Driven by loved ones, man steers to racing

July 09, 2006|By RICK MAESE

I don't understand dreams sometimes. You ever have one of those weird ones that makes absolutely no sense at all? You wake up and try to put the pieces together but all you can remember is a giant talking blueberry muffin, your mother-in-law chasing after you through the streets of Paris and that guy from accounting - the one with the eye tic - complaining about his stapler being jammed.

Nope, I just don't get them sometimes. But I'm glad we have them. They're the foundation for so much of what we enjoy in sports.

Matt Poole, 42, is a Pittsville resident who designs Web pages for a living. He has a crazy little dream that just won't go away. In it, cars are always chasing him, he sees his mother, who died of a heart attack three years ago, and one of his best friends, who was senselessly murdered last year. And he sees that NASCAR logo everywhere and a checkered flag that's always waving.

When it comes to dreams and sports, it's usually younger people who seem to be chasing them. So what if Poole is getting a late jump? He figures every NASCAR driver has to start sometime. His own journey, as unconventional as it is inspirational, is starting right now.

Poole grew up an auto racing fan. The noise, the speed, the attitude - it hooked him like a powerful drug. He wanted to race cars for a living, that was his childhood dream, even though his mother always thought it was too dangerous.

So Poole spent his adult life doing just about everything else: He painted, worked in restaurants, dabbled as a travel agent. But recently, searching for a way to honor two important women, Poole's dream was resurrected.

"I'm not sitting here talking about being the best one ever, some legend or an icon," Poole says. "I just want to race. I just want to be out there on the track."

Before he's even found a car to drive, he's decided that he'll dedicate every penny he wins to a pair of charities, one in honor of his mother and one in honor of Tonya Schultz. His mother, Peggy, died three years ago from a sudden heart attack, so he wants to donate half of what he wins to the American Heart Association.

Last May, Tonya Schultz's husband shot her to death in front of their two young children. Andrew Ronald Schultz pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year. The other half of Poole's potential winnings would go to Victory Junction Gang Camp, which benefits children with health problems.

"This isn't about me winning a race," Poole says. "If I can do this thing, everyone would win."

Not a bad dream to have, is it?

Poole doesn't have a lot of money. He spends much of his days caring for his ailing father, James Poole, who suffers from Parkinson's disease. "If you actually pull this thing off," his father told him recently, "I'll be a proud pop when you take me out there and lay me next to your mama."

Poole has been to a pair of racing schools. He knows if he can raise $150,000, he can join a leasing program and drive in five races next year on the Hooters Pro Cup Series. Because he doesn't think his dream is just about him, he says he'll race the "fans' car," a car supported on the donations of fans. Poole has set up a Web site,, with more information.

"Everybody chases their dream in their own way," he says. "You got kids out there racing who are barely old enough to spell `superspeedway.' I know I'm a bit older and I know I'm going about this differently. But the way I look at it, there's not a driver out there, no matter what his name is, who didn't have a first race. Everyone is a rookie at some point."

It's a dream - they aren't all entirely believable. But at the heart of this dream is something that really has nothing to do with auto racing.

Poole wants to make his pop proud. He wants to honor the memories of his mother and his friend. Each time he talks about racing a car, Poole is also talking about his loved ones.

In that sense, the checkered flag doesn't have to be at a racetrack. And he doesn't have to be behind a steering wheel to realize that he's already paying a beautiful tribute to his mother and Schultz. Chasing a dream? Nah, Poole is living one.

Points after -- Rick Maese

Get rich quick: You hear about the man from Portland, Ore., who's suing Michael Jordan and Nike for $416 million each? Apparently, the man resembles Jordan and he's sick of being mistaken for the NBA great. Sounds like a pretty strong case to me. In related news, Peter Schmuck is filing suit against Rip Taylor for $1 billion and I'm considering filing one against Doogie Howser.

What could've been: Randy Moss told an Atlanta radio station last week that before he was shipped to the Raiders in 2005, he'd hoped the Vikings would trade him to either the Falcons or the Ravens. "I wanted to play with Atlanta just for the fact of Michael Vick's elusiveness," he told 790 AM The Zone in Atlanta, "and I wanted to play with a guy such as Ray Lewis because he's on defense and I'm on offense." Too bad. If there's any receiver that could have made Kyle Boller look good last season, Moss might've been the guy.

Excess baggage: Waiving Luis Matos last week was a move that should have been made weeks earlier. Let's see if it starts a trend. There are others on the Orioles' roster who do not belong. And there's at least one guy pitching in Triple-A - Adam Loewen - who'd be better served by spending the final couple of months of the season on the big league roster.

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