For the Labor Day weekend, I thought I would bring you a hard working man himself and a bit of something different. Some refer to NASCAR negatively while others watch and attend races like its part of their weekly life. This week I wanted to bring a perspective of a man I respect not only for his knowledge but his no nonsense approach to his work. A man not afraid to express his opinions even if NASCAR doesn't want to hear what he has to say. This man's name is David Poole and when you finish reading this interview, you will see not only how passionate he is but how much respect he has for the sport and his work. I first heard him years ago on Primetime With The Packman a few years back on WFNZ and liked his analysis then. I have also heard his show and trust me, you could be a casual fan like me who may only see one or two races a year and still walk away from the show having been entertained and educated. So here it is, I welcome to The Big Orange Bloggin Chuck's page none other then THE top writer for NASCAR today and of our generation, Mr. David Poole.
12 Reasons Why.....David Poole Is A Great Source Of NASCAR Knowledge
1. Can you give us a bit of background on who David Poole is and the many jobs he has?
I cover motorsports for the Charlotte Observer and for its racing-themed website, thatsracin.com. I write a blog for the web (not as often as I should, admittedly). I also am a co-host of "The Morning Drive," the weekday morning show (7 to 11 a.m. in the East) on Sirius NASCAR Radio (channel 128). I was a regular panelist on Speed's "Pit Bull," which lasted one season because that's all NASCAR chairman Brian France would allow it to exist. I try to help out NASCAR's television partners (Speed, ESPN and so on) when asked.
2. How did you get started and what school and courses helped you prepare for your work?
I grew up in Gastonia, N.C. I decided I wanted to be a sports writer because I loved sports but lacked the slightest bit of ability to play any of them. I went to the University of North Carolina and was sports editor of The Daily Tar Heel in my final semester in 1981, which allowed me to cover my first NCAA Final Four. I had a lot of very good instructors at Carolina, but I got my education in the news business working for the school paper and doing internships in the real world. There's nothing you can learn in class that takes the place of facing and meeting real deadlines.
3. What is a busy day at work like for you and can you give us a sample of what goes into your work before we get the finished product?
Let's use a typical Friday during a race weekend as an example.
I will get to the track about 6:15 am and find the radio room. I will do four hours of live radio on Sirius and then start my Observer job. I will try to catch up to see if stuff has happened while I was on the air. Usually the late morning and early afternoon present opportunities to talk to the top drivers in the garage. Sometimes I go to several such sessions, some times I completely skip them. It depends on what's happening.
I will start trying to assemble a notebook as the cars are practicing. Qualifying will start around 3, usually, and I keep up with each car as it posts a speed. I send a list of those results along with a six-to-eight graph quick lead on qualifying to the website. Then I do post qualifying interviews and file the qualifying lead and the notes.
I will leave the track, typically, about 7 p.m. I grab food on the way back to the hotel and try to figure out what I am going to write for the Sunday column and/or race advance. Sometimes I will go into a weekend knowing what that story is going to be and I will spend Friday gathering interviews and info on that. Go to bed about 10 and get up the next morning at 7 or so and go back at it.
4. Any advice you want to give any folks interested in journalism or broadcasting?
If you're a broadcaster, don't perform. Cover. You're giving information, you're not doing a comedy routine.
If you're going to be a reporter, don't get hung up on what kind of medium you work for. I don't care where your product is presented, your product is information. The newspaper, the internet, the blog (and even a radio or television interview) is just the delivery system. What you are providing is information and if you get good information and find a way to present it in a fashion a reader or viewer finds informative, you can find a way to get that information delivered.
5. What is it about NASCAR that you enjoy and got you so interested that you wanted to cover it for a living? Does it bother you when people belittle it as a redneck thing and not a sport?
I am not a NASCAR fan. I haven't earned the right to call myself that. A fan pays his own money and puts up with the travel and the traffic because he wants to. I get paid to go. I don't work hard enough to follow racing to be called a "fan." But there are worse things to get paid to do. By and large, the jerk quotient in NASCAR is exceedingly low (certainly by comparison to other pro sports I have covered). The people work tremendously hard and most of them have tremendous passion for what they do. I admire that, greatly.
