Joe Carver Will Be Missed By Friends, NASCAR
By Larry Woody | Managing Editor
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 firstname.lastname@example.org Comments