Sports

Thunder Road and American-Canadian Tour Mourns Loss of Founder Ken Squier


photo by Buzz Fisher
Squier was a frequent visitor to Thunder Road after selling his creation to the partnership between multi-time Speedbowl champion Cris Michaud and Vermont businessman Pat Malone, speaking here with Malone (right) and Vermont Governor and Thunder Road champion Phil Scott (left) following a drivers meeting in 2019.

BARRE – Kenley Dean Squier, founder of Barre, Vermont’s Thunder Road, co-founder of the Motor Racing Network (MRN), NASCAR Hall of Famer and the voice of sports events across Vermont, New England and beyond passed away on Wednesday, Nov. 15, at the age of 88.

Born on April 10, 1935, Squier was immediately involved in the radio business with the family-owned and -operated WDEV in Waterbury.

Following his parents’ love of horse racing, Ken quickly found auto racing at New England fairgrounds and up-and-coming backyard dirt tracks to be more exciting. He started his legendary lap-by-lap commentating career calling those jalopy races on the back of log trucks at these fly-by-night ovals before moving up to more legitimate race tracks like Colchester’s Mallet’s Bay Raceway and Waterford’s Northeastern Speedway.

Taking the lessons learned at the early tracks, Ken chose a plot of farmland at the end of Fisher Road in Barre to build his crown jewel, Thunder Road International Speedbowl, opening to a capacity crowd in June of 1960. In the early days of coupe racing, Squier created such celebrated events as the Labor Day Classic, Memorial Day Classic, Vermont Governor’s Cup and the world-famous Vermont Milk Bowl, each of which is still being contested to this day.

Along with painting his drivers as heroes each and every week, showcasing them as the “common man doing uncommon deeds,” Squier also proved to be a businessman. He chose Thursday nights to showcase his creation on the simple basis that all the stonecutters of Barre’s granite quarries were paid on Thursday and wanted Thunder Road to have first option in weekly entertainment. Squier went on to build the celebrated Catamount Stadium in Milton during the 1965 season and later co-founded the Motor Racing Network in 1970 alongside NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.

Perhaps his most well-known achievement came in February 1979 with the first live flag-to-flag broadcast of the Daytona 500. It was Squier on the call who pointed out Dale Earnhardt at the start of his rookie season, excitedly caught the infamous fight between the Allison Brothers and Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty’s record sixth of seven wins in “The Great American Race,” a phrase that Ken added to the NASCAR dictionary. That same year, Squier partnered with Tom Curley to create the NASCAR North Tour, an international racing series that ultimately became the American-Canadian Tour, which celebrated its 45th consecutive season in 2023.

In the years that followed, Squier continued to elevate athletes to heroic status whether through national television coverage of NASCAR events on CBS, TNN and TBS and the Winter Olympics, announcing stock car races across the Northeast or play-by-play on WDEV Radio coverage of local high-school and college sports.

After working with Curley to wrestle back his beloved Thunder Road from a New York businessman in 1982, both Squier and Curley elevated the Barre speedbowl to one of the nation’s leading short tracks. Ultimately, it was Squier that brought Vermont businessman Pat Malone and former Thunder Road champion Cris Michaud together in 2017 to purchase Thunder Road, after the two had been pursuing the purchase separately.

Squier was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2002 and the American Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2010. He was the inaugural recipient of the 2013 Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence alongside fellow namesake and broadcaster Barney Hall before being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2018.

Funeral Arrangements have not been announced at this time. The Squier family will release any further information on planned services.

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