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    The Interview

    by Kevin Oldham

    KO's Indiana Bullring Scene

    Glory Days – The Extended Version

    Hitting the rewind button and stopping on July of 1985, I can vividly recall a post-lunch respite from Anderson College basketball camp, killing time with my best friend by listening to the radio in our dorm room.  All these years later, I still remember hearing Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” while my mind wandered off course, daydreaming of the next racing event once camp came to a close.  I often reference this moment as a turning point in my life, as all things automotive began to invade my subconscious and supersede the unquenchable thirst I had for Hoosier hoops.  It may have taken a year or two to completely take hold, but eventually I could not possibly absorb enough racing action; living, eating, and breathing the sport with every waking moment.  When reflecting on my most significant years, these glory days are instantly evoked, wishing that I could go back and experience such unbridled enthusiasm all over again.      

    At the same time while relaxing in that Anderson, Indiana dorm room, across town a tired and sweaty Delco Remy employee’s thoughts were also occupied with auto racing, eager to head home to start a second shift involving maintenance and pre-race preparations for his recently purchased sprint car.  Finally allowed an opportunity to chase his life-long dreams, Phil Poor was that blue collar man whose world had dramatically changed for the better.  After years of complaints regarding his lowly status of washing cars, changing tires, and filling fuel for local racers like Chuck Mosley, Terry Pletch, and Mark Owsley, finally his wife had heard enough and urged him to take the plunge.  Withdrawing $14,000 from their life savings to acquire Owsley’s entire operation, the package included a 1983 Gambler sprint car chassis, one engine, a few spares, an open trailer and a rusted-out Chevy Suburban.  Although the next several seasons would seem to expire in a heartbeat, these glory days ultimately rewarded Poor with enormous amounts of success and countless golden memories.  Reflecting on these exciting times, the legendary mechanic added, “Back then, it was just about being able to race, race, race.  I could not get enough in those days.”          

    IRP 1988 – USAC sprint cars returned to the pavement in 1988 and Steve Butler was consistently the quickest, claiming the Hulman Classic at IRP and the separate Switzer Cherry Candy pavement points series (Randy Jones photo)

    Immediately hiring fellow Madison County resident Tray House as chauffeur, he employed the knowledge gained from years of carefully observing pit area activities, never finishing outside of the top-five in their first five contests.  However, once their performance started to slip, the non-committal car owner searched for the best available driver, which happened to be a young gasser named Steve Butler who in his early career had already enjoyed a fair amount of success.  Phil recalled their first interaction from a few years earlier, noting, “I was in the infield at Kokomo for a feature and during a red flag, I walked up and stuck my head in the car.  Of course he was huffing and puffing and trying to think, but I said, ‘You’re letting out of the gas too soon and you’re getting back in the gas and making the car drive straight.  Just drive it in three car-lengths harder, turn it, and stand on the gas!’ He just kind of looked at me like, ‘Who’s this crazy guy standing there?’”

    In their first foray, Butler was on his way to a Kokomo win until breaking a set of rear end gears, eventually hitting pay dirt in mid-September with consecutive conquests at Warsaw and Paragon.  A prior commitment with George Toney kept Steve out of the seat for Eldora’s Four Crown Nationals, where Larry Rice produced Phil’s first USAC national victory, utilizing the same set of McCreary rear tires for a Silver Crown double-dip with Lafayette’s LeFevre brothers.  With new sponsor, childhood friend, and soon to be car owner Jeff Stoops hustling down from the grandstands to excitedly join the team in victory lane, once Butler’s deal with Fenton Gingerich soured after the 1986 USAC season-opener, a key phone conversation between Phil and Steve set the stage for an epic four year span filled with three consecutive USAC sprint car championships (1986 through 1988) and nearly two dozen feature victories on some of the sport’s biggest stages.  Prior to that time, no one had ever claimed three consecutive USAC sprint car championships. 

    Florida 1986 – Shown resting on the right rear tire, Phil Poor had Andy Hillenburg in the seat for Florida Speedweeks 1986 (Patrick Poor collection)

    The combination of Poor and Butler instantly clicked and rarely wavered, exhibiting extreme versatility with winged and wingless victories on both dirt and pavement.  Owning the same quiet, analytical approach, they worked around a simple strategy of shocks, wheel offsets, and stagger, rarely ever changing a torsion bar at the track.  Starting as underdogs and finishing as favorites, they were consistently in the hunt and showed well in even the most high-profile contests, finishing fourth at the ’87 Kings Royal while also making the ’87 Knoxville Nationals finale.  When quizzed about which statistic impressed him the most in their four full sprint car seasons, Phil is most proud of their consistency as they only missed one feature event in those four years.  But, the ensuing frustration and disappointment endured by his driver after breaking a shoulder in a 1989 Indianapolis 500 practice crash introduced an altogether different dynamic into the team, as this once unbeatable combination suddenly had some not-so-positive distractions impeding its efforts.    

    Still going on to claim some significant scores in the latter stages of that injury-prone 1989 season, at the year’s conclusion the team would disband when Phil wished to spend more time with family while Jeff lost interest in sprint cars due to a sudden Indy car fascination.  However, the car owner and mechanic were talked into one more rodeo with Terry Shepherd, claiming a 1990 All Star Circuit of Champions title without ever winning a feature.  One of their season-ending rewards was a 1991 reverse-tube Gambler chassis, one that Stoops donated to Chesterfield grocery store owner Don Murphy’s ’91 effort.  Poor signed up as mechanic, enjoying a nine-win season with a myriad of drivers including Brent Kaeding and Jack Hewitt.  Reuniting with Butler for the ’92 Silver Crown season, they just nipped Jeff Swindell for the championship after their thrilling triumph in the Eldora season finale.  Steve and Phil’s final score would come in the 1993 Hulman Hundred, the same season in which Butler endured a turbulent sprint car campaign with owner Steve Chrisman that was dotted with several altercations with competitors, frequent ridicule, and a pair of USAC suspensions.  Despite Poor’s urging to stay in the sport, he could not alter Butler’s abrupt decision to hang up his driving gear for good, as he had clearly made up his mind to focus his energies on family and a budding engineering career and wasn’t about to second-guess himself.      

    Four Crown 1989 – The final sprint car victory for the potent Butler/Poor combination came at the 1989 Four Crown Nationals (Randy Jones photo)

    Saddened by the departure of his driver but undeterred in his quest for success, Phil soon followed the former Jarrett Silver Crown car to the Hoffmans, maintaining the machine from his Anderson garage.  In the years that followed he found work with Larry Contos, the Booe Brothers, Bill Biddle, and Don DeSalle, notching his sixth national championship with Contos chauffeur Brian Tyler in 1997.  Despite some assistance from Kevin Eckert’s sprint car database and some stats provided by Patrick Poor, it was difficult to confirm the exact number of sprint car feature wins that came under the guidance of Poor.  Solidly estimating 45 victories with some of the sport’s all-time greats, in addition to Butler and Rice he wound up winning with Brent Kaeding, Jack Hewitt, Johnny Parsons, Derek Davidson, and Dave Darland.   Continuing to roam pit areas as he remains intimately involved, Phil reflected on his highly-productive career, noting, “Everybody races for a different reason.  When I knew that I was going to be able to get a car, I had a game plan.  If I could have five or six good years, that’s all I wanted.  I’m just a guy that had a love for the sport and a burning desire to win, wanting to be the best that I could be.  I was very fortunate to be in the era I was. I couldn’t possibly do what I did in today’s era.” 

    Some ten years after Steve Butler’s 2005 induction into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, his 1989 Stoops Freightliner Gambler joined him in the sprint car capital of the world after a year-long loan from its owner and restorer Phil Poor.  Meticulously recreated with many period-correct components, he completed the project just in time to display the car at the 2015 Four Crown Nationals, commemorating a 30-year anniversary of his monumental ’85 win.  Although his handiwork earns praise for the next twelve months, logic would dictate that Phil’s impressive mechanical achievements should allow him to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on a permanent basis.  Regardless of the tiring and complicated process it takes to reach the ballot, the recollections generated by that red racer are still spectacular, a true representation of a time I personally label as racing’s glory days.  For the man who was ultimately responsible for that machine’s incredible amount of success, it is easy to conclude that Phil Poor would agree that these were his own glory days as well.    

    Four Crown 1985 – Larry Rice piloted Phil’s number six to its first USAC win at the 1985 Four Crown Nationals (Phil Poor collection)

    Wishing to find out what makes this man tick and recount his incredibly rapid rise to open wheel supremacy, on one mid-January afternoon I sat down with Phil and recorded an extensive five-hour question and answer session.  Obviously quite lengthy, this recollection may require more than one sitting to reach the end.  Nevertheless, please enjoy a trip back in time to racing’s glory days.  A special thank you is extended to Phil Poor, Patrick Poor, and Randy Jones, all digging through their archives to produce some special photographic images to add some color to an already colorful period of auto racing.  Taking the liberty of borrowing Wikipedia images of Steve Butler in action at Eldora (1986) and Jacksonville (1987), I apologize in advance if I stepped on any toes in doing so.    

    Ladies and Gentlemen:  let me introduce you to the legend of Phil Poor.  Enjoy! 

    KO:  How many brothers and sisters do you have and where do you fall in the family? 

    Poor:  I only have one brother.  He’s about a year and half or two years older than me.  He graduated in ’59.  There were only two of us in the family.  Keith is my brother.

    KO:  So what was it that first got you interested in automobiles?

    Poor:  It was living in a small community and in that community, there were two racecar owners.  One was Erm McCormick.  He had an old jalopy and a lot of trophies in his garage.  The other one was Leo Store, who had a lot of good racecar drivers that drove for him.  He actually had a sprint car and it had an old flathead Mercury in it.  That’s what got me interested in racecars. 

    KO:  You grew up in Markleville, which is south of Anderson and west of New Castle.  In addition to the people you have already mentioned, didn’t you tell me once that Wayne Alspaugh was another influential racer from the area?    

    Poor:  Wayne was a racer from Madison County and he later ran the Little 500 after I got into racing.  I crossed his path.  And then later in life, I worked with him at General Motors. 

    KO:  In looking at the Little 500 website, I found that Wayne was from Cadiz, a small town between Markleville and New Castle that I am actually familiar with.   Did you spend any time in Wayne’s shop growing up? 

    Poor:  No, I did not. 

    Four Crown 1987 – In an all-too-familiar sight, Rich Vogler and Steve Butler duke it out at the 1987 Four Crown Nationals (Randy Jones photo)

    KO:  I found it interesting that Wayne ran a lot of different stuff, including NASCAR, plus he won the Little 500 in 1958. 

