Last weekend’s Pro Late Model Zack Donatti Memorial at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway saw NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Brennan Poole contend for the win in his first race in a straight-railed race car. Unfortunately for Poole, his race came to a premature end 30 laps shy of the finish, but it most likely won’t be the last time race fans see Poole contend for a win in a Late Model.
“I’m going to run in a couple of weeks again at New Smyrna, and run SpeedFest after that in Georgia, and then the PASS race I think at Greenville Pickens Speedway,” Poole told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
In 2015 Poole ran a partial XFINITY schedule for HScott Motorsports, running 17 of the 33 races. The 24-year-old Texan recorded two top-10 finishes in those starts, with a best finish of ninth. Poole said his partial-season schedules were a big reason behind why he’s doing some Pro and Super Late Model racing in the early part of this year.
“I just wanted some extra seat time before the season starts,” Poole said. “The past couple years I’ve been behind on seat time. I hadn’t had the opportunity to race. I was just rusty compared to everyone else.”
Poole has run Late Model Stock Cars in the past for Jamie Yelton’s Fathead Racing, and has won races at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway, Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC), Dillon Motor Speedway (SC), Kingsport Speedway (TN), Lonesome Pine Raceway (VA) and more. But it had been a few years since Poole sat behind the wheel of a Fathead Racing car, as he moved up the racing ranks to the ARCA Racing Series and the XFINITY Series.
Now Poole is back behind the wheel of one of Yelton’s cars. Their reunion started at the Zack Donatti Memorial where Poole finished 11th in their Pro Late Model.
“I feel like we clicked like we did years ago when I raced for Jamie,” said Poole. “It was pretty cool running the Late Model stuff. It was so much fun and it was just neat racing. I love that kind of racing.
“In the race we were like running second with 30 laps to go. Then on a restart I have no idea what happened but the transmission just got locked in third gear. I had no other gear but third, then I was all over the chip and Bubba Pollard ran over the top of me. I felt bad that I took him out, but I had nothing I could do.”
Even though it was his first time ever running a Pro Late Model, Poole said he adapted to it quickly. He arrived at New Smyrna the Thursday before the race to get in some extra practice time, because it’s all about seat time, as he said. But he attributed his quick adaptation to his partial XFINITY schedule from last year.
“All that XFINITY experience last year helped so much,” Poole said. “When you race against the best in the world you learn so much. I learned so much from just things that happened to me or things that I watched other drivers do that it just jumped my learning curve up a lot. Those other guys are so good that it’s so much fun racing and learning from them.”
Now Poole turns his attention to his next race for Fathead Racing when he returns to New Smyrna Speedway on January 23 for the Orange Blossom 100 in a Super Late Model. After that he’ll head to Cordele, Georgia’s Crisp Motorsports park for SpeedFest.
Fortunately for Poole, there’s no pressure on him at all. This time around in his Late Model efforts, all about having fun, learning, and shaking the rust off.
“I’m just excited and happy that I can race in the offseason to do some extra stuff to prepare,” said Poole. “I’m really excited for this year. I’ll have an announcement in the next week on what I’m doing for this year, and I think it’ll go really well. I’m just looking forward to getting to run some Super Late Model races before the year gets going and racing for Jamie Yelton. It’s kind of old school because I used to run Late Model Stocks for those guys as I was coming up and they taught me a lot, so they’re helping me get ready going into this year.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Melissa Strahley