[media-credit name=”The Charlotte Observer” align=”alignright” width=”240″][/media-credit]Today marks the third anniversary of the death of David Poole. For you younger fans, David was the NASCAR reporter for the Charlotte Observer, as well as one of the hosts of SiriusXM’s morning show. Many read his columns in their local newspapers and heard him on the radio. He was NASCAR’s greatest critic, but also one of the press’s most knowledgeable writers.
My first encounter with David was at Rockingham in 1998. I had just started writing for Racing Information Systems (now Racing Information Service) that season. Mike Hollander had given me a shot at covering races on the recommendation of our editor, Mike Snow. I was a rookie and forgot I was still as fan. As the cars of Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth were coming to the finish, I forgot I was reporting and stood up in front of David. The press box at Rockingham is tiered, but David was short and I blocked his view. He yelled at me, “Sit down dammit.” That booming voice always heard in the press box was the voice of authority. I quickly sat down. Since I knew who he was, I was embarrassed. Afterwards, he walked up to me and gave me some lessons on how to act as a member of the press. That began about 11 years of acquaintance. No, I wasn’t his friend, but we often talked, and I learned a lot about the business. I miss him.
My beat has always been Rockingham (when it was still on the circuit), Bristol, Martinsville, and Charlotte. Each time, David was always there. I usually saw him in the press box, except at Charlotte and Bristol where most of us internet types are exiled to the infield media center. Luckily at Rockingham and Martinsville, I always had a press box seat in those days, usually sitting in the row below David and other star reporters like David, Monte Dutton, Lee Spencer and others. I got to hear his opinions on most stuff, racing or not, and he always talked to me. He often was the loudest and most opinionated voice in the press box. You knew he was there. He hated restrictor plate racing and what he considered the failings of the sanctioning body.
I have lots of Poole stories. There are too many to tell, but one time we arrived at the track at Rockingham at the same time. It was the November after 9-11 and security was really tight. I watched as they took out nearly everything in David’s bag, put it on a table, and looked at every item. Expecting a firestorm of comments, he said nothing, which surprised me. Finally I said, “Why are they doing this to you? Don’t they know who you are?” He laughed and said it was a NASCAR plot to get back at him.
As Monte Dutton tweeted to me today, a common thought in press areas is the following: What would Poole do? I’d like to hear his take on Hendrick Motorsports getting favorable treatment in an appeal by a former GM executive who had more than a passing relationship with the car owner. I’d love to hear what he thinks about Bruton Smith tearing up the track at Bristol. I’d love to hear his thoughts on Danica and Junior, but I can’t. When David left us, the anti-sanctioning body element was reduced by maybe 50%. Most of what the public gets is a large range of PR about how wonderful the racing is and why fans are all wrong about what they think. Never mind there are things wrong that need to be addresses, life is wonderful and if you don’t think that, there is something wrong with you. A half house at Bristol? It had to be the economy or some other reason because it wasn’t the racing. What about super secret fines? A lack of cautions or a boring race? David would have told it as he saw it. No excuses. Just reporting what he saw and felt. Too many times, the public gets PR, and that is not the purpose of the reporter.
There will probably never be another David Poole, and he left a void as big as the state of North Carolina in the way folks interpret this sport. And that’s why, on this third anniversary of his death, I’m missing him. Rest in peace, David.