Yes it bothers me that racing is stereotyped. It bothers me more that people like me, who grew up in the South, get that same treatment. I never had an outhouse. I've always worn shoes. Nobody in my family is married to his aunt or her uncle. I've only lived on one dirt road. People who dismiss racing as not being a sport or as being "goobers turning left" are just lazy, too lazy to actually even try to understand how wrong they are.
We go to a place where racing hasn't been before and there's always some nitwit columnist who'll write what I call the "Bubba column." It's the same everywhere. "Here come the good ol' boys, spittin' tobacco juice and watching 'Hee Haw' on DVD." It's just so lame and so damn predictable.
6. Do you have a favorite driver currently and all time? Do you ever find yourself rooting for certain guys while your covering a race? Who was your favorite interview in the business or guy to talk to when covering a topic?
I have a favorite driver in pretty much every race. It's the driver who would make the best story if he (or she) wins. I am selfish. I want the best story. So yes, I root for a guy who might be in the hunt if I think he'd made the best copy.
The best interviews, consistently, are guys like Jeff Burton and Kyle Petty who realize that there's more to the world than racing and who sometimes step back and take a larger view of the world and at least offer their views on how racing fits into it.
My favorite interview I've probably ever done is a hard question. It might be a man named Archie Smith, who kept telling everybody he knew he was the last living driver who competed in the first race in NASCAR history in Charlotte in 1949. He was wrong -- about 10-12 guys were still around at the time I met him. But Archie was just a tremendous guy and I enjoyed meeting him and hearing his tall tales. It might be Juanita and Booker Miller, the parents of the girl who gave Dale Earnhardt the lucky penny he had on his car when he won Daytona in 1998. They're just special folks. This weekend at the U.S. Nationals drag race in Indianapolis I had an interview with John Medlen, the father of drag racer Eric Medlen who was killed in a 2007 wreck, that will be with me a long time.
7. NASCAR is in what I believe is it's second season on Sirius Satellite Radio(www.sirius.com/nascar) and you co-host a show on the NASCAR channel. Could you tell us about your show, when it's on and do you find it hard to cover racing that much everyday or are you one of those guys who could talk about it every minute of the day if you could?
This is our second year on Sirius. I did the show with Marty Snider in year one and now Mike Bagley is with me. We're on 7 to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday. Every day is different. Some mornings you're beating on a topic that's already dead and you want to scream. Most of the time, though, at least one caller every day will say something that suggests a good story idea or makes me think about something in a way I never have. There's value in that, I think.
8. What is your opinion on the current NASCAR product whether it's the "playoff system", drivers or the races themselves? What would you change in it whether it's the Nationwide series of Sprint Cup?
The Chase is a vastly superior way to end the season than the prior system. NASCAR can't have its championship season peter out as baseball ends and football begins, not in the business world in competes in. More people get more attention for a longer time for being championship contenders under this system than they ever could the old way. That being said, there's too much emphasis on the championship. Fans don't come to the race track each week to see guys collect points. They want to see their favorite driver win the danged race. That ought to be, by a wide margin, the only thing that really matters on a race day.
How do I fix that? Simple. I'd give a guy a 500-point bonus for his FIRST win during the first 26 races. Not every win, just the first one. That way, every team comes out of the gate at the start of the season knowing it needs to win a race to be in good shape to make the Chase. Winning one would not guarantee you make the Chase, but it sure would help. And it would redirect the focus from "good finishes" to wins. Then, I would also give that same bonus to a team for its FIRST Chase win. That way, no champion could be crowned who did not win at least one of the playoff races.
The Nationwide Series needs to be blown up and started over. What I would do is make the Nationwide Series open to drivers between the ages of 18 and 25 only. That doesn't mean you couldn't run Cup if you're 18. But once you hit 25, that's it for you in Nationwide. You can run Trucks if you want to double up, but the Nationwide becomes what it ought to be, more of a series where people learn how to race and to win.