    Poor:  He also was driving Howard Hall’s car the day he lost it coming off of turn four at Winchester and unfortunately killed the car owner that day. 

    KO:  What were your earliest racing memories?

    Poor:  In 1956, I went with Leo Store to Armscamp Speedway and that was the first time he ever competed against a V-8 Chevrolet.  It was like the V-8 Chevrolet had a passing gear and it lapped all the way up to 2nd place.  That’s just how fast it was.  I think that Curley Boyd drove that car or maybe it was Dick Frazier.  I’m not for sure which one.  But, I rode in the back seat of Leo’s ’56 Chevrolet and he towed that car up there on a little open trailer.  

    KO:  Today, Markleville High School is no more, but back when you were a kid they actually had a high school there.  What year did you graduate and what did you decide to do with yourself after high school?

    Poor:  I graduated in 1961 and I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do at that time in my life.  Jobs were plentiful.  My father had a lumberyard and a hardware store.  I didn’t really want to work with him and follow him.  I grew up on a farm.  We farmed and then we moved into town in ’53.  My dad bought that lumberyard and I worked with him basically up to 1961.  Then, I went to Anderson and went to work for Nicholson File.  From there, until I got drafted in 1965, I went to work for General Motors, hoping that I would get through my Army days and possibly return and work at GM.  And, that’s what I did. 

    KO:  Ah, I did not know about the Army deal.  So, when did that start and end?

    Poor:  1965.  That was during the Viet Nam era.  I spent from May of ’65 to April of ’67 in the Army.  Fortunately, I did not get sent to Viet Nam.  I spent some time in the States and then I went to Europe.  I spent 18 months in Europe and got out in ’67.  I went back to General Motors and actively started my racing endeavors at that time. 

    KO:  Were you working at the Guide division or Delco?

    Poor:  I was at Delco Remy.  There were two plants in Anderson.  One was Guide Lamp and the other was Delco Remy. 

    KO:  I’m sure there were a lot of people you worked with who had the racing bug, but how many people can you think of off the top of your head that fit into that category? 

    Poor:  There was one there that I went to some races with early and his name was Bob Lever.  He had a pavement sprint car, the old car that Wayne Alspaugh drove that killed the car owner.  It was built by Howard Hall, who actually worked at Guide Lamp and built most of the driveline for that car in the tool room. 

    Four Crown 1991 - With Jack Hewitt at the controls and Don Murphy paying the bills, Phil Poor claimed his fourth Four Crown sprint car victory in 1991 (Randy Jones photo)


    KO:  So, when you started to get physically involved in racing, what was that capacity? 

    Poor:  Basically, just as a fan.  I went to a lot of the Hoosier Auto Racing Fan club events in those early days, including some of the bus trips.  I carpooled with some of the other guys I worked with.  I can’t think of the one guy’s name, but he actually raced at Lawrenceburg and I met him when I worked at Plant 10.  He had a big 9 passenger Ford Econoline van and a lot of times we would just load it up.  Some of the guys liked racing and some didn’t but we just went all over, from Winchester to Tri-City down around Cincinnati.  We went to Dayton.  We loaded up with a couple cases of beer and off to the races we’d go. 

    KO:  How did you gain your skills and experience as a mechanic/crew chief?

    Poor:  I followed racing and got to hanging in the pits.  Back in those days, you had to be 21, but I was that age.  In my earlier days of going, you couldn’t get in.  You’d go to help somebody or be with a car owner and driver and you’d wind up sitting in the grandstands because they wouldn’t let you in the pits.  It was just an accumulation of a lot of years of being in the pits and wanting to be involved.  I had been wanting to do more than just washing the car or pushing the car out on the track.  So, it just finally came down to the ‘80s.  I got more actively involved in the Kokomo area and it just turned out one night, my wife said, “Quit griping about racecars and go buy you one!”  Two weeks later, and that was in 1985, I bought a racecar.

    KO:  When you bought that car in ’85, was that your first big involvement?

    Poor:  Right.  I got to do what I wanted with the racecar and it’s not that I knew what I needed to do with the racecar prior to that.  But, when you stand back and observe and pay a lot of attention and you canvass the pits – and it’s kind of the old saying ‘monkey-see, monkey-do’ – I guess I was always with the concept of keeping it simple.  If nine out of ten guys are doing the same thing, then why should you be an odd duck?

    KO:  When you first started going to races, what were your racing dreams?  Did you ever have aspirations to drive?

    Poor:  No, I never did.  Somewhere around 1959 to 1960, I bought a go-kart.  One of the early guys that had a sprint car that I hung with, he was a super go-kart driver.  A lot of times, I went to Chicago with him, when they ran the Amphitheater up there.  So, I kind of had a bug for a go-kart and went and raced it maybe three times.  I knew right then that I never had any killer instinct to be a racecar driver.  I was always kind of a mechanical guy because of working with my father and living on a farm, working on tractors and working with your hands.  The mechanical aspect of it, to me, was more interesting than the driving aspect of it.

    KO:  Getting back to the Wayne Alspaugh/Howard Hall incident at Winchester, were you there that day when it happened? 

    Poor:  I was not there that day, but I vividly remember it because of the community and it being in the paper.  Both were from Madison County and it kind of put the end to Wayne’s racing career when that happened.  It happened in ’60 or ’61.

    Four Crown Qualifying 1993 – Clocking quickest and finishing fourth at the 1993 Four Crown Nationals, this was Steve Butler’s second-to-last race with Phil Poor (Patrick Poor collection)

    KO:  I wondered if that accident had an impact on you at the time.

    Poor:  Not so much, because I really didn’t think that much about it because racing was dangerous.  A lot of people lost their lives back in that era and I guess I was never personally connected to any of that.  And, once I started racing myself, I just knew that there was always that possibility and if that did happen, I always thought I would be strong enough to continue on racing. 

    KO:   I think you already answered this earlier, but if asking about your racing involvement in the 1960s, 1970s, and early ‘80s, was it was mainly being a fan and paying very close attention in the pit area?

    Poor:  Right.  And then starting in about the latter ‘70s, I got more into helping and turning some wrenches.  But, the big drawback was that I was always working for somebody that owned and drove the racecar.  In the end, if they weren’t on the same thinking that I was, their decision was the final one and I was just following their lead.  That led up to buying the car when I would always come home on Sunday night and complain.   

    KO:  Who were some of those guys that you were involved with at Kokomo in those late ‘70s/early ‘80s?

    Poor:  I helped Terry Pletch.  Mark Owsley was another – basically anybody that would just let me help on a racecar or be involved.  That wasn’t so much for a long period of time.  I know there were a lot more that I helped, but I was just a helper.  I wasn’t making decisions.  I changed a lot of gears.  I put a lot of fuel in.  I washed a lot of cars.  It was just part of being a crew member.  It was fun.  Chuck Mosley was another guy I helped.  I went to a lot of races with him.  All the guys I normally hung around and helped, they were either entry level or maybe a little above.  I never was fortunate enough to work with someone who was outstanding that I could set back and learn from, like a Karl Kinser, Keith Kunz, or even the Hoffmans, where you raced a lot, where you knew the shocks, you knew what bars were in the car, and you knew wheel offsets.  But where I lived in Anderson, Indiana, you have to realize that I was kind of out of the racing community.  Most of the racers were in and around the Indianapolis area.  But racing was a lot different in the ‘60s and ‘70s compared to today. 

    KO:  I once heard a story from Dave Argabright about a trip that you, Dave and Steve Remington took to Eldora for a big end of season World of Outlaws race at some point in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, which wound up being a very late night. 

    Poor:  In fact, we actually rode in the back of a pickup truck over there.  It was really a warm day.  Dave was getting into racing and Remington was just getting into photography.  I don’t know how we got hooked up together.  I knew Steve from racing and actually Steve worked at GM.  He worked at Delco for a while and then when he got laid off, they picked him up at Guide.  I had that connection with him.  I don’t know if Dave knew Steve through the photos, but at that time, I didn’t really know Dave.  Evidently, I met him through Remington.  I’d go to any race at the drop of a hat.  He just called me that day and wanted to know if I wanted to go.  I asked him how we were going to go and he said that he was driving a pickup.  I said, “Hell, where are we all going to ride?”  He said, “Well, a couple of you will have to ride in the back.”

    Hall of Fame – Shown with National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and museum curator Tom Schmeh, Phil Poor’s restored 1989 Stoops Gambler sprinter is on display for the entire 2016 season in Knoxville, Iowa (Phil Poor collection)

    KO:  He would always take a lot of people with him.  I remember that.

    Poor:  Yeah!  He would take the House boys.  Gary Young would go with him a lot.  In fact, we made a trip to Florida a couple of times in the wintertime.  There was normally just a group of guys that would go.  We weren’t beer drinkers or anything like that – just hardcore racing people.  We were just junkies to racecars I guess.

    KO:  Did you have to ride in the back of that truck on the way home from Eldora?  Was it cold?

    Poor:  Yeah, but it wasn’t cold.  It was warm that night.  But, Argabright rode in the back and we talked a lot.  I don’t know how old I was.  I was in my thirties.  Argabright, I’m sure he’s seven or eight years younger than me.  I’m not even sure. 

    KO:  I know how Steve Remington drove, so if you’re in the back of a pickup truck, that’s kind of crazy!  I’ve been on backroads with him going triple-digit speeds. 

    Poor:  He wouldn’t pay attention, you know what I mean?  He’d talk and his hands would be going off the steering wheel.  He had a sliding glass window in the back of that truck, so we’d be talking back and forth. 

    KO:  I read the story out on Steve Butler’s Wikipedia page about you purchasing all of your equipment in 1985 and becoming a car owner, buying an entire racing operation.  The deal included the car, engine, spares, trailer, and even a rusted out Chevy Suburban tow vehicle. 

    Poor:  Yeah, yeah.  It was a 1973, short wheelbase Suburban.

    KO:  Who did you buy all of the equipment from and how much did you pay for the whole operation? 

    Poor:  I bought that from Mark Owsley.  I was helping Mark at that time.  We were running some winged and non-winged shows.  I think Mark worked for Thrifty Muffler and the guy that owned Thrifty helped him with a little sponsorship.  It was a very clean car.  Ezra Beachy built the motor in that car. The car seemed to want to run and go and Mark was a very nice guy.  You couldn’t ask for a nicer guy.  But, was he a racer?  He had a lot of dreams and aspirations.  But, as far as sitting up in the seat and driving the car hard, like the normal owner/operator deal, when you tear the car up, you have to repair it and you pay all the bills. 

