NASCAR BTS: Bob Pockrass ‘Humbled’ by NMPA Writer of the Year Honor

This week’s NASCAR Behind the Scenes focuses on one of the sports hardest working reporters Bob Pockrass, who received the National Motorsports Press Association’s highest honor this past weekend as Writer of the Year.

And as is his typical style, Pockrass found the honor to be, in one word, humbling.

“Well it means a great deal to me,” Pockrass said of the recognition. “When your work is put side by side with some of the other great writers that are in NMPA and that entered that contest, it’s very flattering and very humbling to have people think that you are worthy of that honor.”

While flattered and humbled, however, Pockrass put the award in perspective, reflecting the real vision of how he approaches his writing and his work in the sport.

“It’s great to be honored by people in the field but you always know that these decisions are a couple of people’s opinions so you don’t let it go to your head too much,” Pockrass said. “It’s just like the Oscars or the Golden Globes.”

“You don’t write the stories to win awards,” Pockrass continued. “You write them to inform people.”

“This is just a validation that you’ve done a good job in performing for the people who read the stories.”

Pockrass has spent most of his career telling the stories of NASCAR to his readers and his knowledge of racing runs deep, from short tracks to the storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he grew up.

“I’ve always had an interest in racing,” Pockrass said. “My older brother had done some journalism work for the school paper and was working for the Indianapolis News and so I kind of followed him because I had the same interest in journalism and in sports.”

“I got my first job at the Daytona Beach newspaper and I worked there covering high school and college sports,” Pockrass continued. “And in January and February, I found myself at the race track helping out to cover NASCAR.”

“I had some racing experience because at Indiana University I did some stringer work for UPI at Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Pockrass said. “I spent one summer working for Gannett at the Speedway too.”

“I always had an interest in racing and when NASCAR Scene had a job opening in 2003, they knew my work and that’s how my NASCAR-centric career got launched.”

In addition to his NMPA Writer of the Year award and other accolades, Pockrass is probably most well-known for the time he puts in each and every weekend at the track, from being the first one at the media center to typically being the last one to leave at night.

So, what drives this passion and dedication to telling the stories of NASCAR racing?

“It’s really easy,” Pockrass said. “One of the first stories I did at Indiana was on the crop walk for hunger. And so I wrote about that in advance of the event and I had to go cover it.”

“And when I got to the event, there were a couple of people there who had clipped the paper and signed up to do the walk,” Pockrass continued. “And I think that showed me the power of journalism and the power of being able to have an influence.”

“And if you keep those people, those readers, in mind and know that you can influence what people do through what you write,” Pockrass said. “They may decide whether to go to a race or they may decide if they’re going to root for Jeff Gordon or boo Jeff Gordon or whether or not they will buy a Dale Earnhardt Jr. T-shirt or never buy one.”

“I think that responsibility is what makes me want to do everything I can to be knowledgeable, that I’m writing with accuracy and with a passion for it,” Pockrass continued. “If I didn’t care, then I’m doing those people who read me a really big disservice.”

“If you think about the people that are reading what you’re writing, it’s real easy to be there early and stay late because you owe it to them,” Pockrass said. “You owe it to your readers to give your best effort.”

While Pockrass has told many stories over his years of covering NASCAR so passionately, there are several that have stood out as ones that touched him deeply.

“The most memorable story was Dale Earnhardt’s death,” Pockrass said. “That was one day you just don’t forget.”

“You don’t forget the scene of that evening and everything that surrounded that race,” Pockrass continued. “You don’t often see reporters crying when they’re writing.”

“I’ll never forget seeing Ken Schrader outside the medical center and you could just tell,” Pockrass said. “His face was so white and his expression was that this was not good.”

“That was one of those days that you never forget.”

There are also stories that have been incredibly difficult to tell due to the personal connections that evolve after years of being in the garage area and getting to know the racers and team members on a weekly basis.

“One of the other hardest stories that I had to write was the day that Rodney Orr died in Daytona,” Pockrass said. “He was from the area and I had talked to him several times.”

“He had died a couple of days after Neil Bonnett died and we had talked about that in the garage,” Pockrass continued. “That was a pretty tough thing because he was a driver that I had known very well and one of the first drivers that I had known well that died on the race track.”

With all that history and knowledge, including the highs and lows of the sport, fans might just be hoping that Pockrass would step back a minute and put his musings all in one place and join others in the sport who have written books on the subject.

“I guess I might have a little bit of a desire to do a book, but I’m so busy with what I’m doing now that I need to give one hundred percent to,” Pockrass said. “So, I’ve never really thought about it very much because I enjoy doing what I’m doing.”

“As long as I’ve still got the pen and the paper to do what I’m doing, I don’t know that I’d have the time to devote to a book.”

Pockrass is also enjoying the new and evolving ways to interact with his readers, including social media and the popular ‘tweet ups’ that he hosts at almost every track, sharing the location of the event through Twitter.

“The great thing about Twitter and the tweet ups is that I talk to more fans now than I ever did and get a better feeling about what the fans are thinking,” Pockrass said. “I embrace that.”

“Sometimes it’s a juggling act between finding out information in the garage and meeting with the fans,” Pockrass continued. “But I think there are very few people who write and don’t interact with fans because they just don’t even know you or your writing are even there anymore.”

Pockrass, along with his media brethren, are currently involved with the NASCAR media tour, meeting with all of the teams in preparation for the Daytona 500 and the start of the 2014 season. Looking into this own crystal ball, Pockrass has some predictions about the major story lines that he intends to cover for his readers and followers.

“I think Tony Stewart coming back is going to be a major story line,” Pockrass said. “The new aero package for the cars and the new qualifying procedures will be story lines.”

“And the changes to the Chase will be a major story line.”

As the season gets underway, however, Pockrass took a moment to reflect again on the honor that he received this past weekend from the National Motor Sports Press Association for his work in telling the stories of the sport.

“That’s what I do,” Pockrass said. “If you have that passion, it’s not hard.”

“While it’s always good to be recognized, it is also humbling,” Pockrass continued. “But it’s a nice feeling.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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