9. What's the one race someone should watch if they are a newcomer to the sport to help them appreciate it more? Is this your favorite race personally and if not, what is?
Bristol night race. No question about it. If you go to Bristol and walk away saying, "I just don't get it," then never mind. You'll never be a race fan and that's just that.
10. Are NASCAR fans the most dedicated fan base in sports? Do you think they are also the most likely to support a driver's sponsors like Dale Jr. with Amp or Jimmie Johnson with Lowe's Home Improvement stores?
NASCAR fans are incredible. They put up with more crap to follow their sport than I can imagine anybody doing. They'll park in the mud and carry coolers three-quarters of a mile and spend three days to see a race. There's an adage about "driving 800 miles to see people race 500 miles" and it holds.
There are fans who're very brand loyal -- they will shop or won't shop at a store specifically because of a sponsor tie. Some fans are loyal to a fault. By that, I mean they'll cheer their favorite driver for doing the same thing they boo somebody else for doing. But that is what being a fan is all about.
11. Is there any one thing you have not tried professionally that you would like to attempt? Any job you worked that you wished you never had to go through? Is it that stressful working with Marty Snider?
I'd like to write a novel, but I don't have the time or the discipline right now. I would like to be a general sports columnist -- somebody who covers the Super Bowl, the Masters, the Final Four, the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and big college football and basketball games every year. Every time I've been at a race where a driver was killed has sucked beyond compare. If I never have to cover another funeral that's fine with me.
Marty and I actually had fun, a lot of fun, working with each other. We just simply disagree on just about everything.
12. Your Free Space-David, this is your last chance to talk about something I may have missed, promote something your doing or just say anything you wish to say. Oh but there is one rule, you have to keep it family friendly so no cussing please.
I actually do have something to say, and it's about politics. It is completely not related to anything do or have any hand in covering, but it is something that really bothers me. When did it become necessary in this country to make the person you're NOT going to vote for into the worst person on the planet? As Americans we get to vote however we want to, but I am just completely weary of this demonization of the other side.
My wife got an e-mail the other day suggesting that Barrack Obama might actually be the anti-Christ. It wasn't a joke. It actually came from somebody deluded enough to think it was his or her religious duty to point this out!
On the other side, you've got people who can talk about John McCain as if he didn't serve his country with incredible honor and valor just because they don't think he should be elected. What's wrong with us?
We make zillionaires out of people who scream at us telling us that "Democrat" or "Republican" is a slur. We make famous people who spread lies and -- more dangerously -- half truths about the other side so often and so loudly that good, honest, decent people give up trying to figure out what they can actually believe.
In the end it just hurts all of us, making our country and our world a more dangerous and more difficult place to live in and raise our children and grandchildren in.
And I'm sick of it.
Thank you very much David for your insight and politically speaking, I agree as well. Sometimes I think politics is more about who can tear the other down more whether it's the candidates or us as citizens.
From a racing perspective, I think as always you brought a lot to the table worth discussing and I could not possibly agree more on your view of using the Nationwide series to develop younger talent and maybe, just maybe as they develop, we would see 40 something more qualified drivers racing who's names are more known from their success they worked up to earn and have more experience instead of potentially costing a Sprint Cup driver the championship because they got in the way. And I grew up in the Syracuse, New York area and loved Hee Haw but I can tell you that just like everywhere else, southern people and race fans have so many great people that generalizations actually make the person who make them look less credible, especially those who call southerners racist or unedcuated yet make these statements which are just as wrong as anything you think they believe in the south. Whether your a racing fan or not, thats beside the point but labeling a fanbase on something you don't understand is called prejudice.
I enjoy David's show on Sirius channel 128, which you can find out more about at www.sirius.com/nascar and his column in the Charlotte Observer, which you can also find at www.charlotte.com or www.thatsracin.com.