News & Media

Hall excited to be back at track in broadcast booth

April 09, 2012, Joe Menzer,

Health scare forced radio veteran to miss Daytona 500 and two other races

Barney Hall is back, and that's a great thing for NASCAR.

Hall, who got his start in racing by what he says was "dumb luck" in 1960 when Bristol Motor Speedway needed a public address announcer and he happened to be available, missed only his third Daytona 500 in 54 years in February. He did so on doctor's orders after experiencing dizziness and subsequently discovering he was suffering from occasional bouts of an irregular heartbeat that since have been kept under control by medication.

"That was really a strange feeling, watching on the TV and listening to our guys on the radio."


So Hall was back in his role as lead announcer on the radio broadcast for Motor Racing Network last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, where he reflected on his recent illness and professed enthusiasm about remaining in his usual role for MRN as the 2012 NASCAR season progresses.

He also admitted missing the most recent Daytona 500 was difficult.

"That was really a strange feeling, watching on the TV and listening to our guys on the radio," Hall said. "Not being part of it, it took a while for it to sink in. I had to tell myself, 'Hey, you're not going to be there for this race. You need to get well so you can jump back into the picture down the road.' "

Hall also missed the subsequent MRN-staffed races at Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

"The medical people I was dealing with said I'd better take two to three weeks off and get the blood pressure down and everything," Hall said. "They're the experts. I'm going to listen to them."

Hall has been doing just that, and said his recovery is going well even though he is not yet what he would call 100 percent.

"I just had a valve in my heart that missed a beat now and then. Sometimes it would miss three or four or five -- and when that happened, the body would slow down immediately, whether you're walking or running or whatever," Hall said. "They thought they might have to do surgery -- but they ended up trying about two or three different medications. They found one that slows the heart rate down. It's actually like cruise control on a car; it puts the heart on the same number of beats per minute.

"The medication is working pretty good. I tell everybody I'm about 75 percent, and most of them respond by saying, 'Hell, you never were any better than that anyway.' "

An avid walker, Hall said doctors have told him that is the best medicine for him as he moves forward.

"I try to get in a couple of miles a day anyway. The doctor says it's the best thing I can do, to build my strength and my heart muscle up. I'm a little slower in the head now than I'd like to be, but they say that will go away with time, too," said Hall, smiling.

Hall said he still hopes to finish out the MRN broadcast portion of the NASCAR schedule this season. The network is responsible for coverage of 23 race weekends involving the Sprint Cup Series (24 if the Bud Shootout, a non-points event, is included).

"We'll play it by ear. If I don't have any problems the next two, three or four races, I'll probably go the rest of the full schedule," Hall said.

That wouldn't surprise Winston Kelley, the executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame who also works with Hall on MRN broadcasts as a pit reporter.

"As much as Barney has threatened to retire over the years, I just think he would miss it too much," Kelley said.

And at this point, Hall said he has no plans to retire anytime soon.

"It's hard to walk away from something you've done for 54 years. It really is," Hall said. "But there comes a day when we all have to take a step back from what we do. I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to take it a day at a time and I think I'll do well."

Meanwhile, it was good to be back in the booth -- and simply at the race track -- in Martinsville.

"Yes, it's good to be back," Hall said. "I went through the [Martinsville] garage and I told our guys, 'If I had a dollar for every autograph I signed, I wouldn't even have to work the race.' "