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Poole legacy: Fans' writer


Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2009

David Poole was loud, opinionated, hilarious, gutsy, and smarter than you are, and I don't care who you are.

You couldn't win an argument against him if you memorized the facts and practiced your delivery in front of a mirror. David was a one-man blitz, and he would not let go. His face would turn red, and he would say, "Let me ask you a question," and it was on. An hour later you forgot what you were arguing about. He didn't.

David, who was only 50, died of a heart attack Tuesday morning at his home in Stanfield. The Charlotte Observer obviously won't be the same without him. Neither will Charlotte.

He was an original. I can't even conceive of him doing a thing because it was popular, or because others did. If he did it, he thought it was right.

Did you read his final column Tuesday, on the final day of his life? The words rang so angry and passionate and true you could feel the heat flying off the page.

David wrote about Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway; his premise was that somebody would get hurt, and perhaps die, if the track didn't change. So change now, change before the inevitable occurs, he implored. It was a powerful piece of advocacy journalism. Even though racing is not my favorite sport, his column was the first piece I read in Tuesday's paper.

David also hosted the "Morning Drive" on Sirius NASCAR Radio. He was angry and passionate there, too. He also was hilarious. He would take a song – rock, hip-hop, anything – and slowly read the lyrics. I watched him do a dramatic reading on the air one morning at Daytona International Speedway – Shakespeare does Daytona – and almost fell down laughing.

David's work attracted national interest. For some fans, the checkered flag did not signify the end of the race. David's interpretation did. Only then was it official.

One of his biggest fans was my younger brother Mike, a race fan from Minnesota who introduced himself to David at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord. David was gracious and unpretentious. He also was David.

"Tell me something," he said. "When your brother was a baby, did your parents beat him on the head with a stick?"

Nobody ever had to coax David out of his shell.

If you read and you listened to David, then you knew him. You know what he liked (the Eagles, the band not the football team), what he couldn't stand (pretension). You knew he was an advocate for his hometown, Gastonia, his adopted town, Stanfield, and his sport. He could be as tough on NASCAR as anybody. But he also defended it against the Carpetbaggers whom he didn't think took time to understand it.

There was more to him than what you read and heard.

Years ago, I was flying down a four-lane road from Daytona Beach, Fla., to my hotel outside Orlando when my right tire exploded. I went careening down an exit ramp and ended up next to one of those strange central Florida swamps.

My tire and rim were shot, so I called AAA and waited. As I did, cars trickled into the swamp and disappeared. A truck slammed on its brakes and two big guys jumped out. One flashed a badge, asked me what I had seen. Then they took off, laying rubber all the way.

It was dark, there was little light and I waited more than three hours. For some reason, David called. He could hear the fear and frustration in my voice and offered to pick me up and drive me to my hotel.

Now, David was more than an hour away. He had worked at least 15 hours and the next day probably would work 15 more. He was beaten down and had earned the right to be.

Yet, he was insistent. He was coming; that was it. To win this argument, I had to lie and tell him the AAA tow truck had just arrived.

That's the only argument I ever won with David Poole.

What I would give for the opportunity to lose another.

Tom Sorensen: 704-358-5119;