Brennan Poole made his XFINITY Series debut this past weekend for HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Woodlands, Texas driver has paid his dues over the last decade, working his way up from dirt tracks in Texas to asphalt bullrings around the Carolinas. He’s notched half a dozen wins in the ARCA Racing Series along with the 2011 UARA championship. Unfortunately for Poole, he has struggled to land a consistent ride over the last couple of years. That has changed in 2015 with him jumping behind the wheel of the No. 42 XFINITY Series ride to share time with Kyle Larson. The debut was a solid one with Poole coming home in ninth.
Poole is a very articulate and talented driver who is seldom at a loss for words when given the chance to talk about racing. He sat down with Frontstretch before heading to Las Vegas last week and tried to put into words the excitement he was feeling for his debut in a NASCAR national touring series. He also shared the story of his move up through stock cars in the Carolinas, playing guitar, skateboarding and his lack of hockey talent. Poole is a passionate racer who is still chasing the dream of making it in big time stock car racing. After this weekend he’s has taken another step towards cementing himself in the upper echelon of the sport for years to come.
Mike Neff – You are making your XFINITY series debut this weekend in the No. 42 car for HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi. How did this whole thing come about?
Brennan Poole – I don’t know if I can really put it into words, how this whole thing happened. It is an amazing deal and I really feel like God just put it together for me. I’m in that much shock right now that I’m even getting to do this deal. I am super honored that Harry Scott and Chip Ganassi have brought me on to run some races for them this year and I am really looking forward to the year. They called up this company that represents me and they were looking for some drivers to fill in some races that they had. They wanted to get a young kid and give him an opportunity. They asked specifically what I was doing. At the time I said, “Hey, I’m not doing anything.” One thing led to another and I feel really blessed to have a company like DC Solar supporting me and this No. 42 team. It is just a huge blessing. Everything has been so awesome. All of the guys over there have been great and super welcoming, making me feel a part of the team. We’re all ready to go down to Vegas and do this thing. We’re going to try and win some races this year. I still don’t have words for how I’m feeling. It is just a lot of different emotions and a lot of excitement because I get to race this weekend. It is what I love to do. I love to drive race cars and I get to do that this year so I’m super fortunate.
Neff – You were supposed to run the ARCA race at Daytona but the car ended up being withdrawn. What are the plans for the remainder of the year in the ARCA series?
Poole – I’m not sure what I’m going to end up doing with the ARCA stuff. Originally I was going to run those 10 races and I was really looking forward to that. The companion weekends were really going to be huge for me because I could run the race the day before on the same track where I was going to run the XFINITY car the next day. I’m just not sure, we’ll have to see how it all pans out. I was supposed to run Daytona and then I was told the day before I was supposed to leave that I wasn’t going. That was kind of a bummer for everyone involved in that deal. I’m not sure, I obviously want to race as much as I possibly can and drive anything. I just want to be in the car because racing is what I love to do, it is what I’m passionate about. As much seat time as I can possibly get is what I want to do. We’ll see, I hope maybe some opportunities will open up for me so that I can get to run some more races. We’ll just have to see what happens.
Neff – You mentioned how much you love getting to be in the seat. You didn’t get to do that very much the last year or two. How tough was that going through 2013 and 2014 without very many opportunities to race?
Poole – The last couple years have been pretty tough. I’ve been really fortunate to have really awesome people around me who are working really hard to try and keep me in a car as much as possible. I owe a lot to Venturini Motorsports, they gave me a job. I was driver coaching and I was spotting. I even filmed Dartfish for a company that was doing all of RCR’s Dartfish work so I went to a lot of the races. I was on the roof filming the Dartfish stuff which helped me learn a lot doing those things, and I had a lot of fun. Just being at the race track and goofing off with the guys was a good time, and I was learning a lot and I was staying alive in the sport. Fortunately I was still able to race a few times and I was able to rack up some wins. That gave me the confidence to keep pushing forward and keep working towards my goal of making it. I am just really blessed having some awesome people around me who kept me going and kept me pushing harder and making me better and now I’m here with the unbelievable opportunity to go do what I love to do. All of it was tough but it also made me who I am today. It made me a lot better race car driver. It taught me a lot of things. It taught me a little bit more about the business behind the scenes of the sport. It made me a lot better than where I was a couple of years ago. I feel like I’m ready to make this jump now. A couple of years ago I’m not so sure it would have been good to move up. I feel like timing is everything and the timing feels right. I’m at peace going into this weekend. I feel good and confident. I’m just ready to get down there and go to work.
Neff – For those fans who don’t know about the formative years of your racing career, tell them about being in the Charlotte area and winning a UARA championship.
Poole – In stock cars I came out to North Carolina in 2009. I graduated high school early and drove straight out here. I started out living with Jamie Yelton, living on his sofa for a year until I turned 18. I was only 17 and then I got an apartment when I turned 18. I started working with him. In 2009, together as a team, we won Rookie of the Year and had a lot of close calls. We almost got to victory lane. We had a lot of fun, I got to race a lot that year and learn a lot of things. Jamie Yelton was a great teacher. David King was the crew chief and he taught me a lot. Greg Marlowe, who builds Marlowe Chassis (now Performancecenter Racing Warehouse Chassis), I raced his stuff my whole career in Late Models, he was a lot of help and taught me a lot of things. When I went racing in 2010 I was with the same group of guys, the same team, and we were able to win a race at Tri-County Speedway for my first big stock car win in the UARA series. From there I learned how to run these races, how to take care of my tires and manage my car. I learned so many different things running these tough short tracks. They teach you so much. That car really changed how I drove. It really made me a lot better. We ended up winning six races that year, which was the most ever in a single year. I was the first one to win three in a row and we set a lot of records that season which was great. The thing was I had an amazing team. They were the ones who put me in a position to run that well. They were the ones who made it happen.
