John Potts was just one of those old-school guys.
Since my start in the racing media world in 2014, I have quickly understood why auto racing is something special.
I have only been following NASCAR since 2006. Now, at 21 years old, I have been able to cover 29 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races and have seen ten of thousands of laps quicker than I ever imagined.
But something is missing. Something big.
That thing is perspective, and it only comes with time. It’s something that fellows like John Potts had.
Even sitting next to a man like John, you could feel that rich, fuel-burning history running through his head, the things he has seen, the places he’s been, the people he has met — even when he’s not speaking. I had the pleasure to cover the 99th Indianapolis 500 in 2015 and I was sat right next to John… in the very last row of the media center.
To me, that was a sign of just making it in the media. I’m only 19, I am remarkably lucky to be here. If I’m going to cover my first Indy 500, I damn deserve to be in the last row. But guys like John? In my little way of thinking about seating, he should’ve been in the front row. Like the college professor.
I had some things to learn before I could hold a conversation with him. It was my first time in the Indy media center and first time at the Indy 500. Heck, I had never touched the state of Indiana before that day in May. Couldn’t have more to learn.
So, as a youngster, days like that are opportunities to hunt for those experienced “old” guys who know a thing or two about this sport. John had that ease about him, that been-there-done-that image, and I picked it up in no time.
I was nervous and jittery, he was confident and content. That is the difference.
As we transition into a new era in racing, I continue to find a knack for watching, listening and learning from guys like John Potts. They sure are characters. – Zach Catanzareti
I never had the opportunity to meet John in person, but I read a good chunk of his output here at Frontstretch. John’s time at the site roughly approximates my own. His column, Driven to the Past, was a regular feature on Frontstretch at the time I started. Being a history nut, it was a nice rabbit hole to fall down on a weekly basis.
Ultimately, John’s output moved to the Frontstretch Newsletter partially because he started to run out of war stories to tell. Regardless, he still wanted to be a part of the site in any way he could.
Enter Potts’ Shots, John’s weekly Newsletter column where he would write about whatever tickled his fancy. Sometimes, this meant INDYCAR. Other times, we got tributes to friends and colleagues. We even got some new stories as well. In my role as Newsletter Manager, I had the task of editing John’s pieces. They were generally clean, despite John not really thinking so. He was always very complimentary on my editing as well. If I added something factual to his column, he was the kind of man to send me an e-mail thanking me for it. That kind of behavior isn’t necessarily normal, but it was completely in-character for John.
By extension, John was complimentary of all of his colleagues here at Frontstretch. He would regularly send e-mails that indicated how much he liked articles on the site. Didn’t matter who wrote it.
I can tell you that John did want to continue to write for Frontstretch. We held his spot in the Newsletter open for when he would be physically able to return to writing. Unfortunately, that day never came. I’ll miss him greatly. – Phil Allaway
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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