Close but no cigar.
At Pocono Raceway on Aug. 1, the clouds hovered over the 2.5-mile triangle as the ARCA Series attempted to beat out the rain. That it did; however, the dominant driver on the day lost a tough battle at the end due to pit strategy.
Brennan Poole walked in the ARCA garage with a smile on his face after leading 31 laps on that Friday afternoon. Seldom did he have the opportunity to race in 2014 due to a lack of sponsorship, but that 200-mile spectacle earned him a few more opportunities toward the end of the season. His next few races weren’t as impressive, but come the final event of the season at Kentucky, it was Poole’s time to take a dip into success.
Earning his lone win of the year during a companion weekend with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series, the Texas native began to raise some eyebrows. But until recently, all he had entering 2015 was a deal to race in the ARCA Series once again, but a full schedule was not guaranteed.
Hiring Spire Sports + Entertainment, a management company for athletes, Poole was able to receive a life changing move that he says he still can’t believe has happened.
“I was only going to do the ARCA races,” Poole told Frontstretch. “I was just trying to stay in a racecar and stay alive like I have for the last couple of years with Venturini. I work with Spire Management, and that was kind of new for me at the beginning of this year. Harry Scott was looking for another young driver with Ganassi for this team they put together. They were talking to Spire about what I had going on for the year. Spire brought it up to me that they were interested in bringing me on. One thing led to another and after several discussions of talking out the logistics and things like that, it ended up going through.”
Scott, who partnered with Chip Ganassi over the off-season to form HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi, officially added Poole as a driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet in early February. Splitting the ride with reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year Kyle Larson, Poole will race in 15 XFINITY Series events for this season. Dylan Kwasniewski, who drove the No. 31 car last season and was expected to split the ride with Larson, has not been assigned to any races at this time. Larson will run approximately 14 races, with Justin Marks scheduled to take the wheel at the road courses.
“I’ve gotten to know Kyle just a little bit,” he said. “I met him only a few times, but he’s been great. He’s running 14 races with ENEOS and ParkerStore, and I’m running 15 races with DC Solar. Kyle is a really good guy and has a ton of talent. He’s been racing in the Cup level for over a year, so he has the knowledge that I’m trying to take in. I was in the Cup shop with Ganassi and [Harry] Scott, and they have Jamie McMurray over there, so I’m going to lean on him as much as I can. I haven’t spoken to him yet, but he’s someone I feel like I can lean on a little bit to get some information. I have a veteran crew chief with Mike Shiplett, so I feel like I have a lot of good guys around me to help me as much as they can.”
Leaning on his teammates will be a key factor in his early success with the team. When he makes his XFINITY Series debut at Las Vegas in early March, it will be the first time that Poole has driven a car in NASCAR’s second-tier series. However, the lack of experience doesn’t agitate him. Instead, he is prepared to use the resources that the organization has to make him a race winner in NASCAR competition.
But prior to having a chance to run with a top team, Poole was set to race for Team BCR in 2015. With hopes of gaining additional funding to run the full schedule, he was prepared to compete for a championship, along with the races he will be running in the XFINITY Series. But as he was set to go to Daytona, he said, the team told him he wouldn’t be running the race. But it doesn’t mean it’s the end of his ARCA career.
“I would definitely like to run some ARCA races and get as much seat time as I possibly can,” Poole explained. “I just love racing and I love driving the cars. Hopefully, something will happen with that and I can get in the race car and run some races. I was looking forward to doing the companion weekends because it’s extra seat time while being on the track the day before XFINITY.”
Before he even signed with Team BCR, 2015 was a giant question mark for Poole. The six-time ARCA winner has been racing with limited funding since 2011. Venturini Motorsports kept him around, and he had a five-race deal with The Identical Movie over the summer months. With his impressive runs, the team selected him to replace John Wes Townley in the final two races of the season, and that’s where he impressed his counterparts.
He finally has a set schedule for the first time since 2012. The huge relief off his shoulders has put him at ease, especially since he doesn’t need to continuously hunt for sponsorship like he has in the past. DC Solar Solutions, a company that creates and leases renewable energy products, will back Poole for each of the 15 races that he will be behind the wheel. With a chance at running nearly half the schedule in 2015, an impressive stretch of races could provide additional funding next year.
— Brennan Poole (@brennanpoole) February 25, 2015
The jump is a giant leap for the 24-year-old. But expecting a challenge with tougher competition and dirtier air, Poole believes he will perform well under pressure, especially with experience making green flag pit stops in this past.
“I believe in our guys, the equipment and all of the hard work that these guys have done,” he said. “It gives me a lot of confidence that we are going to the track and will have a solid car each week to tune on to put ourselves in position to win. I feel really good about it, especially coming out of the Cup shop. We have a lot of resources, and I think it is going to make us really strong. As the year goes on, I think we’re only going to get better as our communication grows with one another and our cars are going to get faster. I really don’t feel like I could be in a better situation.
“Guys will race you so hard for 15th, where you hardly have that in ARCA. They don’t really start racing you hard until you are in the top 10. I think the aero is going to be a little bit different. It’s a little worse on the XFINITY side. When you run behind someone, the dirty air is a little worse. There are things you learn in the race and with seat time.”
But for Poole, this is a dream come true. Though his ultimate goal is to race in the Cup Series, he will gladly take the promotion to the XFINITY Series. 2015 marks his fifth year in professional stock car racing, and at 24, the timing to move up the ranks is seemingly perfect.
With expectations of fighting for wins, he is set to have a solid rookie season, just like Larson did in 2013. The tandem is expected to be inside of the top 10, or even the top 5, in the owner’s standings come season’s end, which would be an outstanding accomplishment for these two young drivers.
“Just having that unknown is where the nerves are coming from,” Poole said. “Once you get out there and start doing it, that kind of goes away and you just focus on what you are doing. It’s kind of like a mixed bag of emotions with the excitement and nerves of wanting to do well. I have been at peace for the past few weeks going into it, and it’s because of my guys. My guys have been great over the past several months. I was at Daytona and I’m going to Atlanta this weekend. I’m flying out down there and get to spend some time with the team, and listen on the radio and listen to how Kyle communicates to the team and get into the groove to see how they do things.
“It’s been such a long journey. I’ve been racing since I was 5 years old, and this has been a dream of mine. This is a big step of my dream coming true, and it’s so hard to bring into it. My family’s worked so hard and made so many sacrifices for me. It’s just kind of wild. I don’t know if it will ever sink in. It’s a weird feeling. I’m just a racer, and to be able to be in a place that’s so nice and professional with great people, cars and people that believe in me.”