This week, I'm going to change it up a little. If you pay attention to our newest members, you've undoubtedly noticed a new face on the Q. His name is Matt Poole, and he's already become quite active in the polls and threads, but what you may not know is that he is an aspiring race car driver, and he's good!
If it wasn't for andilee0388, I likely wouldn't know anything about Matt, but she sent me a picture, and so the story started. We sat down one evening with Matt and asked him every question we could think of. He was more than patient with us and the result is this article, written by me, but with at least half of the questions asked by Andi.
I'm a NASCAR nut, so I read everything. I even subscribe to a few racing magazines and with the stack I have, I couldn't locate the magazine where I read about Hickory Speedway, but I'm pretty sure that's where I heard of him first.
Matt is one of those true racers. He races for the glory of a win, yes, but he also races purely because he loves it. It's evident when you talk to him and it's evident when you talk to his fans. And yes, he does have fans. Quite a few of them, in fact.
What you might not know about Matt is that he isn't a teenager or even a 20 something foraging into the NASCAR scene at an early age after following his dad or grandad or uncle. Nope. Matt drove in his first race at 43 years young. Don't just count him out because of that though.
Let me start a little earlier in his life though.
Matt originally hails from Maryland where his dad had a friend who worked on engines for Richard Petty. Much like many of us diehard fans, he was always sneaking off to the track a couple of miles away just to experience the roar of the engines. It fueled a love for racing that just can't be denied. But as a young boy, merely ten years of age, he respected his mom's "You're crazy! You'll get killed!" and stayed out of the cars, much as he wanted to do otherwise.
Matt's life took a different path, but always in the back of his mind, was that desire to drive a race car. When his mom passed away suddenly in January of 2003, Matt needed something to fill the void and that's when the racing bug bit again. He spent some time in Mooresville working in a completely different area, but decided he needed to get in a race car. He knocked on doors, handed out business cards, sent letters, pounded the pavement, all to no avail.
Then he went to driving school - at Rockingham. Yes, the Rock. And that's where Matt began to shine. In his class of 19 racing students, Matt was oldest.......and fastest......by quite a bit. He wasn't just fastest on a lap, he was fastest in overall averages and had the fastest lap.
Still, it wasn't a race and he was quite a bit older than the rest of the field.
Matt despaired of ever reaching his dream and when even his best friend Tonya told him maybe it was time to hang up the steering wheel, he dreamed.
In May of 2005, Matt's world crumbled again when his friend Tonya was murdered. Instead of hanging up the steering wheel, as she'd advised, his passion and determination grew and he knew he had to pursue his dream, even harder.
Over the course of 2006 Matt sent letters to everyone, Tony Stewart, Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, Jack Roush, and even the King, Richard Petty. None answered.
Out of the blue, however, Truck Series owner Chris Lafferty did call. He'd gotten wind of this old man who thought he could drive, and decided to take a chance on him. Matt's first thought when he got that phone call was "Holy Sh*t! This is it!" On February 3rd, 2007, Matt Poole tested in a Craftsman Series Truck for the first time at Hickory Raceway for Chris Lafferty and, of course, he aced it. Chris wanted him to keep on testing, in the different cars, Street Stocks and Late Models, and with every test, Matt's times improved.
Back home, his friends and family, who had discouraged, teased, ridiculed and lamented were suddenly quiet. For a bit, anyway, then they were yelling, texting, shouting from the rooftops, all in support.
By July of 2007, Chris figured Matt was ready and entered him into a Street Stock race at Hickory, in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Matt qualified the car in 10th and finished the race in 12th, impressive for any driver's first race in any car, let alone a driver in his 40's. His mom and Tonya rode with him in that race, he had their pictures taped to the dash, so he could see them and remember he was doing this to honor their memories. The other drivers in the race, although some of a similar age, had been racing for years. And Matt had achieved his goal for the race:
"Don't wreck yourself, don't wreck anybody else, and don't finish last."
After that first race, Matt decided to pack up and move from Maryland to North Carolina, where he could be closer to the action. Almost a year went by, however, before he would be able to race again. In May 2008, Matt got his second start, again at the local track and again in a Street Stock car. He improved on his previous race, qualifying in 9th and finishing 7th. He says
"I'm not doing it for fame, money, or pit lizards, I just want to race pure and simple. I wish I was"
This year, it was unclear if his local track would even have a racing season, the economy is hurting so bad. They are persevering and the races will happen. Matt's desire hasn't changed. He continues to pound the pavement, send letters and make phone calls. He runs a small website business, mostly for his own websites (crossbowmotorsports.com and mattpooleracing.com), as he pursues his dream. Through it all, his determination to race remains stronger than ever. His desire isn't to become the "Next Best Thing". He simply wants to drive a race car, to experience the euphoria of being behind the wheel, honoring his mom and his friend Tonya, taken from this world too soon. As part of his honor to them, Matt donates all his winnings to the Victory Junction Gang Camp and the American Heart Association. He's a simple man, with simple needs. A man who just wants to drive. When we asked him how he wanted to be known, he said:
"I'm just a simple Maryland boy, I dont want to be a legend, or an icon, or anything else, I just wanna be a race car driver, pure and simple"