Barney Hall (Photo courtesy Motor Racing Network)

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

Cooper Tire extends as FIA World RX official tire supplier

CANTERBURY, ENGLAND - MAY 25:  Andreas Bakkerud of Norway leads Timmy Hansen of Sweden out of a corner drives during the FIA World Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill Circuit on May 25, 2014 in Canterbury, England.  (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
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Cooper Tire has been confirmed Tuesday as the official tire supplier for the FIA World Rallycross Championship for three more years, starting in 2017.

The move was announced today by the FIA World Motor Sport Council.

It continues Cooper Tire Europe’s run as the official tire supplier that’s occurred for several years.

Hinchcliffe embraces ambassadorial role to help grow IndyCar

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  James Hinchcliffe, driver of the #5  Honda Dallara, prepares to practice during Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Those of us who remember the early James Hinchcliffe videos circa 2006 to 2008 – the brat video at Road America, the novelty size check, the spot-on Kimi Raikkonen imitation among others – knew then that the Canadian was never shy of being goofy to help promote not only himself, but his racing series that he competed in at the time. At that point, it was the Champ Car Atlantic series, where he spent three years before moving into Indy Lights for two years in 2009. These were the early days for the “Mayor of Hinchtown,” the head of his own fictional city.

Now though, into his sixth season in the Verizon IndyCar Series, the driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda is busier than ever with other external commitments, but he’s never stopped being an ambassador for the sport.

If anything, he’s continued to grow in that department.

This year alone has been no exception. Hinchcliffe won the pole for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, which made for a remarkable story in its own right, and also meant he’d be going through the ringer of the in-between week media tour to help promote the race.

Then there was Hinchcliffe’s role as one of five IndyCar drivers on an appearance of Celebrity Family Feud, along with Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, the surprisingly funny Will Power (those of us in the paddock know his humor, but probably not the national audience at large) and Hinchcliffe’s roommate and good friend Conor Daly.

Today, of course, Hinchcliffe has been named to the cast of the new season of “Dancing with the Stars.” It’s a move that sure, can grow his profile, but by default is also tasked with growing IndyCar’s, knowing how dedicated its smallish but hardcore group of fans are.

“For me personally, it’s a great opportunity to get outside my comfort zone and do something you probably don’t have the opportunity to do again,” he said during a conference call today. “After everything last year, it’s definitely given me a different approach to life and maybe given me a little bit more confidence to try things like this.

“But certainly getting one of our drivers out into some primetime, mainstream media and especially during the off-season, kind of keep IndyCar’s name out there a little bit. Again, we’re all assuming this is me making it past week one, so it’s already a bit of a bold statement. But for sure, it’s definitely got two sides to it.”

Couple all this with his outside business commitments – Hinchcliffe has been a race analyst for Champ Car races in the past, now hosts his own “Mayor on Air” podcast, has his own beer brewed by Flat 12 Bierworks (Hinchtown Hammerdown) is a co-founder of Speed Group, a driver development, management and social media/PR company and he’s a spokesperson for Honda Canada via a personal deal – and sometimes you wonder how the 29-year-old Canadian does it all.

One, he has a good group of people around him.

And two, he takes it seriously in terms of knowing what he needs to do to help promote the sport he’s been so blessed and fortunate to be a part of.

“It’s a combination of things,” he said. “From a young age, I was counseled that this is the world, this is the motorsports world that we live in, and I’ve always just prepared myself for that, and so I’ve not shied away from extra commitments.

“I’m a very driven person on track and off, whether it’s my racing or promoting the sport or outside business ventures I’m involved in. I like staying busy. I like staying active in that sense. This is a big part of our sport and is a huge help.

“This kind of thing, sure, it benefits me personally but it also benefits the sport, and I’ve always said from day one that anything that I can do outside of a race car to help grow the sport of IndyCar racing is something you can sign me up for because I’ve got such a passion for this sport.”

Hinchcliffe is in his sixth IndyCar season, but only fifth full-time after his injuries sustained last May at Indianapolis sidelined him for the rest of the year.

But like Castroneves – Hinchcliffe’s now “DWTS” compatriot and predecessor – his goal is to keep driving first and then tackle the rest of the to-do items later.

And looking at Castroneves provides him a window to do just that. The Brazilian is 41, but is in his 17th straight season with Team Penske, 19th overall since debuting as a rookie in CART driving for Tony Bettenhausen in 1998. Yet he’s still at the top of his game and in the top-five in points; Hinchcliffe is not too far behind him in eighth.

“I plan on being around it for a long time as a driver, for a long time after that, as well, and I just love the fact that we’ve got the opportunity to do this kind of stuff,” Hinchcliffe said.

“You just try and help spread the word and show people that IndyCar racing is an incredible form of sport.”

On a lighter note, Hinchcliffe’s training and dancing schedule will mean that he’ll spend quite a bit of time away from his home in Indianapolis. Daly, his good friend, is also his roommate.

Hinchcliffe joked that that part of the preparation is underway.

“I have a tremendous concern. I’ve already set up a network of people that will be coming to check on him and the house in my absence,” he deadpanned, in classic “Hinch” form.

Sabres’ favorite to sing Canadian, American anthems for IndyCar race at Watkins Glen

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Don’t be surprised if some fans attending Saturday’s Indy Lights race or Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix at the Glen, both at Watkins Glen International, wear jerseys or jackets of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres’ beloved national anthem singer, Doug Allen, will sing both the Canadian and American Anthems prior to the start of both of this weekend’s races.

Known as “Anthem Guy,” Allen has gotten Sabres fans fired up before home games for over 20 years by singing “O Canada” and “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Allen is also known for his charitable side, serving as Facilities Coordinator for the Buffalo City Mission and Worship director at his church, Fellowship Wesleyan Church in West Seneca, New York.

Sunday’s race is the second-to-last event on the 16-race IndyCar schedule. It replaces the originally scheduled race for this weekend, the inaugural event in Boston, which was subsequently cancelled.

Here’s an example of Allen and his stirring rendition of the anthems:

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Kevin Magnussen set to race Italian GP pending final check

during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 27, 2016 in Spa, Belgium.
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Following a series of checks both on-site in hospital at Verviers and further checks back home in Denmark, Kevin Magnnussen appears set to compete in this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, barring any hiccups from a final check on Thursday from the FIA.

Renault Sport F1 Team released the following update on Tuesday:

During the Belgian Grand Prix held at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday 28 August Renault Sport Formula One Team driver Kevin Magnussen exited the track at high speed. After initial checks at the circuit’s medical centre, Kevin was referred to a local hospital in Verviers for further routine examinations.

Kevin had heavily bruised his left ankle but the tests showed no fracture or serious injury and he was released from hospital the same day and returned home to Denmark. He has since undergone further checks in Denmark that indicate he is able to race at the Italian Grand Prix in six days.

The FIA will confirm Kevin is fit to compete following a final assessment on Thursday in Monza.

Kevin commented, ‘I’m feeling much better, which is very good news. I’ve had several checks that show I am fit to race in Monza and I am sure I will be in the car this weekend. We were running in the top ten in Belgium and I’m very motivated to repeat this again in Italy.’

No further comment will be given.