    It got a little frustrating and that’s when he said one night, “I’m just going to sell this old shit box.  I’m tired of fighting it.”  About two weeks later he mentioned it again, and I said, “Well, what would you take for it?”  He said, “I’ll take $15,500.”  I said, “Ok…”  I didn’t say anything else.  The next week at Kokomo, he had a bad night.  He said, “I’m going to get rid of this piece of shit.”  I said, “Well, would you take $12,500 for it?” He said, “No, I can’t do that.”  I wound up giving him $14,500 for it.  It didn’t have a lot of spares.  It had a spare front axle, some shocks, and some torsion bars.  The car was clean.  He did have a few new parts on it.  It was an ’83 Gambler car.  It came with one or two top wings and that old Suburban. I had $500 with me that night, so I put it down on the car. 

    So when I went home that night, I got up the next morning and said to the wife, “What are you going to do tonight?”  She said, “Why?”  I said, “I bought that racecar!”  She said, “Oh no you didn’t!”  I said, “Yeah, I did!  We’ve got to go to Kokomo to pick it up.” 

    I went to the credit union and I had about $25,000 in our life savings.  I took out the $14,000 and raced that car for two years.   By the time I parted the car out – at that time Kenny Jarrett had been helping me and gave me a motor – I got about $17,000 out of everything when I sold it.  I didn’t go into debt all that much.  I think that first year, I lost about $2,300 in my first racing endeavor.  The next year, I lost $3,500, but that was the year I won the USAC championship.  Owning a sprint car is about managing how much you are going to lose. 

    Granite City 1989 – Despite suffering two separate shoulder injuries in the 1989 season, Steve Butler managed to win a pair of USAC features, this one coming at Granite City, Illinois on 9/2/1989 (Phil Poor collection)

    KO:  Compared to the best USAC sprint car racing equipment of the day, how did your stuff rate?

    Poor:  In those days, there were select teams.  Johnny Vance had very nice equipment.  Blackie Fortune had very nice equipment.  The Hoffmans had very nice stuff.  Hampshire had nice equipment.  Probably in the USAC ranks, if you rated zero to ten with ten being the best, I was maybe between a five and a six in equipment. 

    KO:  That ’83 Gambler, was that the car you nicknamed “Ol’ Whitey”?

    Poor:  Yeah, that’s the one we ran in ’85 and ’86 and kept it as a backup when Stoops took over ownership in 1987 when he bought all new Gambler equipment.  At the end of the ’87 season, I sold that car to Steve Imel. 

    KO:  Owsley didn’t like the car, but what was his issue with it? 

    Poor:  I think it was a deal like, you’re a hard-working guy, you don’t make a ton of money, and the racecar took a lot of dedication and effort.  He was not married.  He was fairly young.  He had to be seven, eight, or nine years younger than me.  I think he probably is like a lot of guys.  It’s easy to buy a racecar and want to be a driver and owner, but you have to sacrifice and it’s actually worse than a full-time job.  It was just a combination of everything.  He did have a couple of on-track altercations.  One was with Bob Christian at Paragon and it got very ugly.  I don’t really think that had any bearing on his racing, but I think it’s like a lot of them.  You buy a racecar and then you find out that maybe it’s not the hottest ticket going and you just change direction. 

    Haubstadt 2015 – Phil Poor’s first time to show off his restored 1989 Stoops Gambler sprint car came at Haubstadt, Indiana on Labor Day weekend of 2015 (Phil Poor collection)

    Speaking of Ol’ Whitey, one of my helpers, Bob Fesler, wrote a really cool poem about that ’83 Gambler.    

    Author’s note:  here are the words to that poem written by Fesler, entitled “Ol’ Whitey”:

    He was born to be a winner in Nineteen Eighty-Three

    Down in the Gambler shop in Tennessee

    He’d come north to the clay banks where he earned his fame

    He was a tough old sprint car; “Ol’ Whitey” was his name.

    During his first two years he was relatively obscure

    But he was a potential winner of that you could be sure

    Phil Poor got “Ol’ Whitey” in Nineteen Eighty-Five

    And it seemed with Phil’s touch that he began to come alive.

    Then at the famous Eldora Four Crown later that year

    “Ol’ Whitey” would give his crew two reasons to cheer

    For he broke the track record and won the feature that day

    With Larry Rice driving, Phil picking tires, what more can I say?


    But this arrangement just wasn’t to be

    Cause Phil wanted to run with the winged outlaws you see

    So when Steve Butler’s deal with McGonigal went sour

    Phil had him teamed with “Ol’ Whitey” almost within the hour


    Now Steve will get all a sprint car has got, of that there’s no doubt

    He can bring race fans to their feet with a mighty shout

    So everybody knew when Steve got in “Ol’ Whitey’s” seat

    That Phil, Steve and “Ol’ Whitey” would be very hard to beat.

    All summer long at Springfield, Paragon, Putnamville, or wherever

    Other teams wondered when they could beat these guys, they thought maybe never

    Then when the USAC champions were named later that fall

    They were there, Phil, Steve, and “Ol’ Whitey” standin’ tall.

    As his legend grew the other drivers tried all their tricks

    They were tired of looking at the white tail with the big red six

    But like all warriors he got old and needed to rest

    And all who knew him will remember him as the very best.

    The seasons will come and go and the Gaertes and Shavers will still whine aloud

    And the sprinters will still line up before the cheering crowd

    But those involved that year – Phil, Steve, Jeff, and the crew all feel the same

    They loved that old sprint car – “Ol’ Whitey” was his name.

    Winging It – Phil’s 1983 Gambler, affectionately known as Ol’ Whitey, was quite successful in 1986 winged wars, winning 5 times altogether (Patrick Poor collection)

    KO:  When and where did you debut the car and who was the driver? 

    Poor:  Tray House started off driving that car for me for maybe about eight races.  I can’t remember if it was Putnamville or Paragon that we took it to for the first time, but I do know that in the first five races that we ran, our fifth race was the USAC race at Danville and we ran fifth.  And, in those first four nights out, we ran three seconds and a third.  That pretty well showed me that the car was capable of racing.  And Tray was a decent little driver.  He was up and coming and had a lot of desire.  I think we did run up until Santa Fe and that was the turning point.  Our performance started dropping.  I had always said to myself that I was going to get the best available driver on the market.  I’m not going to lock myself in.  I never thought about sponsorship money.  When watching a lot of racers and being around a lot of racers, I thought that if you didn’t have talent in the seat, then it didn’t make any difference in what else you’ve done, you were only going to be mediocre.  And only one car could win each night.  That’s kind of the theory.  But when I bought that car in ’85, I just had to test the waters to really see if I needed to continue on and try to improve, seek sponsorship, and seek drivers. That first season of about 21 to 25 races, it was just a learning curve. 

    KO:  So you had Tray behind the wheel and like you, he was from the Anderson area, Chesterfield to be exact.  How did you get to know Tray?

    Poor:  Yeah, Tray was a Madison County racer and I had known his dad Kermit, who had raced a little bit.  Like anybody, if you’re interested in racing you know the local racers.  You might stop by their shop.  Racing people are kind of different.  You talk about racing and you don’t talk about too many other things. 

    KO:  Was Tray a gasser when he was in your car?  Did you have to calm him down at all?

    Poor:  No.  That wasn’t an issue with Tray.  It was a family issue.  When I hired Tray, I said to him, “I don’t know everything about racecars.  I will do whatever you feel like the racecar needs to have done to it.  If we go faster, then we both learn.  If we go slower, then we just made a bad decision.”  I said to him, personally, “I want that decision to come from you, from the seat of your pants, about what that car feels like.”  I made that very clear to him up front.  Shortly after, other family members came into the picture and it wasn’t so much what the driver wanted to do, it was what the other family members told him to come and tell me.  Our performance started dropping off, so I decided I was going to make a change.  I didn’t have anybody lined up.  But after the Santa Fe race, I just parted ways.  I don’t know if the racecar maybe sat another week, but then I started getting phone calls.

    Eldora 1999 – At the season-opening USAC sprint car meet in 1999, Phil and Derek Davidson were winners for Bill Biddle (Phil Poor collection)

    KO:  I saw that Steve Butler drove it at Kokomo in a USAC race, but I recently heard you tell the story of your first interaction with Butler a few years before, when you were hanging out at Kokomo, watching him race.  Can you relay that story again? 

    Poor:   He had his own car and he would stand on the gas and run the car hard.  One time, it would push and once in a while, he would get it into the turn.  But for some reason, there was a red flag and I was in the infield.  I don’t know why I was in the infield, but anyway, I walked up and stuck my head in the car.  Of course he was huffing and a puffing and trying to think, but I stuck my head in the car and I said, “You’re letting out of the gas too soon and you’re getting back in the gas and making the car drive straight.  Just drive it in three car lengths harder, turn it and stand on the gas!”  He just kind of looked at me like, “Who’s this crazy guy standing there?”  That was the first interaction I had with Steve and I don’t know what year it was.  It was the first year he started racing with that car that he mortgaged the house for, so I don’t know if it was ’83 or ’84.  I had watched Steve race in those early years and you could tell he had a lot of desire and a lot of potential.  I’m not sure if I ever talked to him the rest of that year, unless we just passed each other in the pits.

    KO:  Later in life, a lot of people said that Butler had an early reputation for being a wild man, taking people out with his hard driving and slide jobs.  Do you think his reputation was fairly placed upon him?  Or was it just people’s memories of one or two races and blowing it out of proportion? 

    Poor:  Yes, I think that’s a pretty correct statement.  You’ve been around racing…a guy that owns his own car and works on his own car and races his own car…I can’t think of anybody right now that drives a racecar or even after the years that I worked with him that drove a racecar like he did.  He drove a racecar to win, to go forward, and to get the best performance out of that racecar.  Most guys that own a racecar and drive a racecar won’t run the car on the ragged edge. They’ve got a safety zone and it’s pretty big.  Steve was never that way.  Being the racer that he was and driving the car as hard as he did, sure he did stand out in bumping a few guys, but he didn’t give an inch.  He stayed right in there.  Ultimately, that helped fine tune his driving skills.  And like he said to me once, it took him a while to learn how to win.  If it hadn’t have been for his wife and if it hadn’t been for Bud Whitacre coming along, he said he would have probably went out of the racing game long before he could ever develop those skills.

    KO:  Was that USAC race at Kokomo in 1985 the first time you worked with Steve? 

    Poor:  I don’t really know.  I can’t think when the first time was.  I can’t think of where we finished that night at Kokomo…

    Eldora 1991 – Wrenched by Phil Poor, Bobby Davis, Jr. drove the pristine Murphy 23 at the April 1991 Word of Outlaws meet at Eldora Speedway (Kevin Oldham photo)

    KO:  17th.

