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

Sebastien Bourdais released from IU Methodist hospital; begins rehab

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INDIANAPOLIS – Sebastien Bourdais only posted just yesterday that he was “unable to go for a run” – his spirit and humor clearly not affected despite sustaining multiple pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip in his crash during qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in the No. 18 GEICO Honda on Saturday.

On Thursday, his post revealed even better news: he’s been released from IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, and will be set to fly home soon to Florida for his rehabilitation.

Bourdais’ place in the race at Dale Coyne Racing will be taken by James Davison, but judging by this first round of leaving, the Frenchman is keen to begin the recovery process as quick as humanly possible.

Bottas remains confident he can close gap in F1 title race

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MONACO (AP) Valtteri Bottas has put his recent bad luck behind him and remains confident he can close the gap in the Formula One title race at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The Finnish driver’s fledgling Mercedes career has been a topsy-turvy one since he joined from Williams as a replacement for F1 champion Nico Rosberg.

He drove brilliantly to win his first career race at the Russian Grand Prix after securing his first ever pole position in Sochi last month. But two weeks ago he was undone by engine problems in practice for the Spanish GP and then failed to finish because of a turbo issue late in the race.

“It’s one to forget for sure. It’s been a bit up and down for me this year,” Bottas said Wednesday at the Monaco GP. “Bad result, good result.”

His other results so far are two third places and one sixth place, putting him 41 points behind four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel and 35 behind three-time champion Lewis Hamilton, his Mercedes teammate.

“The gap to Sebastian, to Lewis, is bigger than I was hoping for this year. But things can change quickly,” Bottas said. “What gives me confidence is that there is still 75 percent of the season left. I feel my best races are ahead this year. I feel I’ve done a good job in some races, but I feel there is more to come to be at a consistently good level.”

Although Bottas has impressed with this speed, he has yet to show the hallmarks of a genuine title contender.

His magnanimous approach goes somewhat against that.

Bottas showed his team ethic by allowing Hamilton past him in Bahrain so that the British driver could chase after Vettel.

He did so again in Barcelona, holding up Vettel for a crucial few laps. That allowed Hamilton to gain some precious seconds on Vettel’s chasing Ferrari. Hamilton won a thrilling race, Vettel was second and Bottas got nothing – except praise for his efforts.

It is a difficult situation for Bottas, who is on a one-year contract and has the added pressure of the demanding Hamilton as a teammate. With 55 race wins to his name, Hamilton is clearly the No. 1 driver, even though the team has not officially said so.

Over the past three years, Hamilton was on an equal footing with Rosberg as they fought each other for the title. This led to tensions and fall outs.

The 27-year-old Bottas is not relishing the prospect of finding himself in a similar position. But it might become inevitable if he does manage to close the gap on Hamilton and turn the title race into a genuine three-way battle.

“I can’t even imagine how it can be after a few years with a teammate battling for the title always. There is respect both ways (with Hamilton), which is good,” Bottas said. “(We are) just enjoying working together and hopefully that will help us in this close fight with Ferrari. It is a team sport anyway, so we need to push forward together.”

It’s hardly the talk of a driver desperate to win the title.

F1 Paddock Pass: Monaco Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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From the streets of Monte Carlo, Monaco, comes the crown jewel of the Formula 1 season (all times for the weekend via NBC or NBCSN here) this weekend, the Monaco Grand Prix.

And here with the pre-race updates from the paddock are NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales, along with the race crew from the F1 on NBC team who are on site in Monaco.

This is an interesting weekend for Monaco, given the Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel battle for race wins and the championship so far in 2017. There’s also the question of whether someone can spring a surprise in Monaco, as has been done on several occasions over the years.

Here’s the show, below:

Brown wants to see F1 back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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McLaren executive director Zak Brown would like to see Formula 1 return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the future, saying it would “make sense” for the sport.

The United States Grand Prix was held on the old IMS road course between 2000 and 2007 before dropping off the calendar, with a low point being hit in 2005 when just six cars started the race over tire safety concerns.

IMS re-designed its road course in order to host MotoGP and, from 2014, an IndyCar road course race as a prelude to the Indianapolis 500.

F1 is known to be looking to expand its footprint in the United States following Liberty Media’s takeover of the series, with additional races to the current USGP at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas being sought after.

Southern California has also been a talking point; Long Beach’s future has been discussed in the press more so than has Indianapolis, as a consulting firm has been brought in to examine what would be the best case scenario for the city.

Brown has spent a significant amount time this last month in Indianapolis as part of two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso’s Indy 500 entry, and feels the sport would be wise to push for a return to the Brickyard in the near future.

“I am of the opinion that Formula 1 at IMS works. I think they’ve changed the configuration of the track a little bit,” Brown said during a teleconference on Wednesday.

“I think it makes sense for Formula 1 to be at the world’s greatest racetrack. I think the city of Indianapolis is well catered to take care of Formula 1, just like it did in the past, and the Super Bowl.

“I think the drivers like it. I think Indianapolis is easy to get to geographically. I realize it may not have the glamour of some of the other markets that are being spoken about, but it’s here, it’s ready to go.

“I think economically, given that Liberty is taking a different view on some of their future partnerships, I think there is an opportunity there. Personally I’d like to see it happen.”

J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President, told a group of reporters on site that no talks had been held with Liberty as of yet, and while the circuit would be open to negotiations, it would have to be financially viable.

“I have not had any talks directly with the folks with Liberty or with Formula 1. We’d certainly entertain a conversation,” Boles said.

“We’d have to figure out the economics. That’s why it wasn’t here after 2007; in order for it to come back here, the economics would have to make sense.

“At some level that conversation, Mark Miles [CEO of Hulman & Co., INDYCAR/IMS parent company] and Zak have a really good relationship, I think we’d ultimately lead it through Mark.

“When we redid the road course between 2013 and 2014, one of the things that was important to us was to make sure our road course remained FIA Grade 1, so if that there ever was a point in time where we had the opportunity to host an F1 race, we wouldn’t have to go through a complete renovation of our road course again.

“There’s two tracks in the U.S. that are that. COTA’s one, and we’re the other. So theoretically they could run here.”