TRACKSIDE with RICK MINTER - June 12, 2017

TRACKSIDE with RICK MINTER – June 12, 2017

Senoia Raceway fans, drivers, crew members and family can look forward to this weekly blog from journalist Rick Minter.  Rick has been reporting on motorsports at Senoia Raceway and elsewhere since 1976.

Minter   

 

The mainstream media, a term that includes me, has been subjected to great criticism lately from ordinary folks all the way to the president of the United States.

 

Some of that criticism is aimed at media members who cover political matters, but more and more the harsh words also apply to sports reporters.  Even on Facebook posts by fans of Senoia Raceway, the media has been criticized, with some saying the media is to blame for things like Kyle Busch’s surly response to questions from reporters.

 

I’m sure there are plenty of reporters out there who deserve some criticism.  I’m just as sure there are lots of others who don’t.

 

I wish some of those media critics could have met David Poole, who I worked with for years on the NASCAR circuit.

 

Like a lot of racing reporters, Poole was never awash in money.  Racing is not one of the high-paying beats at most newspapers, but it’s one of the most demanding and time-consuming.

 

One year at Daytona, as we usually did, Poole and I were in a group sharing a condo for Speedweeks, to keep down our expenses.

 

At that time, Poole was driving a worn-out Ford Thunderbird.  Between his home in Charlotte and Daytona, the old Thunderbird began running hot and losing water, but he made it to the condo.

 

During a late night of working at the kitchen table that served as our work table, we talked about his car troubles and his financial woes.

 

He volunteered that some people at the track had suggested that Rick Hendrick, who owns NASCAR teams as well as car dealerships, might help him get a better car.

 

Poole and I agreed that if he accepted help with a car, he’d be violating the ethics rules he lived by.  Instead, he was able to limp home to Charlotte thanks to a few bottles of Bar’s Leaks.

 

A few years later, Poole tried to improve his financial situation by taking a second full-time job at Sirius Radio.

 

Watching him working through Speedweeks on about four hours of sleep a night and knowing that he’d given up his hobby of golf so he could work more, I told him he was killing himself.

 

“What else can I do?” he answered.

 

At Talladega that spring, we were in the press box when Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards collided racing to the checkered flag and Edwards car hit the catch fence.

 

Another reporter, Monte Dutton, and I ran to the affected area.

 

We interviewed several people who had been struck by debris.  One fellow whose arm had been striped by a coil spring from Edwards’ car asked if we could get Carl to sign the spring for him.

 

The lady who later was described as having “minor” injuries, had bled so much that several towels on the rescue wagon were more red than white.

 

NASCAR officials and their loyal drivers and TV talking heads gave us the old “the safety equipment did its job” line and argued that no parts of either car were found in the grandstands and that the only injury was a minor one.

 

The part about no car parts found was true since fans carried then out as souvenirs.  The rest was just wrong.

 

Several of us wrote stories that NASCAR probably didn’t like.  In an opinion column, Poole took it one step further and hammered the sport’s leadership hard on the dangers of restrictor-plate racing at nearly 200 miles per hour.

 

It took a lot of guts, because he knew he’d be under lots of pressure once the column hit the news on Monday morning.  As usual, he wrote what he honestly felt he needed to write when it would have been easier just to play along.

 

Just how much pressure he felt I’ll never know.

 

Poole died from a massive heart attack the next day.  He was just 50 years old.

 

One quote from the many obituaries on Poole stood out to me.  It came from the man who Poole never did ask for help getting a car.

 

“He had the courage to say what others would not, and he was deeply respected for it,” Rick Hendrick told the Associated Press.

 

I always think about David Poole – and the people out there today who also are courageous, ethical and hard working – when I hear people trashing the mainstream media, especially those who cover racing.

 

 

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