    Poor:  Ok.  I think we did have a problem.  But the first night that he drove my car, I think we ran Kokomo and we were leading and running away with the feature.  And, we broke a set of gears in the car.  I think I had five sets of gears, so I was down to four.  I took the rest and got them magnufluxed, and I had to buy three more sets because I only had one good set.  I don’t know if anyone had ever run the car as hard as Steve did on that given night, so it showed that it had some weak points right away.  Right away, I did update a few things on that car.

    KO:  An additional question on your first night with Butler:  were there certain things that you learned from working with him that made you want to work with him again?   

    Poor:  It was just a combination of a lot of things.  Seeing Steve run in his early days and seeing him run his own equipment, I saw him run a couple of other guys’ cars off and on.  I knew if I could financially stay afloat and could have that caliber of driver, whether it was Steve or not, I could have some success.  I didn’t really know that Steve was going to wind up and drive for me.  It was just that a lot of circumstances took place. 

    But, did I learn anything that night?  One thing I did learn:  every time you go to the races, there might be multiple cars that can win, but there are only a select few drivers that can get the job done.  He gave me that mental impression that if you want to have any success and win some races, whenever there is a better driver available out there and he is seeking a ride, then you better get on the phone and get ahold of him.  You better not be afraid to make a change.  This is not a lifetime commitment.  It’s like, if I can afford to do this another ten races, I’m going to do it.  If I run out of money, then I’m going to have to quit.  Do I take a chance of winning one race out of ten more?  You’ve just got to do what is necessary to survive in racing.  All good racecar drivers understand that. 

    KO:  Eventually Larry Rice drove your car at the Eldora Four Crown and won the feature, ironically beating Butler who was driving for George Toney.  What things still stick out from that win at Eldora? 

    Poor:  Well, I had begged Butler to run the car over there but he had that commitment with George Toney and Kenny Jarrett because of the fact that the Silver Crown car was available and they had the sprint car too, even though I think they only ran that car 12 races.  Steve wanted to drive the car but he had that commitment and I’m sure he looked at the total package of the equipment they had, plus maybe he had the opportunity to continue to race with them next year.  Like I say, they were in a range of a nine with their equipment while I was a five or a six.  That’s what drivers look at.  Do you have the equipment to get the job done?  I think that was one of the reasons that he did not run for me.  Another thing, for the following year, he had already been talking to Jim McQueen and McGonigal Buick owner Fenton Gingerich.  Steve worked as a technician at the McGonigal dealership and they had been promising him that they were going to buy him new cars and new motors and go do the whole USAC deal.  He had that going for him.  It came down to a question of who I was going to put in my car. 

    I called Steve and asked him one more time to drive my car.  He said, “I’d love to, but I can’t.”  I asked him – who should I call?  He said, “Why don’t you call Larry Rice?”  I said that I wasn’t sure he’d want to drive my racecar.  He said, “Call him.  He’s going to run a Silver Crown car over there and he’s liable to drive your car.” 

    I had already entered the car but didn’t have a driver.  I had a couple of guys call me and I even thought about calling Bigelow, because Bigelow ran Eldora pretty hard but was kind of at the end of his racing career.  So, I did call Larry and he wasn’t too gung-ho to drive the car.  Then, he said, “Have you had anybody else drive the car for you?”  I said, “Yeah, I’ve had Steve Butler drive for me a couple of times.”  He said, “Well, he’s a pretty good driver.  Have you ran well?”  I said, “Yeah, we’ve ran well.” I think he had seen the car around at a few races.  But I think he got to thinking that he had nothing to lose, since he was going to be there that day.

    I just recently learned at this past Four Crown that the day he drove my car, that was the first date he had with his future wife.  He had the first date and he won the Four Crown, which was the last sprint car race he won.  That was three big things all rolled into one. 

    Eldora 1986 – At the season-concluding Four Crown Nationals, Steve Butler and Phil Poor wrapped up their first title with the United States Auto Club (Wikipedia photo)

    KO:  That WAS a big deal then.  I see the picture you have of victory lane and I see Robbie Rice in the picture.

    Poor:  I gave that trophy to Robbie at Kokomo a few years ago, which was a very cool day.

    KO:  Was that your first feature win as a car owner/mechanic or did you win a race somewhere locally in that ’85 season before then? 

    Poor:  We had won a race at Warsaw.  I think I won three races in ‘85.  Two with Butler and one with Larry Rice.  But to get back to your question about what stood out about Eldora, it was probably the day that got me hooked up with Jeff Stoops in the endeavor, even though I had known him and been to some races together.  Winning that race that day, with him sitting in the grandstands with his family, was a special deal.  But one of the things that stood out was Rice climbing in the car and asking him what he wanted.  He said, “I don’t know.  All I can do is drive a racecar and I can tell you if it feels good or bad.  But to tell you what needs to be done to that racecar, I can’t help you.” 

    But, he went out and set a new track record that day.  I’m not sure if we had to run a qualifying race or if we ran well in a qualifying race, but we were locked in.  But what actually won the race that day – and Rice, he’s a good driver and I’m not taking anything away from Rice - but the only thing that won that race that day for us was the right rear tire.  Steve and I had run Parkersburg, West Virginia about two weeks before that.  It was a winged All Star show.  We bought that tire over there to run, and we never got to use it.

    KO:  Was it a day show over at Parkersburg?

    Poor:  Yes.  And this tire was actually the compound that a Silver Crown car would use on the left rear.  It was a D1B.  And McCreary only made about five or six of those tires.  It had no tread pattern on it.  It had the rings around it, but it never had any cross grooves in it.  I grooved that tire into bigger blocks, because that track was hard and black that day.  If any capable driver…and I always laughed about this, because Duke Cook had called me to drive the car and of course I had already talked to Larry who had committed. I didn’t tell Duke who was going to run the car, but I have often told people that if Duke Cook had run the car that day over there, he would have won that race too, solely because of that right rear tire. 

    Butler came down and asked me what we were going to run for a tire.  He was impressed that we had set fast time and were starting sixth.  He was starting right in front of us.  I told him that we were going to run that D1B.  He asked if I thought it was going to work.  I said, “I think that tire will win the race today!”  And Butler had one of those tires with him that day in Kenny Jarrett’s trailer for the Silver Crown car.  I asked him what he was going to run, and he said the MC-2, which was a typical tire for that day. 

    The sprint car race was over and Butler came down again and asked what I thought about what to run for the Silver Crown race.  I said, “You better look at that tire over there.”  He said, “Oh shit, we don’t have one of those tires.”  I said, “Yes, you do.”  He said, “I think we’re just going to run an MC-3.”  That’s when Rice and LeFevre came down and asked if I could help with their car.  I said, “I can’t help you.”  Then, it got down to tires and they were running Hoosiers, because they were free.  I said, “You need to put McCrearys on because they are going to win the race today.”  They said, “Well, we don’t have time to do that.”  I said, “Just take the tires off the back of this sprint car.” 

    So, he started 20th in the Silver Crown race and won it.  He passed Butler and Rickey Hood – he passed both and went on to win the Silver Crown race on the same set of tires.  That was his last sprint car feature win and one of his last wins in the Silver Crown (he won in 1987 at Tampa and the Four Crown again). 

    Du Quoin 1995 – Phil and Johnny Parsons, Jr. were Ted Horn 100 winners at Du Quoin on Labor Day 1995 (Phil Poor collection)

    KO: How did those tires look after the Silver Crown race? Did they show any wear in the sprint car deal?  Were they pretty well worn after 50 laps of Silver Crown action? 

    Poor:  LeFevre said to me and Rice, “Well, we’ve got to run 50 laps.”  I said, “That tire will run 100 laps, easily.”  We just ran 30, and then they put another 50 on it.  It probably had another 20 laps left in it.  A lot of the guys that ran softer tires, they had flat tires and had to pull off.  Butler made it on an MC-3, but had he run that D1B and starting up front, he might have come close to lapping up to Larry Rice, who would have run second. 

    KO:  So that was a considerably harder tire than the MC-3?

    Poor:  Oh yeah.  It’s normally a Silver Crown left rear and the right rear is normally harder than the left rear.  I don’t think anybody ever ran a D1B.  I’m not sure if McCreary ever made any more D1Bs after that small run that they had.  The tire was the dominating thing that got that first national USAC win for me. 

    Cutting the Grass – Diving underneath Rich Vogler at IRP, Steve Butler shows his signature grass cutting maneuver (Randy Jones photo)

    KO:  Just how big of a deal was that win at Eldora?  A lot of people go through life and never have any success at that track.  Were there any big celebrations afterwards or were you more composed and focused on getting to the next race? 

    Poor:  Well, that was the end of the season.  I don’t drink, but there might have been a beer or two down there.  There was a lot of celebrating, you know what I mean?  I was really pumped up for the sponsor.  When I saw him (Jeff) come running down out of the grandstands, trying to get across the track, I knew right then that next year was going to be a bigger year because the commitment was there.  Rice was pumped up and looking at possibly being in that car next year.  It was the first time that I really knew that Butler was wanting to race with me. 

    (Motioning with his hands) Rice was here…and Butler was here.  And anytime Rice would walk around here, Butler would walk around here.  And then Butler said later on, “Oh, I don’t know why I didn’t drive that car!”  He was making excuses, but he felt that should have been him winning that race.

    That let me know that Steve liked the idea of working with me.  We did work well together.  I never put any pressure on him.  I never pointed any fingers at him.  That’s one of the things that Steve learned by working with me and with Jeff as a car owner. Steve had told me this many times, but he told me that I made him feel like family.  Everybody else made him feel like an employee.  If things don’t work well, then they’re wanting to get rid of him.  I would always say, “We’ll get ‘em next week!”

    I guess those are some of the highlights of that race. 

    KO:  It was a big deal.

    Poor:  It WAS a big deal. My dream of owning a racecar and doing well, it kind of all came together at the end of the year which led into ’87 and through 1990. 

    KO:  I am more familiar with Rice's success in the midgets and Silver Crown cars, but in the sprint cars, I imagine he was equally skilled and underrated.  What things did you like about Rice that made him different than other drivers you had in your car at that time?

    Poor:  Actually, Rice drove that car twice for me.  He opened up the following year at Eldora for me.  I think we ran sixth that day.  I’m not sure why we ran a little bit further back.  Maybe we qualified late and started a little further back in the field.  Racing is a tough deal.  You’ve got to have some breaks.  You’ve got to have some things go right.  But, the racetrack was just different that day.

