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Dropping the Hammer with Brennan Poole

Brennan Poole has truly emerged as a perennial NASCAR Xfinity Series contender.

Brennan Poole has truly emerged as a perennial NASCAR Xfinity Series contender.

For a driver who faced an uncertain future three years ago, Brennan Poole of The Woodlands, TX has capitalized on his opportunity in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

All things considered, Poole has seized the opportunity with the No. 48 DC Solar Chevrolet Camaro team.  Paired up with crew chief Chad Norris, the 26-year-old racer reeled off four top-fives and 17 top-10’s en route to an eighth place points finish last year.

Presently, Poole and his team enter round 15 of the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series season ranked sixth in the points standings. By and large, the No. 48 Chevy has been a fixture towards the front of the field at each race.

Still, with four top-10 results in the books, Poole realizes there’s much work to be done. Competitive but optimistic, the young racer has the makings to be a solid and exciting future Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star.

Recently, I spoke with Poole to catch up and talk about the season to date. Of course, as seen last year, he opened up and relaxed while remaining in competitor mode prior to the Irish Hills 250 at Michigan International Speedway.

No doubt, this young man will make a strong case to contend for victories and this year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series championship. In the meantime, let’s get into racer’s mode on TPF by “Dropping the Hammer with Brennan Poole!”

Rob Tiongson :  Brennan, heading into Michigan, you’re having a pretty solid season.  You’ve got four top-10’s, seventh in the points standings.  So from your perspective, what are some of the things you’re liking so far from your No. 48 team, and what are some things you want to improve on?

Brennan Poole :  Well, we’ve had a lot of speed for sure.  Ever since Richmond, it seems like off the truck in practice we’re one of the top five cars, and we’re qualifying really well, which is a big difference from last year.

It seems like in the race, the first half of the race we’re really good.  I think my last three stages, the first stage I have two fifths and a sixth.  So, we’re competitive, just the last 50 laps we need to do a better job throughout the race, making in-race adjustments and putting ourselves in a little bit better position when it counts. We haven’t been able to close out races as well as we’ve needed to.

So, coming into this weekend, we’re seventh in the points and we still haven’t had a lot of things go our way, and we just have to keep working hard and work on the things we know we need to work on.  But the good news is we have fast cars, and there’s a lot of positives to be had.

RT :  Speaking of, you’ve experienced the Chase format last year.  Now you guys are experiencing the new stages in the race format, and the points format.  Would you say that this brand of racing has done its job in making the sport more exciting for you as a driver, and do you think there are some ways that it could be expanded upon in terms of improving the product?

Poole takes to the high banks of Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Poole takes to the high banks of Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

BP :  Yeah, I mean, I think that the stages definitely have created a lot of urgency, and created a lot more racing throughout the race, which I think the fans really like.  It’s created a lot of craziness.  At superspeedways, we’ve already seen this year a couple of times where guys trying to get aggressive to get stage points at the end, cause a lot of teams, sometimes those are the only tracks they can get stage points.

So, there’s a lot of things happening, and it creates some excitement on restarts towards the end of these stages.  You know, we’ve had the last several weeks where we get a caution where there’s only 10, five laps left in a stage, and track position is so important with these cars nowadays that you really have to just lay everything out on the line to get those spots.  So, definitely created a lot of excitement for the fans.

I know a lot of my friends and family definitely enjoy watching it, so I think it’s been a good thing.  For me, I’ve been on the good side of it and the bad side of it, so I’m just trying to put myself more on the good side more often.  This year we’ve just kind of been hit or miss.  But we have some momentum, and the speed we’re carrying from week to week each weekend.  We just need to close these races out better last 50.

RT :  And especially given the fact that we’re heading towards the summer races, and it’s obviously your second time seeing them in this particular, or third time in some cases, in this car.  Do you think there’s some tracks that you have circled on the calendar that you’re saying, “You know what, this is my best chance really”?

BP :  Yeah, for sure.  You know, Richmond’s always been one of my favorite tracks.  We were super fast there this year, and just didn’t have the race that we needed to have.  Then I won here in Michigan in ARCA in 2013, so this is a place that I’m really comfortable at, so I’m hoping for a good day tomorrow.  And then of course Iowa in another week.  You know, last year I had that great run where we didn’t qualify good, had some issues in qualifying, and came from 25th to finish 4th.  So, that’s been a good place for me.

A lot of the flatter short tracks – I’m really looking forward to New Hampshire.  I got a top 10 in my rookie year there and finished sixth last year, so looking to improve on that again coming up here soon in a few weeks.  So, you know, I feel like the short tracks are a little bit more my style, where I just have a little bit better feel, so I’m looking forward to some of the ones we have coming up.

RT :  Do you think that, with the Xfinity series trying to work on its branding with the whole “Names are made here” thing, obviously it’s going to be a while till this happens, but do you think NASCAR could do something where they capitalize on having more short tracks, or making it more distinct with standalone races, or is it a necessary evil to have it with Cup drivers in the field?

Poole's take on Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racers competing in his division as a sort of necessary evil.

Poole’s take on Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racers competing in his division as a sort of necessary evil.

BP :  Yeah, I mean, I think having Xfinity here when the Cup guys are here, it’s a support series, this is where… it’s like AAA.  This is the last…this is where the next guys are moving in to go to the Cup series.  So I think for us to be here at these companion weekends is really important.

I think with the Truck series, I think they could maybe run and go do some other standalone stuff and maybe some more short tracks.  But really, the way the schedule has changed over the past couple years, I really think it’s great.  A lot of fun racing with all the Cup guys.  You can just walk over to the garage, jump in the car, and compete with them.

