffic, which was unfortunate but that’s motor racing.”

Hamilton congratulated Vettel on his success, and said the result boded well for a close championship fight between Mercedes and Ferrari.

“A big congratulations to Sebastian and Ferrari, I know it’s been a long time coming to get a result like this,” Hamilton said.

“It shows we’re going to have a race on our hands, which we’re happy to have. I think it’s great for the fans.

“Unfortunately it’s harder than ever to get closer to cars, which is a shame because we can’t have an even closer battle. Who knows, maybe in the future we will.”

Vettel: Australia F1 win ‘a big relief’ to Ferrari after barren 2016

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Sebastian Vettel said his victory in Sunday’s Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix came as “a big relief” to the Ferrari team following a winless year in 2016.

Vettel qualified second in Melbourne before jumping Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton through the pit stops when Ferrari opted to keep him out longer on the ultra-soft tires.

Vettel opened up a sizeable lead over Hamilton soon after his pit stop, eventually crossing the line 9.9 seconds clear of the Briton to win the opening race of the year.

The result marked both Ferrari and Vettel’s first win since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix, showing the work that the team has done over the winter to turn things around after struggling last year.

“If you’re not part of the team it’s difficult to realize, but what this team has done in the last six months has been really tough, rough as well, not easy to manage,” Vettel said.

“Today is fantastic, a big reward and big relief for everyone. It’s just the tip of the iceberg though, the foundation has been laid a long time ago.

“I’m sure we’ll have a great night, create some great memories tonight and take it from there. We enjoy what we do, the spirit is great in the team and it’s up to us to keep it up.”

The result marked Vettel’s first win in Australia since 2011 and Ferrari’s first at Albert Park since 2007. In both years, they went on to win the drivers’ title, Ferrari taking the 2007 crown with Kimi Raikkonen.

History may be on Vettel’s side, but the German is not turning his attention to a fifth world title yet.

“No, I’m not interested in that point to be honest,” Vettel said when reminded of Raikkonen’s Australia win and title success in 2007.

“Obviously I was very fortunate so far in my racing career that I had some very good races and good years, but definitely after the first race is not the time to look at the table. We really have to go step-by-step.

“It’s good to know we have a great car but it’s just the beginning. New regulations, new generation of cars so there will be a lot of progress.

“These guys [Mercedes] have proven to be the ones to beat in the last couple of years more and more. We know they have a great engine but they’ve had a great car the last couple of years and they made good steps forward so we’re the ones who need to catch up.

“For today I’m just very happy and for sure whatever happens this year, the race today doesn’t hurt.”