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Joe Carver Will Be Missed By Friends, NASCAR

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 20 2013

Joe Carver served up Dale Earnhardt to Nashville media and fans. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Joe Carver dictated the first racing story I “wrote” when I was assigned the beat in the late 1960’s, and he once prodded a grumpy Dale Earnhardt into the Sports Department so I could interview him.

Joe, as PR director of Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway, had a major influence on my career as a fledgling racing writer. He introduced me to drivers and NASCAR officials, provided insight into the sport, and steered me through a lot of stories.

But more than being my mentor, he was my friend.

When I received word that Joe had died of cancer Saturday, at age 76 in Concord, N.C., it brought a flood of emotions and memories.

In 1968 I was in college, working part-time in The Tennessean sports department, when the sports editor told me go to the Fairgrounds and interview Richard Petty.

I had two questions: Where’s the Fairgrounds and who’s Richard Petty?

I’d never been to a racetrack or seen a race.

Ask for Joe Carver, the sports editor said. He’ll help you out.

I did, and a life-long friendship was born. Joe introduced me to Petty and walked me through an “interview” in which Joe asked most of the questions. Later, as I typed the story, Joe hovered over my shoulder offering gentle suggestions. The first racing story that carried my by-line was largely written by Caver.

Joe was a dedicated PR person and shared the promotional flair of colorful track owner Bill Donoho. Carver was constantly hustling stories to the Nashville media. Once, a few days before a big race, he called the newspaper and asked me to come out and interview a driver he’d brought in for some pre-race publicity – some guy from North Carolina named Dale Earnhardt.

I explained to Carver that I was stuck in the office – I worked on the copy desk in addition to writing – and I didn’t have time to go out to the track. Carver said that was no problem – he’d bring Earnhardt to me.

Shortly afterwards, Joe escorted a reluctant Earnhardt into the sports department. Dale slumped into a chair and – prodded by Carver – mumbled through an interview. In ensuing years Earnhardt and I became good friends and he’d often joke about getting “dragged around” by Carver.

Joe served a stint as Darrell Waltrip’s PR person. (I once asked Joe what his title was, and he laughingly replied, “Servant.”)

Everybody liked Joe, and he often ran interference for the sometimes-acerbic DW. Whenever Darrell peeved some thin-skinned media type, Joe was there to smooth things over.

Carver’s career eventually took him to Langley Speedway and although I didn’t work with him while he was there, I’d often hear reports about the great job he was doing. We’d sometimes cross paths along the NASCAR trail and re-live yarns about the good old days at the Fairgrounds.

Joe was a tremendous good-will ambassador for racing. He devoted his career to drumming up publicity for the sport on every level – from Saturday-night fender-benders to the big-league Cup Series.

In those early days PR people had to hustle to sell racing, and nobody did it better than Joe. He understood the power of the press and how vital it was to the sport. He brought the media and drivers together. He made covering racing fun.

The sport will miss him, and so will his legion of friends.

I trust that somewhere Joe is proof-reading this story and – just he did with the first one I wrote some 45 years ago – shaking his head and chuckling over my spelling and typos.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 20 2013
8 Comments

8 Comments »

  • MICHAEL BARNHILL says:

    Joe and Diana are my next door neighbors. I am very lucky to have them as my neighbors. They friendship and kindness cannot be replaced. I will miss seeing Joe’s happy and positive disposition.

  • John Sturbin says:

    Larry: Mr. Carver reminds me of a beloved boxing PR man named Irving Rudd, who once famously said about the “colorful” characters populating the “Sweet Science”: “In boxing, there’s no such thing as ‘bad publicity.’ There’s just publicity.”
    Similarly, Mr. Carver apparently was a member of that public relations fraternity that knew how to “press the flesh” with local newspaper types…before the days of the internet and social media.

  • Amanda Ballard says:

    What a great story!!

  • Jennifer Carver Greenwood says:

    Such kind words about my daddy, he was awesome at his profession. I’ve always been so very proud to brag about him and always will be. Thank you so much.

  • Rita Jean says:

    Travel well, Joe Carver…. #peace

  • Shirley Carver Schettino says:

    Thank you, sir, for your kind words. It is a lovely tribute to our dad, and tells but one story of the many that have circulated throughout the years.

  • jesse nash says:

    my first tv show with joe, jimmy allen, an myself was a channel 4 i was scared to death joe said take it easy just rember this is sat not fri nite. i made it it was a long hour

  • Sam Carver says:

    Absolutely perfect. One of the best ways to pay tribute to my dad. And this is only the tip of the iceberg with stories that can be told about him. Thank you Larry.