Minter: Auto Racing Loses A Great One
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
For the past 10 years or so, anytime big news broke on the NASCAR scene, it wouldn’t be long before I got a phone call from David Poole. Sometimes I was already onto the story, sometimes not.
Poole knew how important is was for beat reporters to be on top of the situation, so despite his competitive nature and loyalty to his employer, he looked out for his friends in the media and we did the same for him.
Sadly, this time the news was about Poole. He’d died of a heart attack at age 50. If there’s any consolation, at least it was at home, not in some lonely hotel room on the road, where he spent a good portion of the past 13 years.
I’ve had the great pleasure of sharing many a meal and road trip with Poole – from seafood in New Hampshire to barbecue in Kansas.
We’ve traveled together to Tony Stewart’s boyhood home and even wound up at a wedding reception for a bride and groom we’d never met. We’ve grilled out at my farm and in race track parking lots.
For many years, I was part of a group that shared a house or condo with Poole during pre-season testing at Daytona and then for the duration of Speed Weeks.
It was during those meals and those days in Daytona that I began to really understand David Poole. Like my peers, I’d seen the gruff side of him in media centers and elsewhere. Just as Dale Earnhardt Sr. was the unquestioned leader of the garage, Poole was the big dog in the press room.
He didn’t shy away from confrontation, whether it be with drivers, PR reps, track folks and even his fellow media types. Sometimes he even seemed to relish it, but deep down, I believe that he felt that sometimes, to get something positive accomplished, somebody had to be a jerk. And he did it, to his great credit. We’re all better off because of it.
But once away from the track, he was an entirely different fellow. He still followed the dogged work ethic that won him numerous awards, including four George Cunningham Awards from the National Motorsports Press Association for being the organization’s writer of the year.
Late into many a night, he was sitting at the kitchen table in front of his laptop, writing stories or compiling stats to back up what he wrote. He usually was the last to turn in at night and the first up in the morning, as most highly successful people are.
But away from the track and the laptop, Poole was a humble person, a thoughtful housemate. Just as he led the way on the job, he’d organize a traditional Saturday night meal, usually barbecue, before the Daytona 500. His treat.
And occasionally he’d close the laptop and sit around the living room and watch “24” or an old movie like “Blazing Saddles” with the gang of journalists staying under one roof.
Just washing clothes at the laundromat was fun with Poole around.
Valentine’s Day comes during Speed Weeks, and Poole made sure his cards and flowers were on the way to North Carolina in plenty of time. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather, and he wasn’t a bit bashful about it.
Poole’s softer side became more public in recent years.
When a former colleague landed in trouble and his family was struggling financially, it was Poole who spearheaded the effort to raise money for them. And at that time, he probably could have used the money himself.
Last year, Poole went and tracked down Wessa Miller, the girl who gave Dale Earnhardt Sr. her lucky penny prior to his winning the Daytona 500 in 1998 during a Make-a-Wish meeting.
He didn’t stop there. Seeing the family still needed help, he led the effort to start the Pennies for Wessa Fund and was host to the Miller family during the most recent race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The sport of NASCAR is still trying to fill the void left by Dale Earnhardt Sr., who like Poole often let his gruff exterior mask a caring person.
Now another giant is gone. For many of us in the media and elsewhere it will never be the same.
God bless David Poole.One Comment