    Some things I liked about Larry were that he was easy to work with.  He was the kind of guy who was accustomed to stepping into a guy’s car and just running it.  He was just a very pleasant, easy-going guy.  He wasn’t demanding.  But when you step into a guy’s car one time, you can’t really say that you want this and you want that.  Who really knows?  He went into unchartered waters.  I knew he could get the job done if everything went well.  It was just a day when everything went well.  He left happy.  I left happy.  We all had that five or ten minutes of fame and we all went down the road.  Probably the thing that surprised me when we came back and ran that Eldora race in ’86, I said, “What can we do to make it better?”  He said, “I don’t really know.  I just know when it feels good or bad.”  I wasn’t disappointed, but now I’ve got to make a decision. 

    Later, when working with Steve, with his ability, his mind, and his thinking, a lot of that came from when you work on your own car and you have that type of memory where you can pick through things.  That came from his engineering background.  He would pick a race track apart.  We either need a little less stagger or a little more stagger.  We either need more right rear weight or I just wasn’t on the racetrack where I needed to be.  But, I can’t complain about Larry. 

    After that first race of ’86, it didn’t work out well for Butler and McGonigal.  He called and asked, “Hey, would you put me in your car and try to hang in there and do the season?”  I said, “Get down here!”

    BK – Posing here at Eldora, Brent Kaeding was Phil’s driver for the 1991 CRA Midwestern Tour, winning earlier in the week at Hales Corners (Kevin Oldham photo)

    KO:  You mentioned about Jeff Stoops that you had known him before the ’85 Four Crown.  How did you convince him to sponsor you?

    Stoops:  Well, Jeff was four years behind me in school.  His parents and my parents were good friends.  We were from a little community that had 500 residents.  Everybody knew everybody.  He was a school teacher.  After I had gotten out of the Army in ’67, by that time he had just gotten out of college.  He had started teaching school.  He might have started at Markleville.  I got him to go to a couple of races with me.  We did go on a couple of HARF trips to the Silver Crown races.  I remember going to Du Quoin.  We might have gone to Milwaukee too.  But, he kind of liked racing.  He started the trucking business.  I was working nights at the factory and working days for an electrician.  We were working over at his terminal in Daleville.  I hadn’t seen Jeff for maybe a year and a half or two years.  Both of us had gotten busy.  Life had changed. 

    So, I thought I would see if he was in his office, to say hello and chat a little bit.  His secretary said that he was busy but I said, “Tell “Oog” that “Jock” is out here (that was my nickname in school).”  She said, “I can’t do that.”  I said, “Just tell him.  If he’s got time, he’ll come out.”  So she went in and told him.  He stuck his head out and told me not to leave.  I went in and talked to him and said, “I’d really love to buy a racecar but I don’t have any money.  If someone would just help me!”  He said, “Well, I don’t have time to do that.”  He gave me about six or seven different excuses.  But what I didn’t know, he had sold his truck line to Burlington Northern Railroad.  He had gotten his first half of the initial millions of dollars, but he never did tell me how much.  He had a lot of money and he wanted to do something different. 

    This whole deal with Mark Owsley happened to fall a week or two after that conversation.  I had bought that racecar and ran it five races or so.  One day he called and I was out in the garage working.  My wife said someone was on the phone and he wanted to talk to me right quick. 

    I came in and answered it and as soon as I said hello and he spoke, I knew who it was.  He said, “Hey, hey, I’m ready to go racing!”  I said, “Racing?  What do you mean racing?”  He said, “I would consider helping or getting a racecar.”  And I said, “Why?”  He said, “Well, I sold my truck line.  I couldn’t tell you that day.  I had to keep it confidential until we closed the deal.  I’m unemployed right now!” 

    I said, “I don’t need you now!”  He said, “WHAT?  Why?”  I said, “I bought a racecar about a month ago and I’ve already run it three or four or five times.”  He said, “You’ve got to be shitting me!  Well, where is it at?”  I said, “It’s sitting here in my garage.”  He said, “You’re lying to me.”  I said, “No, I’m not.  I don’t need you anymore.  I don’t need your money.  I’m having a lot of fun.”  He said, “I’ll be over there in 15 minutes.” 

    It wasn’t 15 or 20 minutes and he was over in my garage.  Then we went into the house and my wife made us something to eat.  He wanted me to come over to his house the next day and meet his wife and figure out what I needed.  That’s how it all got started with Jeff. 

    Another highlight, and I’m sure this happened before at Eldora, but we won that race at Warsaw.  I think it was the season championship.  It paid $1,800.  He took his wife and his family.  And Steve and I had run somewhere before, maybe on a Friday night, and we came and ran that winged show.  We won that show.  So Jeff said to me, “What can I do?”  I said, “Well, go get the pay!”  So he went up and got $1,800 and he had a big ol’ cigar sticking out there, counting that money and everything.  I knew right then that he really liked that.  And then when we won that Eldora race, I knew that he was hooked and wanted to race. 

    We went and ran the ’86 season.  If you ever knew Jeff, he never had a thing out of place.  He liked nice stuff.  So, that’s when he said to me, “Let’s go run some bigger races.  Let’s run some of them Outlaw shows.”  By that time, he ordered Speed Sport News and he had people talking to him.  I told him that I couldn’t afford to do all that.  So that’s when he said at the end of the ’86 season, “You just sell everything and I’ll buy all new stuff and we’ll just go racing. And, we’ll just call it our racing operation.”  That’s how it led into the ’87, ’88, and ’89 seasons.  Then, he got interested in the Indy car deal. 

    But getting back to when Butler came to run for me, by that time, I knew that Jeff had talked about doing the Indy deal at some point.  I said to Steve when he came to run for me, “Do you ever have any desire to run Indy?”  He said, “Oh man, that would be a dream!”  I said, “If you hang around long enough, you just might have that opportunity.”  It never really registered with Steve what I was talking about. 

    But then when ’89 came around and that came into play, Jeff said to me, “What do you think if I just stick Steve in the car?”  I said, “I don’t think you can go wrong.”  Steve said to me, “I remembered that day you said that to me, but it never dawned on me that it would come true.”

    1992 Headline – This National Speed Sport News clipping from 1992 speaks of Phil’s Silver Crown title with Steve Butler and car owner Kenny Jarrett (courtesy Patrick Poor)

    KO:  For 1986, again you had Ol' Whitey as your chassis, Jeff Stoops as a sponsor, and you suddenly had Steve Butler as your driver.  Were there any upgrades made to your equipment to make a run at the USAC title? 

    Poor:  I think Beachy worked on that motor one time in ’85.  In 1986, I had one issue with it and I took it up to Earl Gaerte and had it freshened.  But as far as any major things I did different, I had an old Jones rear end in there.  I think Joe Roush at that time had worked for Jones and he went through it for me.  But, it was kind of like at the end of the season, you go through everything and clean it up, you repaint it.  I did get hooked up with Pro Shocks at that time.  Pro furnished the shocks, but I think I ran the same basic setup.  I did put new bars in the car.  I got with KSE and they went through the steering.  But, there weren’t any major upgrades.  It ran good and worked good.  Back in those days, you could get by a little better.  Things weren’t as light on the cars.  Things were more durable.  You had steel bolts.  Safety equipment like the bead locks were basically new.  It wasn’t like everything was throwaway.  You could refurbish things.  And then later when things got lighter, you couldn’t run them as long.  It was just a different era and a different mentality in racing. 

    KO:  Summarizing the ’86 USAC season, you had 2 wins, 2 seconds, 3 thirds, and 1 fourth place finish, which was enough to knock Rick Hood off the throne.  I know Hood switched rides in ’86, starting with Galen Fox and ending up back with Blackie Fortune.  What memories of that '86 season stand out?  Beating Rick Hood or Vogler had to be a special deal.

    Poor:  It was a lot of perseverance.  Hard-nosed racing.  We only broke a couple of times that year.  We were consistent and in the hunt all of the time. To some of those guys, we were the underdogs.  One race that really stood out was Paragon, where a lot of guys would have loaded up, put it on the trailer, and scratched for the night.  But, we were running well. 

    Steve said to me, “Something is amiss in the rear end of this car.  Something changed.  Something is not right.”  So, I got the flashlights out and I got to looking, and I looked at the right rear corner of the car, and both tubes were broken.  The welds had broken from the main cage and that’s what he was feeling in the car. 

    He said, “Oh shit!  All I’m going to be able to do is start and have to pull in.”  I said, “No.  We’re going to get something done.”  He said, “What are you going to do?”  I said, “Well, I don’t think we’ve got time, but I’m going to get something and try to hold this thing together.”  So, I wound up and got three muffler clamps off of the stock car guys. I bolted those things on and pulled them down on the right rear corner and we won that race that night.  I don’t know if it was Blackie Fortune or Hoffman had come around, but one of them said, “How do you guys get that piece of shit going so fast?  I spend all of this money to have all of the nicest, latest equipment and you guys just wax our ass week in and week out.”  That was one of the highlights of that year.  Just racing and being competitive, my goal was to be competitive.  If we were competitive, I was really on a high.  Or even when we left the racetrack and we knew what we did wrong, it was equally as rewarding.

    KO:  Was there anything that surprised you about working with Butler on a full-time basis? 

    Poor:  No, because I wasn’t a hardened, seasoned racer/car owner/mechanic.  Everything was new and an adventure.  Did I know guys could be pricks?  I saw guys throw fits, quit, and point fingers.  I was just so amazed that Steve could give such good guidance and feedback.  I had stated my philosophy to him and he didn’t point any fingers when we ran bad.  And, he didn’t take all the credit when we ran good.

    1990 Headline – This National Speed Sport News clipping from 1990 highlights Phil’s All Star Circuit of Champions title with Terry Shepherd (courtesy Patrick Poor)

    KO:  It sounded like a pretty good marriage.

    Poor:  Right, and he expressed that to me in words and also in sending me e-mails and letters in recent years.  In the last one I got from Steve about a month ago, he said, “I wish I could have ended my sprint car career racing with you.”

    KO:  To win the ’86 title with USAC, I am curious as to what that paid.  Were you the car owner champion too?

    Poor:  Yes.  Back then you’d get a lot of certificates from Earl’s and other different vendors.  I can’t go back and tell you how much we won from winning the title.  And, I can’t even recall if I figured that amount into the budget that year or not.  But if I got a total of $4,500, I might have been lucky.  It wasn’t huge.  It really was irrelevant.  It was the thrill of victory/agony of defeat.  If I had gotten nothing, I still would have come back and raced the next year.

