Simply having the chance to wheel his modified race car around the famed Bristol Motor Speedway during the Short Track U.S. Nationals provided an emotional high for Springfield driver Chad Poole.
But even Poole, who entered the 50-lap feature as the favorite, couldn’t have imagined the heights he reached last Saturday. Specifically, Bristol’s rooftop Victory Lane.
Poole dominated the race in his Finley Recycling and C&A Service Center-sponsored No. 12 modified for his third straight feature victory with the NSTA Top Speed Modified Tour. A late-race crash red flagged the feature, but Poole pulled away on the restart and wasn’t challenged in the closing laps.
Taking the checkered flag was just the start of his celebration. Fellow drivers and crew members high-fived Poole as he drove down pit road. Track officials then directed Poole to the rooftop Victory Lane, where he received his coveted gladiator statue and sword for winning at The Last Great Colosseum.
“To be in victory lane where Dale Earnhardt was. Where (Dale Earnhardt) Junior was. Where Richard Petty has probably stood. The flames going off and the sword in the air and everyone high fiving, I’m never going to forget that,” Poole said.
As he stood on the same spot NASCAR greats have, there were two people Poole wanted there with him the most. His father, Carl, who was back home in Springfield, and his late mother, Rosemary, who passed away in February.
“I called him on top of victory lane and he was ecstatic,” Poole said. “I was, too. I was in tears.”
Before he left for Tennessee, Poole said his dad told him the only way his dad was going to get to see that trophy was to bring it home. Poole delivered. And though Carl Poole wasn’t able to attend, Chad managed to share the experience through panoramic photos and even a special ride around the track after the race.
“I was calling my dad from the car and letting him ride around the track with me on the way out,” Poole said.
As for his mother, Poole said he can feel her presence in his modified this season. Bristol was no different.
“She’s with me in that car everywhere I go, it seems like,” said Poole, who carries a flower from her casket in his modified. “There’s not a caution or start that doesn’t go by that she’s not giving me help and confidence.”
He needed it most late in the race. Poole said his temperature gauge was climbing and he needed to decide soon whether to risk blowing up the engine going for the win or pit to save it for the rest of the season. Turns out it was an easy choice.
“I told my self no way I was going to pull off,” said Poole, whose goal entering the race was a top-10 finish.
Poole’s crew at Bristol included Chasen Poole, Dawn Cromwell, Brad, Dawn, Haley and Hayden Littler, Jimmy and Reba Finley, Brian Rauch, Andrea Brandenburg and Rob and Nicole Winget.
“To have them around me is almost like family. We just go to do it and have fun,” said Poole, who is also sponsored by Charlie Burris Race Engines, Advanced Racing Shocks, Buckeye All Gases and Little Sprouts Child Care Center. “We’re just happy to be there. We want to be competitive but we don’t expect to win every time.”
If that crew sounds large, consider the group that was there to meet Poole on Monday at his race shop in Springfield. Poole said it took him about two hours to get into the door after talking with friends and well-wishers who showed up to talk racing and to see his trophies.
“It meant a lot to me,” Poole said.
Poole was well prepared for the questions. After his Victory Lane celebration he was taken to the media center for interviews.
“I had the sword and I thought they were going to take it away from me,” Poole said, thinking it was a prop for photos. “Take it down to the media center and you’re going to be interviewed. I was like, ‘What?’ … They want to see your smile. They want to see your enthusiasm. Man, we had all that up there.”