Jason Poole is beating the odds in life and short-track racing. Behind his broad shoulders and burly-looking demeanor, Poole is notably one of the most social guys in the garage area. The 41-year-old racer from Randleman, North Carolina, nearly saw his career come to an abrupt end a few years earlier when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. After another near-death experience over the winter, his outlook on life has revitalized.
Poole was raised by former Stock Car driver, Herbie Poole. Poole’s father won several track championships and a modified track championship at a few different venues in North Carolina. Herbie scored 248 short-track wins and 168 poles over his career. Poole essentially grew up at the racetrack. He started in go-karts from age nine to 14. He progressed to stock cars by 16.
“I learned a lot about what it takes from him,” said Poole. “You got to market yourself; nobody is ever going to do that for you, and the best way to do that is to do it yourself. My dad was most well known for bringing Budweiser into the sport. Budweiser Beer sponsored him for 27 years. He was the very first one to bring them into the motorsports marketing era. My dad taught me that as we went along, with sponsorships and keeping and maintaining relationships and not burning bridges. It pays dividends as time and your career goes on.”
The first car Herbie Poole ever bought was a 99-dollar claim-rule car from Richard Childress in the early ’60s at Bowman Gray Stadium. Herbie Poole had won Championships at Caraway, 311 Speedway, Friendship, and other venues around the Piedmont. Herbie raced on dirt and asphalt. He ran Modifieds and full-bore Late Models. Herbie won the track championship at Carway on dirt in ‘71 and pavement in ‘72. Herbie’s experience, guidance, and personal traits are what led Jason to be who he is today.
Poole was born and raised in Randleman, North Carolina. He is very familiar with the Petty family, having grown up near the same street. Poole has also worked with Steve Hmeil, Mike Skinner, and Richard Petty’s grandson, Thad Moffitt. Herbie and Richard had worked together for a long time. Growing up in Randleman was an impactful influence for Poole in his formative years.
Poole was teammates with Ross, “Boo Boo” Dalton. Boo Boo is only 27 but has raced Late Models since the age of 14. Dalton has a larger-than-life personality in his own right. Poole once had a deal to get behind the wheel of the machine that competes out of that stable. That deal was off halfway through 2021. Poole and Dalton had cut ties.
Poole met the Dalton family when he was a crew member for the “Reidsville Rocket”, Jason York, at the time. Poole ran a self-owned team for years in the 2010s before an illness became very close to a fatal encounter.
“I always knew something was wrong,” Poole said. “I had a lot of problems leading up to that point and didn’t know what it was. Doctors thought it was I.B.S. I knew there was something more to it. Back in 2018, I was very sick. I hate to say this in an interview but honestly, I had diarrhea for 63 days straight. I couldn’t walk, could hardly talk. I almost died, my father ended up taking me to the hospital.
I was pretty much on my deathbed. I was in the ICU for about four or five days. They said I had a bacterial infection in my liver and colon and after more testing, they found out I had Crohn’s. I was losing weight at an unbelievable scale and magnitude. I couldn’t keep anything down. It took me out of the car for almost two years.”
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation in the digestive tract. That can lead to debilitating abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. Poole did some test sessions in attempted comebacks over those two years. Poole’s body revolted when the heat and G-forces would start to take their toll. He would have to pull over and get out to keep from throwing up in the car.
At one point, it was very unlikely that the Randleman driver would ever get back behind the wheel of a stock car. Poole’s luck started to change after so much time away from driving when he got a little bit better health-wise. He still deals with some symptoms left from his diagnosis but they are in much better control.
Poole’s life was affected by tragedy outside of his health. His longtime girlfriend and mother of his oldest daughter suffered an extremely tragic brain aneurysm in their home. Poole held her as she passed away in his arms. Poole was an emotional wreck for over a year after the occurrence. She had been to every race of his. It took every ounce of energy to press on, but things were not ok internally.
“I wasn’t taking care of myself after that I was mentally messed up,” explained Poole. “I was in the middle of a truck series season and I couldn’t even be in that house. I took care of my daughter but I was killing myself inside. I lost 75 pounds that year. To this day, it still affects me. Life is short. You need to take care of your people and tell them you love them. If I had any words for anybody it’s to tell your friends and family that you love them. You never know when you’re going to see them again.”
Poole grew up with his brother of a different last name. They both raced together their entire lives. Anthony Bennett was Jason’s literal brother from the same mother. Bennett himself has had quite a successful career in a stock car. They were constant competitors despite being a close family. After a heated race in Dillon, South Carolina between his brother Anthony and Dalton, Poole was motivated to go racing again. Poole put a three-race deal together that started at Dillon Motor Speedway and combined teams with Jay Dalton, Boo Boo’s father, and team owner, with members from his own former Late Model team.
The first three-race deal with the team was successful with two wins. Before the subsequent follow-up deal, Boo Boo and his team had plans to help their nephew run go-karts. After winning three in a row, Poole decided to go for a track championship at Caraway Speedway. He had to improvise. Poole called up Amber Lynn. Lynn is the most successful female driver in the history of Bowman Gray Stadium. Her father and Herbie Poole used to race together. A relationship developed from there.
“I reached out and said ‘do you have a car I can drive this weekend to stay in the championship lead?’,” said Poole. “We put that deal together twelve hours before the race. I looked for a ride all week long. Everybody had prior engagements and had their cars rented out in different places. We put the deal together. We went up that Friday night at eight o’clock to put in my seat. That took about four hours. Amber Lynn and her dad changed the shocks and the springs to fit me and the next day we won the race.”
Unfortunately for Poole and the team, the car failed post-race inspection for being equipped with the wrong sized heads. The result was officially a DQ, despite pulling into Victory lane. The race was a double points night which docked his points position and took him from 1st to 4th in the year-long track standings.