    KO:  That had to be a pretty big high.  One year after becoming a car owner, you’re a USAC champion.  That was almost unheard of.  Was it the same feeling from winning that first USAC race at Eldora? 

    Poor:  Yes.  It was good.  I never really felt like I needed to be up on the podium.  I just wanted to race.  Doing well meant a lot, but winning a championship, to me it wasn’t a big deal because there was always the next race that you had to go to.  In racing, you’re a hero one day and a zero the next.  It was just like a rollercoaster.  You only had five minutes of fame when you won.  And if you didn’t run well, you just went home, sulked a little bit, tried to pick up from there, and went on to the next race. 

    KO:  Were there any other races that stood out in that ’86 season?

    Poor:  We got second in a race on a Friday night at Little Springfield.  Then, Butler ran the Silver Crown race on Saturday at the Springfield mile.  He crashed early in the race, so we hauled ass to Putnamville.  That was the night we broke Bob Kinser’s winning streak.  We pulled in about the time qualifying was over.  The old Suburban was smoking because I drove as hard as it would run.  We started the car with the wing on to get heat in the motor.  We took the wing off and taped the wing cylinder to the roll cage and only had time to change the left rear.  They gave us one lap and we qualified 6th quick.  You could not ask for anything better!  We started on the pole and won the thing.    

    I also remember a couple of wins at the end of ’86 at Little Springfield – it was their Shaheen Super Weekend.  Danny Lasoski ran second on both nights.   Butler put slide jobs on him both nights and won.   It was $2,500 to win on both nights.  That last trophy is in the Sprint Car Hall of Fame.  Jeff Stoops has the other one.  There were a lot of heavy hitters there for that weekend.  I still remember standing in line with Butler to collect the pay and getting razzed by other drivers about our old car kicking ass.   

    KO:  Over the '86 off-season, Jeff Stoops was apparently excited as he took over ownership of the team and spent some serious money, upgrading with brand new Gambler chassis – those were the downtube cars.  Did you have Shaver engines as well?   

    Poor:  Yes.  I think in ’87, we bought one or two Shaver motors.  And then through ’87 I kept the steel motor that Kenny Jarrett had given us because at that time, you couldn’t run an aluminum motor in USAC until 1988.  Even if you did run an aluminum motor, like with the All Stars, you had to add 60 pounds.  And then there were some tracks that wouldn’t even let you run an aluminum motor, period.  And we ran into that in ’87.  We ran an All Star show over in Illinois.  And we called Gas City, which was a Sunday afternoon, the first winged show they ever ran.  We called, and they said we could run the aluminum engine.  Well, when we got over there, then everybody complained that we were running an aluminum motor.  So they made us pull it out and I had to put the old steel motor in the car right there at the racetrack.  We actually won that day.  We either beat Kelly or Randy Kinser. 

    1988 Headline – This National Speed Sport News clipping from 1988 tells of Phil’s third consecutive USAC sprint car title with Steve Butler (courtesy Patrick Poor)

    KO:  Were the truck and trailer new for ’87 as well?

    Poor:  Boles Chevrolet came on board.  That’s why I had them on the car, because they furnished the tow truck.  They never furnished any money.  Actually, Willie Boles and Jeff took the truck and drove to Texas and picked up a new Chaparral trailer. 

    KO:  That was state of the art for World of Outlaws teams back then.

    Poor:  Yes.  It was an old heavy trailer, but if you had a Chaparral trailer, you had a top of the line unit. 

    KO:  So for that ’87 year, did you quit your job at GM to go racing full-time? 

    Poor:  No.  I think in ’87, I took maybe about two months off from General Motors.  I took 29 days off and then I’d have to go back and work one day out of the month to keep my insurance going.  But through ’87 and ’88, I’d done about the same thing.  And then in ’89 when things got a little slower with the sprint car, I didn’t do that.  We didn’t run near as many shows.  Did I have to take that work off?  I probably wouldn’t have had to.  By that time, I had probably close to 30 days that I could have taken off. 

    KO:  So you would have started off ’87 down in Florida.  I know USAC had a sprint car race on the half-mile at Tampa.

    Poor.  Right.  And we ran Volusia County.  Actually at Volusia County, we burned a piston and we had to come to Tampa and pull the heads off the car in the parking lot.  Shaver got us hooked up with someone in the Tampa area that welded the head up and milled it for us, and then we put it back on.  Then we went over to East Bay and that one USAC show.  We didn’t win that show, but I think we ran in the top-five that day.

    KO:  Compared to ol’ Whitey, which you said was an ’83 Gambler, the ’87 was a revolutionary car in that it the first mass-produced downtube chassis.  I remember Karl Kinser did some R&D on it during their west coast swing at the end of the ’86 season.  But, what made those ’87 Gamblers better?  Were they indeed better?

    Poor:  I don’t know that they were a better car.  I think what really caught us by surprise, we worked with minimal equipment in ’86 and had a lot of success.  Then when we came into the ’87 season, with new motors, new cars, and everything brand new, we thought that we might go out and kick a lot of butt.  That didn’t so much translate to that, although we did step up our game.  We did more All Star shows and bigger winged shows.  What we forgot to take into consideration:  the level we stepped up to, those guys already had been at that level for several years and were very tough.  But even just dominating the USAC deal, we didn’t so much do that.  We had good days and bad days.  It wasn’t a total cakewalk.  Whether it was any better or any worse, I sat back and I thought of that.  If we could have had Shaver motors in the ’86 era running the winged shows, we might have been very dominant with the All Stars.  As it was, I think we won two or three All Star shows in ’86.

    1986 Headline - This National Speed Sport News clipping from 1986 details Phil’s first USAC championship (courtesy Patrick Poor)

    KO:  Going back to ’87, in the month of May, you scored two USAC wins at Terre Haute, one of them being the Hulman Classic, which was still a very prestigious race to win and goes back to 1971.  What did it mean to you to win at Terre Haute?  You’d already won at Eldora, but Terre Haute is also a special place full of history.

    Poor:  Terre Haute was always a big race.  It was a big deal as it was very prestigious.  Once again, it was a learning curve.  We were a McCreary tire team but we had ran some Goodyears with the wings and when we came to Terre Haute that year, there’s only two occasions that stand out in my mind in my racing career that I picked a tire that I knew would be a dominant tire.  One was Eldora and the other two were Terre Haute. 

    I said to Steve, “We can win here today, but we’ve got to run a Goodyear.”  And he said, “We can’t run that Goodyear, or we’ll lose our tire deal.”  I said, “Well, do you want to win the race, or do we worry about the tire deal?”  And he said, “I want to win this race.”  I said, “We’re going to have to run a 40 Goodyear.”  And he said, “Well, why would you run that 40 Goodyear?”  I said, “Because it’s a hard-ass tire and you’re going to be up above that cushion, running, and you’re going to need it up there.”  And he said, “Well, if you think we need to do that, let’s do that.” 

    So I had run a McCreary in the preliminaries and when it came time for the feature and I would jack the car up, Steve would always say, “What are you doing?”  When I jacked the car up that day, he knew what I was going to do.  At feature time, we rolled out to go with that McCreary tire.  And at the last minute, I said to myself that we’ve got to put that tire on or we aren’t going to win today.  Or, we may win, but we’ve got a better shot at winning.  So I jacked it up and stuck that 40 Goodyear on there and we went out there and just ran away with it.  He got up above the cushion and could stand on the gas.  That old hard tire wouldn’t give in, it would just spin. We pulled into victory lane and I saw John Summers running down, because John was the McCreary rep before he went to Hoosier.  He ran up there because he was all excited.  Then he saw that Goodyear on there and the first thing that came out of his mouth was, “What in the HELL are you doing?”  I said, “Hey, we had to!”  Oh, and he was just furious!  Come the next race, we had another Goodyear on and we won both of them at Terre Haute.  That was two races where it was a tire pick that day.  Had we not crashed or broke, we were going to win that race.  We might have been the only guy on a Goodyear.  I think Kenny Jacobs was also on Goodyears that day and if he was, he was probably running a soft one. 

    KO:  So other than the tire at Terre Haute, how big was the setup?  Was that key or was it just Butler being brave enough to run the cushion? It was a day show and back then on those day shows, the track was rough. 

    Poor:  Butler liked to go up above the cushion.  Nobody else did.  Our biggest deal with the racecar was, we never changed it much.  We very seldom ever changed a torsion bar in the car.  We just worked around shocks, tire offsets, and stagger.  We never deviated from that.  The days that we started off fairly well, we were probably pretty dominant by the end of the night.  The days that we started off terrible, we either got a bad draw for qualifying and started 13th or 14th, but it wouldn’t have mattered what we did to the racecar.  Changing bars or changing this or that, we just could never play catch up.   You might be able to get up to the top-five, but you couldn’t win.

    KO:  In ’87, USAC started sanctioning winged sprint car races, which worked out nicely for you and Steve as you had already won some All Star shows the year before and you ran well in quite a few World of Outlaws shows. One of the more noteworthy performances for you was a 10th to 4th run at the Kings Royal, coming on strong at the end of that race.  Back then, that race was just as big as Knoxville and everyone was there.  I would think that was a satisfying performance, but how did you and Steve feel afterwards? 

    Poor:  Oh yeah!  That was our first premier World of Outlaws race that we tried.  And actually, we had passed Steve Kinser for third and maybe would have gotten second had it not been for a late caution.  Steve Kinser just rolled the wing back and when they dropped the flag, he drove back around him. 

    But there was one thing that we did do there that helped and again it was with tires.  I told Steve that McCrearys were not doing well there that day.  It’s all Goodyears.  If you went fast, you went on Goodyears.  And he said, “Can we get a set of Goodyears?”  I told him, “I really would hate to have to buy a set, just to run this one race.”  I don’t know who we were pitted next to, but he said, “Hey, I’ve got a set of 20 Goodyears, and they’re the right stagger.  If you guys want to put them on, put ‘em on.”  I said, “What do you want for them?”  He said, “I don’t want anything for them.”  I don’t know who gave them to us.  It was just some Outlaw team.  I told Steve that we should give it a try.  I don’t know if we left the McCrearys on the front, but the track turned so slow and slick that day, you would have never been able to guess that’s what you would have needed.  And those tires were already cured, and that was just a miracle.  If we would have run the McCrearys, we might have went backwards.  We might have been 17th or 22nd.  It was a big day.

    Pushing Off – Phil waits to be pushed off in his restored Stoops sprinter at Haubstadt, Indiana (Phil Poor collection)

    KO:  After the Kings Royal came Knoxville and you and the team towed out there for the Nationals.  Was that the first time to run Knoxville for both of you?

