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ThatsRacin.com


NASCAR is going to miss this guy

THATSRACIN.COM OPINION

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Wednesday, Apr. 29, 2009

When my cell phone battery gave out and I turned my computer off late Tuesday night, it was finally really quiet.

I had, for the first time in a whirlwind day, a chance to think.

No David Poole? No David Poole in NASCAR?

For 12 years I have worked alongside David Poole, covering NASCAR. We have traveled together and shared too many dinners to count while trading stories and worries about our families, our newspaper and our friends.

We attended weddings together and funerals together - far too many of those, too.

And even though we didn’t share the same opinions, we shared the same objective: to provide The Observer and ThatsRacin.com the best damn NASCAR coverage in the country.

It was something we took pride in, and I think, rightfully so.

Of late we’ve seen too many of our friends lose their jobs in this sport, as NASCAR writers have been deemed more and more expendable. The “regulars” as we liked to call them - the group of media who attend most races - have dwindled to next to nothing, particularly among the print media.

And now there is one more gone.

I’ve heard many times in my life people tell me about someone they’ve met, someone they will say who “taught me everything I know” about some topic.

I learned first hand that was true.

When I agreed to become a NASCAR writer in spring 1998 I knew only the basics of the sport. But I dove right in and with David as my guide.

The entire time of my visit to Martinsville, Va., David spent more time shoving me out of the way of cars going in and out of the garage area than he did covering the race. Everywhere we went he introduced me to everyone he knew. Let me tell you, that was a lot of people.

As we walked through the garage that that first day, I saw a very tall, imposing man wearing a dark suit jacket. I thought to myself, “I hope I never have to interview that guy.”

I turned to Poole and said, “That guy looks important.” “He is,” Poole said, “that’s Mike Helton (now NASCAR president). You’ll be seeing him a lot.”

Gulp.

David and the people in NASCAR, embraced me as one of their own. It’s the only way I believe I ever got comfortable covering the sport and fostering the relationships necessary to do the job and continue to pound away at it week after week.

David’s help was invaluable as I was learning the intricacies of the sport, its rules and the people behind it - but just as importantly, where to stay at a certain track to avoid traffic, the best time to leave and the best place to find a decent meal.

In the last several years, I decided I needed to scale back on NASCAR. The weekly five-day trips had become a blur, I had bought a townhouse I never seemed to stay in and I wanted to be around my family more, some of whom were having health issues.

I worked out a deal to do college basketball in the winter and early spring and spend most of the rest of the year on NASCAR. David was the biggest advocate for me to get that job, even though he knew it meant he would be at the track by himself more often.

Please understand - and you do if you know David - that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to complain about not having help. Oh, no. And I would hear about that, too. But David knew the change was important to me and did everything he could to make sure I could do it. David was blustery, stubborn and could be a smart-ass at times, but he had a heart that was big enough to embrace anyone who needed help.

He was loud and never backed down from his opinions, but he stood up when others stepped down.

I will miss David. His family, of course, will miss him, especially his wonderful wife, Katy, and the grandson that turned him into putty, Eli. Our family at the Observer will miss him, but NASCAR will miss him, too. And the sport is a little less better off now that he’s gone.

Over the years, David and I created a saying for the days that "blew up" as we liked to say, when some big issue or some big event burst onto the scene, causing us to throw out everything we had planned to write and start over and turned nine-hour days into 15-hour nightmares.

Whether in person or over the computer, at the end of the night, one of us would say, “It was yet ANOTHER big day.”

Well, David, Tuesday was yet ANOTHER big day.

I just wish it had been a better one.