CONCORD, N.C. – Kyle Busch may have won Friday night’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200, but Brennan Poole was undoubtedly the star of the show at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
After skipping the last NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway due to a crash at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway, Poole came back with a vengeance under the lights at Charlotte.
The 28-year-old charged from fourth to second on the night’s final restart with three laps left, taking a shot at leader Kyle Busch before settling for a runner-up finish with his No. 30 MadVapes Toyota.
Poole’s second-place effort marked not only a career-best mark for him, but the highest-ever finish for the Steven Lane-owned On Point Motorsports race team, as well.
“I honestly don’t know where that came from,” Poole told SPEED SPORT after the race. “We broke a sway-bar arm right at the very beginning of the race, so the truck was just a handful all night long. The guys made some good adjustments, though, and we found something in the second stage that paid off for us pretty nicely toward the end. We adjusted for the end of the race and the truck came to life.
“We found a little grip on the top side of the track and man, I used it up on those restarts,” added Poole with a smile. “The truck just stayed with me. It was good, even with the broken swaybar arm. I struggled beside trucks, with lateral grip, because it was broke … but by myself, I was OK. I knew if I could run the top with clean air, I’d be good … and we definitely were there in those final laps.”
The pivotal moment in Poole’s march to the front came after the final caution flag of the race waved with eight laps left, for the wayward right-rear tire carcass off of Brett Moffitt’s GMS Racing Chevrolet.
At that point, Poole was running fifth, but Stewart Friesen pitted from just ahead of the Texas native and gave Poole an outside row-two starting spot for the final three-lap dash to the finish – a luxury given the way his truck was handling with the broken swaybar arm.
“Before that last restart, I knew I was going to line up fifth and thought I wouldn’t be able to get a good start … but when Friesen pitted, I thought to myself, ‘Man, you’re giving it to me!’” Poole recalled. “I knew I would have a shot, and after I pushed Kyle to the lead down the backstretch, I think I just pulled off him too soon and dove into the corner before I should have. I thought that if I got him in the middle of the track, I could beat him off of (turn) four because the middle on that end wasn’t good at all.
“He just ran straight across the middle though, hooked up on the top and was fine,” continued Poole. “I tried to tag him a little bit after that, hoping to slow him down and get a little bit of a side draft, but I just couldn’t quite get there. That was all we had, but it was still a pretty good effort, I feel like.”
That might be a gross understatement, considering Poole started 17th on the night and had to fight through the issues his broken truck presented him with across virtually the whole 200-mile distance.
It was a banner effort and a statement of true grit from a low-budget team that has roughly half the budget, if that, of a Kyle Busch Motorsports or a GMS Racing.
“We just fought hard all night, and for what these guys do with virtually no funding at all, it’s ridiculous what we achieved tonight,” said Poole. “To run second with a broken truck to Kyle Busch is something to be amazed at and something I’m beyond proud of.
“Imagine what we could have done if we’d had a little bit more than what we did there at the end.”
To his credit, Poole didn’t hesitate in his answer when asked if he would have roughed Busch up for a Truck Series victory at Charlotte.
“Absolutely, I mean, I tried,” Poole admitted. “I’m not going to lie, I tried to get to his quarter (panel), and if I spun him, I spun him. It was going to be what it was at the end; I just didn’t have quite enough.”
Though he didn’t leave with the trophy, Friday night’s result was a needed one for Poole, who nearly found himself out of NASCAR after losing his Xfinity Series ride at Chip Ganassi Racing two years back when his relationship with sponsor DC Solar crumbled at the end of the 2017 season.
It wasn’t a win, but it was a reminder that Poole still has what it takes to get the job done.
“I sure hope people were paying attention tonight,” he said. “I mean, dang … we’re running off $2.5 million less than the guy who won the race, and we finished second with a wounded horse. I think that’s pretty dang impressive for the speed we had.
“I’ve had ups and downs in my career … but I’ve still fought through the challenges to win races and give myself a shot,” Poole added. “I was talking to (Brad) Keselowski back in the winter, and I didn’t know if I was gonna have a ride at that point, but he told me that I needed to get out and drive whatever I could.
“There’s no right way of making it to Sunday, but I’m going to keep fighting because I believe I’m good enough to be there.”