    Poor:  That was the first time that either one of us had seen that track.  Although Steve’s grandparents lived north at Newton, I don’t think Steve had even been there.  It was our first endeavor there.

    KO:  It rained a lot at Knoxville in ’87.  I recently watched an old Diamond P Sports video of your prelim feature, which ended up being a day show.  Again, you started 10th but you got 5th at the end, which locked you into the finale.  In that finale, you guys only got 16th.  What was it like to go out to Knoxville for the first time and make the A-main on Saturday?

    Poor:  There were maybe 212 cars.  There were a lot of cars.  I had never seen so many.  The nice equipment, and they were there from Australia and California.  A lot of the guys like McSpadden were there.  Green was there.  Wolfgang was there.  Guys that you had never, ever talked to, but every day you picked up a Speed Sport News, these guys were winning races.  To not really know anything about winged racing and make the finale was big.  But what really hurt us in the feature that day, it was the first time that we tried some different things with the racecar.  Knowing what little that I knew about winged racing, we should have never done that.  It was one of a few times that we made some major changes to the chassis.  We ran weight in the car and the car just laid down.  You could tell from the first lap to the last lap, he had his hands full just trying to drive it. 

    KO:  Afterwards, were you seriously disappointed, or were there mixed emotions?

    Poor:  It was mixed emotions.  The weather was always an issue and it was just so muddy out there.  We were so worn out from just fighting the elements.  We were glad to get out of there.  We just thought, next year will be a better year.  But when we went back the next year, we missed the show in ’88.  With of all the racing that Steve and I had ever done together, that might have been the only show we ever missed. 

    KO:  So, doing that well at Eldora and Knoxville, did you ever ponder the possibility of going out on the road against the Outlaws full-time?

    Poor:  No, because I knew my bread and butter was at General Motors.  I could not quit General Motors.

    KO:  You probably had some retirement money coming?

    Poor:  I had gone to work there in ’64 and I had already put in 21 years there.  I knew it if I put in 30 years, I got a retirement.  I had to work for a living.  I knew racing was short-term.  If I could get five or six years of racing, that was probably about the max I was going to get.

    Jax 1987 – With Jeff Stoops increasing his involvement for the 1987 season, the team debuted a new downtube Gambler at Jacksonville, Florida (Wikipedia photo)

    KO:  Later in the year, you got your third USAC win of the year, which I think was at Paragon.  I believe that was a winged event for USAC as well.  What were your thoughts of USAC going winged racing? 

    Poor:  Well, my heartburn with USAC was through ’85 and especially after ’86.  Doing so well with a good driver and being a car owner, USAC never invited me or asked me to come to any meetings.  What might we do better as a series to help?  USAC, at that time, was kind of declining.  Although, if you look back, the car count was a lot better back in those days because locals would come run with USAC.  It was a different time, a different era.  You weren’t spending so much money on motors and tires.  It was just a different world.  You always had suitcase races.  But today, you can’t get a local to come run with USAC.  It’s just switched.  But, my biggest concern was an unknown.  Here, USAC pays a little bit more.  If we start running winged races and they give the promoters the option of winged or non-winged, all of the hot dogs, if they aren’t running, they are going to float in here and wax our ass.  We might be able to win a race or two, but it would be defeating for the whole series.  Those guys wouldn’t be loyal.  They would come in and cherry pick.  USAC figured out right away that they can get a race out in Iowa.  I think we went out to Jackson, Minnesota and ran.  We went over to Pennsylvania and ran, but we only took eight cars.  What’s that doing for the series? 

    The weekly shows over in Pennsylvania had better competition and better drivers and better cars than the USAC show we took over there.  I think it became very apparent to me and to USAC that anybody that was a diehard winged racer, if they had a race in their area, the diehard winged racers weren’t going tow over here to Indiana and run a USAC show.  And USAC was wanting to get the car count up.  I think at that time, Bloomington was the only diehard track that ran wings.  Now Warsaw might have ran wings at that time, but I think Bloomington was the only one in the area.  I wanted to race.  It didn’t really matter so much to me.  Then, on the other hand, I thought there might be a lot of cherry picking.  Ricky Ungar came in and won the first winged race, but he got beat in a few of the other ones.  We won a winged USAC race over at Granite City.  I think Hewitt might have run second.  But there were a few winged guys in that area.  I think Illinois tracks all ran winged.  So we slipped in there and had a good night of racing.

    KO:  1987 ended and you wound up with your second consecutive USAC championship.  Again a model of consistency, you and Steve scored 3 wins, 3 seconds, 3 thirds, 1 fourth, and 1 fifth.  Steve got the HARF driver of the year too.  To reach that level of consistency, was your routine in the shop the key?

    Poor:  It was just a combination.  In that time, first of all, we had good equipment.  We had a lot of new parts on the car.  So as long as you could keep some new parts on the car, you rotate those in and out.  There’s a lot less chance of breaking.  So you had to worry about a torsion bar not falling off, a wheel not coming loose.  We had good motors that were reliable.  You’d run the valves, you’d change the oil.  You paid attention to the lash in the rear end.  If you had a hard crash, you had the steering checked.  So, if you did good maintenance, you’d be ok.  I normally got off work at 3:30.  I worked on the car until 1 o’clock in the morning, and then I’d get up and go to work the next day.  Now some of that time I did take off, but it’s a combination of three things. 

    You’ve got to have a guy with the money who is willing to spend the money.  You’ve got to have a person who is willing to work on the racecar, night and day, dedicating his time and energy to that.  I was willing to do that because I was in that age range – early 40’s – where you’re not real young, but you’re not too old.  You’ve still got the energy, the mentality, you’ve got the desire, and your belly is burning.  And you’ve got to have the driver that you don’t question or worry about needing to drive the car harder.  That’s the way I looked at it.

    KO:  How much help did you have in the shop?  Was it just you?  Was your brother there?

    Poor:  My brother and nephew were just racetrack guys, because they lived in Greenwood and I lived in Anderson.  I had a couple of guys that would come over to the shop and help clean, organize, and break a tire down.  In those days, I was basically a one-man band.  I had done all of the maintenance on the car.  I worked on it four nights a week and raced three nights a week.  My wife, she drove the tow truck a lot from the races.  We’d run Fremont and you had four and a half or five hours of driving.  She’d drive home so I could go to work the next day.  Like I say, racing was different.  You just put your heart and soul into it.

    KO:  Back in ’87, you still had to beat guys like Vogler, Hewitt, House, Elliott, Sheldon Kinser, Hood, and Jacobs, as all of them were following USAC. Was your second title any more difficult to achieve than the first?

    Poor:  No, I think it was just consistency.  It was a good relationship with Steve.  Back to the good owner/sponsor – he stayed out of your business.  He never questioned what you had done.  It was more like, “What else do we need?  Are we short anything?”  It was just a good program.  We had a lot of luck along with good equipment.  Were we any superior than anyone else?  I think in the way we approached racing, the way Steve and I worked together, it was just a good marriage. 

    Look at some of the guys you talked about.  With Vance or with Blackie Fortune, they had the best of the best.  Vogler was on Hoosier tires.  And that gets back to Hoosier – they were in a little slump in that timeframe.  A lot of guys ran Hoosier tires because they were free – they were given to them.  They probably did the wrong thing.  Back to our thinking, in tires, we are going to run whatever it took. 

    In 1988, Hoosier came to me and asked me to run their tires.  I said I didn’t think I could win on their tires.  But they said if we run their tires, they would give us seven tires per race.  It doesn’t make any difference what we want to race – USAC, Outlaws, Kokomo –they will make sure we have seven tires available.  So, I went to Steve and Steve shook his head.  It was going to save our race team some money. 

    Eldora was our second race on Hoosiers.  Steve qualified back a ways.  In fact, we hit the front straightaway wall hot lapping, because the car kept sliding and sliding.  It knocked the front axle out, so we put a new front axle in it.  We missed the transfer in the heat race, so it came time for the B-main and Steve said to me, “What are we going to do?”  I said, “What do you want to do?”  And he says, “I’m going to miss the A-main. I don’t think I can make the transfer because the cars in front of me are on McCrearys.”  I said, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll make it.”  He said, “I’m serious.  We are going to miss the show!”  He was pouting and walked away. 

    He came back and said, “Do you think we can make it?”  I said, “We’re going to win this.”  He said, “How are we going to win the B-main?  I can’t even make the transfer.” I said, “We’ve got a set of McCrearys coming. I’ve already sent guys down to get a set mounted up.”  He said, “You’re going to give up all these free tires?”  I said, “Yep.” 

    Kokomo 1991 – Jack Hewitt’s final All Stars win came with Phil Poor at Kokomo Speedway in August of 1991 (Patrick Poor collection)

    KO:  Was that the Eldora opener in ’88?

    Poor:  Yep.  Irish Saunders and Neil came down to me and said, “What are you doing?”  I said, “I’m going to put on McCrearys.”  He said, “Well, that won’t work well with your tire deal.”  And I said, “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.  We’re going to miss the race here today.”  So we started fifth in the B-main and won it.  I don’t think we won that day.  We might have ran third or so.  I’m not sure.

    KO:  Was that when Haudenschild won it in the Kepler car?

    Poor:  Could have been.  But we had to start pretty far back.  I think we actually started tenth and that might have been the day we crashed.

    KO:  I remember a crash somewhere – maybe in one and two?

    Poor:  No, it was three and four.  Somebody flipped and we drove into him.  We had to come in and put a new radiator in.  It bent the down tubes.  I’m not sure if it was that race or later on. 

    That was back in the time that tire choice hurt a lot of good drivers, like Vogler, Rick Hood, and Kenny Jacobs.  If I’m not mistaken, Kenny Jacobs was on Goodyear tires back in those days.  Galen ran a lot of Goodyear tires.  But to beat those guys that had good equipment, I think it was a combination of a lot of things.  A lot of those guys were hired guns.  If you knew anything about Blackie Fortune and Rick, they were kind of hot heads.  They couldn’t settle for anything other than winning.  You just kind of take it easy, be consistent, be right there, and not make any waves.  That’s just kind of the way Steve and I, and our racing team, approached it. 

    KO:  By that time, was the chemistry with Butler pretty much in cement? 

    Poor:  Yes.  That always worked good.  And it worked well up until ’89 when Steve had done the Indy car and got distracted.  He got his bubble busted.  Things didn’t go well.  Frustration set in on his part.  Sometimes you try to be the jack of all trades and it just doesn’t work out.  You try to be the jack of all trades and become the master of none.  And that’s kind of the way that ’89 fell into it.  By that time, Stoops had made his mind up that he was going to phase out the sprint cars and either do a little more in Indy car, or do a little bit of NASCAR.  Guys that had that kind of money, it wasn’t like a Bob Weikert that raced forever.  After five or six years, they want to move on to something else.  That was the direction that Jeff was starting to go in.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  If you’re spending the money, you do what you want to do.