Poole went back to Caraway with Dalton’s crew at the .455 mile Sophia, NC track. He won his 4th race in a row there. The following event, Dalton’s team went back to their nephew’s karting efforts. Dalton’s nephew Enoch McNiel was coming through the ranks in go-karts. The team eventually felt they had to make room for him as a 13-year-old in the Jr. Elite and the Charger class. Poole once again called Amber Lynn and her dad for a ride. Poole won the Limited Feature once more.
Poole went back to Caraway with the Lynn team in May.
“I got a call from Amber Lynn’s daddy, he said ‘we’re going to put another motor in,” Poole continued. “We’re going to go back over there and wax them again. We’ll show them that the motor was not what won that race. We’re going to show them that it was the driver in the seat. I said I’m down.’ We got together and had a little more time to spend on the car. So we changed the motor out, put a different spring combination in it. We thrashed away and got it ready. We went over there and sat on the pole and won the race.”
One of the two races that Poole didn’t win that he had entered in 2021 was the very first event with Jay Dalton Racing at Dillon in January. Poole crashed out of the event. The event was very odd. BooBoo Dalton won a wild Charger feature. The race was late on a Sunday in 34-degree weather with a nearly-frozen weeper in turn four. A competitor also got tased by security on a live racetrack.
The relationship wasn’t a bed of roses for him and BooBoo. Dalton and Amber Lynn have a somewhat of a rivalry. The Dalton team wasn’t pleased that Poole was driving for Amber Lynn’s team for Poole to compete for a track championship at Caraway. Whether it was this or the process of making room for Enoch’s career in Late Models, Poole felt that he had his ride pulled out from under him. Poole was disgruntled with how things went.
Three of the crew members that Poole had brought over had decided to stay with Dalton’s team. Poole lost his eligibility for a track championship at Caraway after missing a couple of races while his career was essentially in limbo. The odds were stacked against him.
Poole took his sponsors, with him. Chevrolet Performance and 220 Tire and Auto Center support him in whatever equipment he drives as personal sponsors. The Level Cross-area tire center began supporting Poole’s efforts in 2020. His friends and family in the Randolph County area can get a Poole-sponsored discount when they pull into the shop. Chevrolet Performance acts more as an equipment sponsor for machinery use and engine parts. Thomas Chappell racing added Pallet Express to Poole’s list of partners.
“I had to do what I had to do,” said Poole. “We had the championship lead by a decent margin. The team decided to run go-karts that weekend. I reached out to Amber again and they said, sure. I had to try and keep this championship alive. We went out and won the race again. I ended up with the most wins at Caraway this past year, but we couldn’t compete for a championship. It just ended up being a messed-up deal. Every time we showed up, we won. We ran first or second every practice session. We won six poles. It could have turned out differently.”
Poole went back to Caraway one final time with Amber Lynn’s team on Labor Day Friday. The team scored a decisive victory that had Poole feeling elated. It was quite the redemption after his disagreement with his former team had essentially forced him out of a ride. Poole officially won six races in a row. It would have been seven if not for the penalty. He did it with two completely different teams in eight starts along with six poles. Lynn had sponsorship requirements that led her to run her car in the fall at South Boston and Martinsville, Virginia.
Poole’s day job is working for Hendrick Motorsports. He is involved in the teardown department. They take the cars that come back from the racetrack. They take them apart before they get rebuilt again. With the new generation of cars, the teams have all had to put in extra work. Poole is thankful that he has been able to keep his job because currently, with chassis built elsewhere, some of his friends and coworkers have had to seek employment outside of the race shop.
Poole is now driving for Thomas Chappell, he builds and sets up race cars out of Orange County Speedway. Chappell also runs setups at Caraway Speedway. Poole ran for Thomas Chappell Racing on October 19th at Orange County Speedway. He plans to run select races with Chappell including the 2022 Caraway schedule.
“Thomas Chappell has four cars,” Poole said. “Two Late Models and two Chargers. He’s going to have me run them both. He has been successful at Caraway and won some races. I think we’re going to do well with him. He’s got some good equipment. We really had clicked, he knew what I was trying to tell him. He knew what I needed to feel in the car.”
Poole has a new endeavor with modified racing, He will be running the 79 Hillbilly Racing modified formerly piloted by James Civali. Poole will run all three modified races scheduled for Caraway Speedway. He will run couple more races around the region. If things go smoothly he’ll pick up more races. 2022 will be his first year in an open-wheel Modified. Unfortunately, Poole was hindered by another health scare over the winter. Those issues delayed his testing schedule.
Right before testing, Poole contracted covid-19 in December. His lungs suffered damage. He couldn’t breathe. Poole was hooked up to a ventilator and saw his doctor tell his family that he might not make it.
“I had tubes down my throat and I couldn’t talk,” explained Poole. “I heard the doctor tell my dad I couldn’t make it. I had damage in my lungs, my kidneys started to fail. I remember laying there in bed. I tried to get up and I couldn’t. I said ‘Lord I’m tired of this shit. I’m tired of fighting. I don’t care which one you do, I need you to take me to heaven or help me.’ The next day my vitals started slowly turning. It’s getting better day by day, but by now it’s back to normal but it was a long rough battle.”
Poole wanted to go into the offseason fresh but it hasn’t been an easy road. Recently, his father has been battling some health issues. Herbie suffered a heart attack and has been going through chemotherapy for cancer. With a daily prayer for the health of his father, himself, and the loved ones and friends he has made along the way, the jovial spirit of Poole presses on as he tries to find victory again. He will attempt to beat the odds once again in 2022.