The next year, in 2011, I went to do my own deal with my own team. David King helped me as my crew chief. He had this old hosiery mill in his back yard behind his house. We turned it into a race shop and ran the whole season out of there. We had a lot of success there. Our average finish was 3.1 even though we finished last in one race when we blew up in the last race of the season. We ended up winning the championship with four wins and a couple of poles. We had a lot of fun, it was such an awesome group of guys and we didn’t have any failures. With everything going our way we won a championship. I learned so much with those guys. That year I got my first ARCA start because Billy Venturini was out at Hickory Motor Speedway watching another one of his drivers and I managed to win the season opener that night. Billy called me the next week and wanted to figure out how to get me into one of his cars. It was a struggle but we managed to put some stuff together for me to run a few races that year. We won our first start at Salem Speedway. My ARCA career, the rest was history from there. I raced with them for the next four years and had a lot of success. We had six wins, a couple of poles, a track record at Pocono, we had a couple big wins at Michigan and Kentucky and Pocono. We won the dirt race at Springfield, which was huge for me because I’m a dirt guy. The first race car I ever drove was on dirt. I raced Modifieds and Late Models in Texas so, for me, winning that race was huge because it is a historic event. It is on dirt and you’re in this big stock car, it was just a really cool moment and I’m really proudest to say I won that ARCA dirt race at Springfield. The Venturini family was awesome to me and gave me a lot of great opportunities and that is why I’ve ended up getting this opportunity. I won that race at Kentucky and it opened some eyes and it gave me a little more exposure and got some people talking about me and, somehow, by the grace of God I’ve ended up where I am. I still can’t believe it. I’m just so ready to go and run some races and do the best I can. I’m just trying to prepare and do the best I can for our team. Those guys deserve great finishes and wins and I want to take that task head on and try and be the guy who can be a part of it with them.
Neff – You’re a hockey fan. Do you play hockey? What other hobbies do you have?
Poole – I’m a big hockey fan but unfortunately I can’t play it very well. I can ice skate but I can’t play hockey very well at all. I really enjoy watching. It is probably because I can’t do it that I have such a huge amount of respect for those guys. I am a big LA Kings fan. I know that might put a damper on some people’s opinion of me. I was born in California. I am a northern California guy and you’d think I would be a Sharks fan but I’m not. I also love skateboarding. I try to skateboard as much as I can. They don’t like me to do it during the race season. I like that a lot. I watch the Street League on Fox Sports 1 all of the time and I follow all of those guys. It is just something I’ve been into since I was growing up. I love surfing and wakeboarding and stuff. I’m really into action sports. I’m also a huge Houston Rockets fan, I don’t miss a Rockets game. I’m not happy that the Hawks stole one from us the other night. I’m telling you they stole it from us. I enjoy sports, I played basketball and baseball in high school. I’m a big Orioles fan. I’m not huge on football but I’m from Houston so I watch the Texans play most every weekend with some friends that I grew up with in Texas that are living in Charlotte now. We have a little Sunday party and watch the Texans play during the football season. I’m into music too. I love guitar and I play as much as I possibly can. I was actually jamming out before this interview because this was the first day off I’ve had in a while. The cars have left for Vegas and we aren’t leaving yet. Today I just had to myself. I love playing guitar and goofing off and learning new songs. It is my escape. It relaxes me and helps me to forget everything that is going on around me.
Neff – You filmed cars for Dartfish technology. Some fans may know how that works and others may not. The technology overlays images of one car over another in a video to show the teams how they compare to other cars on the track. When you film that is it a stationary camera or is it hand held? How does that work?
Poole – It is a moving camera. I hold the camera while it is on a tripod. You follow the car around the track. You try and find the guys who have been quick lately. You’re trying to pick out who is going to run a quick lap and get their best lap of the day. Just so you can compare it to the guys you are working for. You compare laps with a software program. It is difficult to explain. I don’t know how many people play Mario Kart. It is like the ghost car on Mario Kart. It takes the fastest lap of the day and compares it to your fastest lap of the day. They lay their car on top of your car and you can see where he is better than you or where you are better than he is. You can adjust your line and where you are in and out of the gas and help you try and make your lap faster. It tells a lot to your crew chief and the engineers about how you are driving the car a little bit differently. Maybe you overdrove the corner a little bit and that is why you are tight in the middle. It helps you adjust those things so you don’t dial yourself out while you’re trying to tune the car. It makes you faster, it makes you better, it speeds up your learning curve when you’re at a new track for sure. I use it all of the time, it has been big for me. I will sit there and study it for hours. I’ve looked at Dartfish for Vegas for this weekend a bunch, it just helps you.
Neff – Back to your XFINITY ride, you’ve got 15 races on the books for now. Is there a chance you could get a few more before the end of the season? Is there any possibility for next season?
Poole – I don’t know. I’d love to run a few more but I don’t know, we’ll just have to see. I will shoot you a text when I get some new information (laughs). This year I know I’m running at least those 15 races. I’m going to a lot of good tracks for me where I feel comfortable. I know we’re going to have some good runs and put ourselves in position to win some races. Hopefully next year, if everything goes well, I can be back in the seat with DC Solar and everyone involved with this No. 42 team. It would be a lot of fun. That is what I want to do as a driver, I want to keep going and getting better. I want to win races and try and win a championship. At this point I’m running the 15 races so I’m going to go out there and do the best I can for my guys. They’ve been doing a great job, building great race cars. They deserve great finishes and wins and I’m going to go out there and do the absolute best I can for them.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.