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NASCAR loses its straightest shooter, biggest voice

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I produce Dan Patrick's radio show, and early in Tuesday's show we were discussing whether it was OK for FOX to show Carl Edwards' dangerous crash at Talladega in promotional videos. Before I got too deep into it, I e-mailed the topic to David Poole, who was in the middle of his fine show, "The Morning Drive," on Sirius NASCAR Radio. This wasn't the first time I turned to David in the middle of a NASCAR debate.

I sent David a one-line question, and within minutes I got an e-mail back with a well thought-out answer that included a few angles that I hadn't considered. Not a big surprise -- he often did just that.

Three hours later, David was gone.

I sometimes hear clichés like: "the world is a lesser place today," when people pass away. With the loss of David Poole, the world is a lesser place for his family and friends of course, but there is also a void for sports fans ... especially NASCAR enthusiasts. This sport, like all sports, needs journalists like David Poole to keep things in line and in perspective.

When I first met David in December, 2006, he was already considered the premier journalist in the sport. He was intimidating. He kind of looked at me sideways, as if head-on look had to be earned. That was David's style; you had to prove you were worthy of his respect. He covered the sport in the same fashion.

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In a sport that does such a good job catering to sponsors and developing positive images for their drivers, David was the daily blast of reality that fans needed to hear. If a race was boring, he would call it boring on the radio show, and NASCAR would get upset. I can't tell you how many times David would bring his verbal flamethrower on the radio show. He always thought he would get pulled off the radio show or the newspaper for something critical he said about the sport. He was wrong, fans couldn't get enough of it.

David was opinionated but fair. He was a true journalist. He would get his facts in order before he would rip into anyone. And he wasn't a monotone, negative voice -- he was honest. He didn't create fake arguments for the air. If he said it, he believed it. God forbid you got caught cheating in pre-race inspection. I can hear him now ... "if I were in charge, I'd pack em' up and send em' home." His face would get red and his voice would go up an octave. Classic Poole.

He confronted the sport, he dared the fans to think and, more boldly, he did the same with the drivers. I heard a number of drivers speak about David yesterday, and though their memories were different, they had one thing in common ... Poole challenged them. Jeff Burton said it best:

"He spent a lot of time with the No. 31 team every weekend and would sit and have conversations with us on just about everything. He was fun to agree and debate with."

As serious as he was as a reporter, having laughs was just as much a priority. He would sing classic rock in the commercial breaks, making fun of his voice before we had a chance to. He would summarize the previous night's episode of 24 and wonder aloud why Jack Bauer couldn't have a mundane 24 hours where he watches TV and does some yardwork. He taught me Gastonia-speak as he called it. "Jeet" meant, "did you eat".

He was also one of the hardest working people I've ever met. One morning at 3:30 a.m. he called me from outside the Sonoma track. He was trying to figure out how to get through a locked gate in order to do the radio show. He contemplated climbing the 10-foot fence. "We're either going to have a great show or a great story," he texted me while staring up at the fence. He found his way in.

The incredibly respectful reaction from NASCAR, its teams, its drivers and fellow media members over the past 24 hours would have probably made David uncomfortable, but it's a testament to the man and his work. Sports of all kind need more David Pooles. We need people who question things and put principle above career safety. The ironic thing is that the sport he covered went in circles, while David was the classic straight-shooter. David Poole is irreplaceable and will be missed.