Like this weekend – Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Ty Dillon, Paul Menard…there’s a lot of great guys that are in this race, and so for me to be able to go up there and race with them, and race amongst them and battle with them all day tomorrow, it helps me fight for my case on why I deserve to be in Cup.  So for me, I enjoy having them here.

RT :  I can respect that.  And you’ve experienced what it’s like to have that struggle to be in this position.  I know a couple of years ago you were basically on the outside looking in.  We all know how that turned out – you’re here. What advice would you give young racecar drivers who are trying to make their break into this sport?

BP :  It’s extremely tough.  I think this is one of the hardest things to do in the world, period.  And so, for me, I just worked really, really hard.  You have to work as hard as you possibly can.  It takes a lot of sacrifices.  And you’ve got to have faith.

You have to believe that you’re going to get an opportunity, and you have to continue to work for it.  It may seem impossible, but we can’t see the future, so you have to just keep digging and hope that the right door, the right opportunity will open up for you.

You know, God works in funny ways.  It always seems like when you’re at that moment where it’s like, “This is it.  I’m done.  There’s nothing more I can do,” is when it falls through for you.  So, for me, for any kid who’s trying to make it, I just tell them you can’t ever give up.

RT :  I can appreciate that and respect that for sure.  Got a couple of off-the-track questions for you.  I understand you’re a huge fan of that show, Expedition Unknown, on the Travel Channel.  

BP :  Yeah!  (laughs)

RT :  Would you say that treasure hunting is kind of a hobby of yours?

Poole happens to enjoy HGTV and treasure hunting shows.

Poole happens to enjoy HGTV and treasure hunting shows.

BP :  You know, I haven’t tried it yet, but I certainly enjoy watching Josh Gates do it, so, maybe.  I would love to travel a little bit and do a lot of stuff.  I love history, and I love trying to see what he’s trying to find.  It’s just fun.

I think I enjoy watching it more than I would probably have to go and do some of the places that he has to go into! But yeah, I love anything like that.  Love all the stuff on Travel Channel, they do a great job.  And I’m also obsessed with HGTV.  People make fun of me and give me a hard time, but I do.  I just love houses, and I think it’s fun.

RT :  Hey, I watch This Old House, so anyone who disses on that, they don’t know what they’re missing out on.  Let’s imagine that I’m a new racing fan, just getting into NASCAR, and I had to pick a favorite driver.  What’s your selling points to me to make me root for you every week?

It's possible that Poole and Joey Logano are rapping here. Maybe!

It’s possible that Poole and Joey Logano are rapping here. Maybe!

BP : (laughs)  Well, I’m just a normal kid.  I do what normal kids do.  I love to hang out with my friends, and play Xbox, and I love the Science Channel, and sports, the Travel Channel, all these things.  And I try to be a little bit more open to that.

You know, I have my vlog on YouTube that I put out every Friday and I answer anyone’s questions.  They ask me anything on Twitter, I answer everybody.  I try to be as engaging as I can.  And I feel like I’m a guy who worked really hard to get to this point, and sacrificed a lot of things.

So for me, I feel like I’m one of those guys that’s fighting for those kids that are also trying to make it, cause it’s rare, I feel like, today, to see someone make it like that.  So for me, I feel like I’m fighting for those kids.

RT :  And definitely not pursuing a rap career any time soon.

BP :  No, I’m not pursuing a rap career.  They keep asking me every time.  I just did a deal with NBC and they asked me to dance, or to do a rap song or something, and I won’t do it.

I mean, I like to rap and stuff in my car, and of course I play guitar and sing and do some stuff like that.  I’m not very good at singing at all.  But it’s just kind of fun, and my way to escape all the stresses that come through a race season.

RT :  I can relate to that.  This is my escape as well, in a strange kind of way!  My last question for you is, hypothetically, if you could be a driver/owner and you could pick any drivers from past or present, who would pick as your teammate because you like them, would want on your team towards the tail end of your career, and would still pick even if they annoyed the heck out of you?

BP :  (laughs)  For me, I really like Erik Jones.  Actually, in 2014 or ’13, I won a race spotting for Erik Jones, and I won driving in the car that year too, so I think that might have been one of the only combinations of driver/spotter to win in both places.  So, that’s cool.  I have a good relationship with Erik.

I also think Daniel Hemric’s extremely talented and would do a fantastic job.  Raced Legend cars with him when we were in our early teens.  So it’s awesome to see him get an opportunity here as well.

And then a guy that I just enjoy spending time with and hanging out with is Blake Koch.  Just an awesome guy.  I get along with him good, we hang out.  His wife and my girlfriend are buddies, so we go to dinner together and hang out and stuff.  Him and his wife are just fantastic people. So, it would be fun working with him.

RT :  Speaking of, Blake’s my next interview, so if you had to be in my shoes, what question would you want to field to him that would be…

BP :  To ask Blake?

RT :  Yeah.

Poole enjoys the camaraderie that comes with competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Poole enjoys the camaraderie that comes with competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

BP :  Man, I want to know what’s the first thing Blake thinks of when he wakes up in the morning.  The first thing he thinks of.  Cause he’s got kids, and a wife, and a family, and a dog – I want to know what he wakes up thinking about.

RT :  I’ll definitely be sure to ask.

BP :  Yeah.  Tell him it was my idea, my question, too.

RT :  You can bet on that.

Author’s Notes :  Special thanks to Brennan Poole and the kind folks at Chip Ganassi Racing with this feature on TPF!  If you’d like to learn more about Brennan and his team, “Follow” them on Twitter, “Like” their Facebook page, and “Visit” their official website!

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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