Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 12:09 p.m.
I don’t have a lot to write about NASCAR in terms of what is happening now, mostly because not much is happening. A change of makes here. A staff change there. It won’t be long until the proverbial wire starts crackling.
A couple of times recently, once on a radio show and once on social media, or via online messaging, someone asked me whom I missed the most, and I said, or typed, that I missed Benny Parsons the most and thought the most about longtime colleague David Poole.
In this time of reminiscence, let me reminisce.
Benny and I had many conversations in many press boxes on many race mornings. He’d stop by and sit down next to me before he went on the air. Once we sat together in Charlotte at a Robert Earl Keen concert at Neighborhood Theater.
Let me tell you about Benny’s personal integrity. I got him in trouble once when I quoted him on something related to his television career. It wasn’t off the record. He didn’t tell me it was between us. I guess he just didn’t expect me to print it.
I used to give the same spiel to drivers, crew chiefs, owners, etc., that went something like this.
People always think that writers can’t keep a secret. If you tell me that something is between us, I won’t tell my own mother, but we’ve got to have that straight between us, because if you don’t tell me it’s off the record, it’s my job to tell the world about it, or, at least, that small part of the world that is in my range.
What usually happens is that a driver says something, knowing full well that I’m going to print it. Then, if he catches flak about it, he claims it was “off the record,” or “out of context” or even, occasionally, “I never talked to the guy.” One well-known driver sent his P.R. rep to apologize for trashing me.
“[The driver] said for me to say he’s sorry. NASCAR made him do it.”
Benny said, “It’s my fault. It’s not your fault. You didn’t print a word I didn’t say. I shouldn’t have told you, but that’s my problem, not yours.”
Benny was a straight-up guy. They were rare then and rarer now. A writer appreciates them.
David Poole and I had much in common and much about which we dramatically differed.
At a moment when all hell broke loose, I would ask, satirically, “Isn’t fun the greatest thing you can have?” usually in an English accent, mimicking Dudley Moore in Arthur. David would say, “Fun. You just can’t beat fun.” He told me he got it from a handmade sign at a county fair.
David blew his top five times a day. It was wildly entertaining for those who weren’t on the receiving end. One reason we were close is that he never went off on me, and I’m damned sure there were times he wanted to scream at something I said because we disagreed many times and he screamed – more often, bellowed – a lot.
When I was on the gypsy troupe, I blew up that many times in a season. David never held anything in. I was good-natured most of the time, but the pressure built inside of me, and when I exploded, it was rare but nuclear.
There was some truth in that, but, by the time he died, in 2009, he and I were listening to mostly the same music, as attested by the photo here of the two of us at Texas Motor Speedway, with the aforementioned Mr. Keen playing in the background. One of the more unlikely trios ever to attend a concert in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District were David, me and another great deceased friend, Ed Shull.
Sometimes David would admit to me he was wrong about something, but it was uncommon and in private. And I never told my mother.
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