    KO:  You mentioned before about Steve’s engineering background and his intellect.  Did he have a lot of input on setups, or was it a joint deal? 

    Poor:  It was a joint deal.  When you started off and you knew that it worked, why would you ask for anything different?  Now, there was probably more of a direction or saying what we ought to do when we were running the wing.  That was new to me and Steve had a little experience there, but not much.  Winged racing was just different than non-winged. But he adapted well to it and he had a good feel for it.  He wasn’t really critical of trying anything, but we just never stayed in the same direction because one night we’d run wings and the next night we’d run non-winged.  You did something different all the time.  It probably didn’t let you focus on thinking that you’re doing this or that right or wrong. 

    KO:  What things did Steve like in his cars/setups?  Did he like his cars tight or a little on the loose side?

    Poor:  It didn’t make no difference.  If you were fast, the driver had a big smile on his face.  And when you struggled, you’re scratching your head – what can you do different?  I don’t ever remember a time when Steve came in and said, “What the hell are you doing with this thing?  It’s a piece of crap.”  Steve had the talent that if he knew that he was on the wrong part of the racetrack, he didn’t stay there for 15 laps.  He moved.  In an 8-lap heat race, afterwards he could tell you the first lap where he’d run and on the last lap, how it entered, how it was in the center, and how it would come off.  He could just do that.  So when it came feature time, we’d talk about it, tighten it up a little bit, and not change it too much. 

    This is what I don’t like about drivers I see today.  They spend more time talking to people in the pits, talking to girlfriends, doing whatever.  But when Steve was out of that racecar, after a short conversation with me he was always watching that racetrack.  He never was away from the racetrack.  He was focused from when that flag dropped.  If the cars separated right, he knew where he wanted to be.  He only went where he didn’t need to be if he was forced to be there.

    KO:  What type of track and surface conditions were your strong suit with Butler?

    Poor:  It didn’t matter.  When he had to run the top, he ran the top.  When he had to run the bottom, we won some races on the bottom.  The only time in all of the races we ran that I ever said anything to Butler was the Santa Fe Thursday Night Thunder race – the photo finish.  After the race, I said, “What in the hell are you doing?  You never run the bottom!  And you ran 29 laps around the bottom?”  He said, “Well, I knew I was good down there.  I was just waiting for him to make a mistake.”  I said, “If you would have moved up to the top for the last three laps or when they gave five to go, we would have won by over a straightaway.”  He said, “I have no idea why I ran the bottom.”  It was just one of them off days. 

    Once again, back to the driver – he had a good feel for the surface.  When he was competitive, he stayed there.  When he was not, he moved around.  It really didn’t matter, because he paid a lot of attention to the racetrack.  I used a stopwatch all the time to time the heats.

    Kokomo 1990 – Shown here at Kokomo in 1990, Phil Poor and Terry Shepherd were on their way to claiming the All Star Circuit of Champions points title (Randy Jones photo)

    KO:  You still do that!

    Poor:  Yeah, yeah.  In fact, you very seldom see anybody today use a stopwatch, and I can’t figure that out.  It’s a tool to judge by.  But once again, when you’ve got an owner that drives a racecar, they don’t have that opportunity.  A lot of times, they don’t have somebody working and doing the chassis for them.  And today, I can tell you that there are several times that people come around and ask me where I am at with the field.  And I tell them.

    KO:  I think the only guy I see with a stopwatch around his neck is Rob Hoffman. 

    Poor:  Yep.  

    KO:  For 1988, you focused on USAC once again and this year, they put the sprint cars back on pavement for the first time since the early ‘80s.  If I remember right, you guys used one of your old dirt cars for those pavement races.  I don’t know if that was a car that you were still using on dirt and you had to switch it back and forth.

    Poor:  Right, right.  The King’s Royal, we came home that night from Eldora and changed the car over and ran Salem. 

    KO:  That actually was my next question. 

    Poor:  The thing with USAC, when they brought the pavement back, that was the deal to the car owners.  They wanted to keep it affordable and use dirt equipment and not go into specialty cars.  There wasn’t a set rule.  It was like:  will you do that?  Starting out, everybody did do that.  But then, there were guys that brought out the old cars that were a little bit better.  Hoffman was one of the first to build a little more modern version.  We just lowered the motor plate and used one of our old dirt cars.  When we went to an exclusive pavement car, we just never ran that car again on dirt. 

    KO:  Steve was strong in those early pavement shows at IRP.  The guys on ESPN called it cutting the grass when he’d dive down low on corner entry and slide up through the middle and exit.  How did Steve find that line?  I read or heard somewhere that he found that line by accident in a Silver Crown show when they first ran IRP. 

    Poor:  He told that story several weeks ago at that Sprint Car Hall of Fame deal.  It was about helping to make the car turn. 

    KO:  IRP’s banking was off-camber on the bottom.

    Poor:  Yeah. When he went down across there for the first time, that really helped.

    KO:  It loads the right rear?

    Poor:  Right.  And the top was kind of the long way around.  He wasn’t afraid to drive it in hard and let the car float out there on you.  It’s back to the notion that Steve paid attention.  He retained those things in his mind.

    KO:  Were those fun times in those early pavement races when you were running those dirt cars? 

    Poor:  Yeah, because you just stuck some pavement wheels on it and you didn’t change a lot, although we did put a little wider front axle in it.  It had two small brakes up on the front.  We used the inboard brake.  We had a proportioning valve where you could close off the rear.  I took the Jacobs ladder off and just bolted a hoop on the side, with a panhard bar on a bracket that I put on the drive line.  It took us more time to wash the car and get it cleaned up and get home than change it over.  We didn’t get home from Eldora that night until late.  We worked all night, basically.  We got cleaned up and went off to Salem.  And of course Salem was a pretty good little drive.  And you had to get down there early.  It was a long day.

    Little Springfield 1986 – Shown with promoter Joe Shaheen, car owner Jeff Stoops and the entire Stoops Express squad, Phil Poor and Steve Butler swept the Shaheen Super Weekend of 1986 (Phil Poor collection)

    KO:  The 1988 USAC season featured even more winged racing and in 20 starts, you took 3 wins, 4 seconds, 4 thirds, 2 fourths, and 2 fifths.  Again, there’s that consistency.  One of those wins was a winged show at Eldora a week or so before the Kings Royal, which was a big deal considering the guys you beat that night.  Was that one Eldora win special?  I seem to recall Brad Doty winning that mini-series in Stanton’s car before he got hurt.

    Poor:  Every win was special, but to win on the big half-mile when the competition was a lot better, it was a good win.  Winning is all about five minutes of fame, a lot of congratulations, the victory lane pictures.  And, then starting on Monday, you never dwelled so much on last week because last week’s win wasn’t going to get you through next weekend.  It was just off to more racing. 

    KO:  Talking about ’88 in general, that was your third USAC championship in a row.  Scoring three consecutive USAC titles is indeed a huge accomplishment, as up until that time, it had never been done.  Is it a bigger deal thinking about it now than how you felt back then after you had accomplished it?

    Poor:  No.  It was just a different time.  Could you do that today?  I don’t know that you could do that today.  It was a different time, different era.  It was just racing.  You couldn’t get enough racing. 

    KO:  Was winning championships an expectation for you and Steve at the start of the year, or were you more interested in winning races?

    Poor:  Right.  If you were consistent and worked at it, it was going to be there at the end of the season.  Once you got closer to the end of the season and you were in the hunt, then maybe it was a consideration.  But, one day you could be in the hunt and the next day you could be out.  I think for the sprint car, it was just wanting to do a lot of racing.  Looking back for Steve as a driver, his first USAC championship was very rewarding just with the combination we had.  The next couple of years, it just came with the territory.  On his end, the big thing was winning the Silver Crown title and beating Jeff Swindell at Eldora that last race when we had to win that race.  That probably was a good highlight.  That was well rewarding because we had pull the old hat trick that day. 

    KO:  1988 was your third full season with Butler.  Were there still things you felt you needed to improve upon on the mechanical end?  You talked about the brief experimentation with Hoosier tires.  I still think you guys were running Gambler chassis, but engine-wise, were you trying anything different there? 

    Poor:  We were connected with racing, but not like an Outlaw guy was all of the time. 

    KO:  I got it…kind of like Sammy having that relationship with Gaerte Engines back then.

    Poor:  Right, right.  It was just different.  We were probably very lucky to be doing what we had done, running as well as we were because we weren’t dedicated to just one thing. 

    KO:  You were doing a lot of stuff in ’88.  You had pavement.  You had wings.  You had non-wings. 

    Poor:  Right.  And throwing in some Silver Crown.  I think we got as much out of our program as we could have and still be within a dollar range of what I spent of a car owner’s money.  You know what I mean?

    KO:  Some good bang for the buck…

    Poor:  Yeah.  I think Jeff will tell you that we got a dollar and ten cents out of every dollar we spent.  We didn’t squander money.  If you look at racing through the years, a lot of guys spent a lot of money going in different directions.  Different thoughts from different people.  Going over here and buying this, doing that.

    KO:  Monkey-see, monkey-do.

    Poor:  Right.  But we just kind of stayed on track.  Don’t take me wrong that we didn’t ask some questions, but if I was going to ask a question, if it were at a winged race, I would go talk to Kenny Woodruff.  I’d go talk to Danny Lasoski.  They would either tell me the truth, or they would say, “We’ve got to race against you guys, so you have to figure it out.” 

    KO:  Even with winning three championships in a row, were there times when you and Steve ever had any disagreements at all?  I know you said there were a few words in ’89. 

    Poor:  Prior to ’89, we never had anything like that.  When you’re doing well and the marriage is working pretty well, you’re not going to change.  If something went wrong, then you’d say, “Well next week, maybe we need to pay attention.  If we can come back to a track similar to that, maybe we ought to look at the gear or look at the tire compound, something like that.”

    The only time something like that stuck out in my mind was down at Orrville.  He said something was wrong with the car again.  I said, “Hell, there’s nothing wrong.  We’re not too bad.”  He said, “I’m telling you, something is wrong with it.  I think you’ve got a torsion bar in backwards.”  I said, “There ain’t no way I put a torsion bar in backwards.”  So I said, “Go out and look at the track”.  So, I pulled the rear torsion bars out and low and behold, I had a right rear torsion bar in backwards.  And he felt that in the car.  I never told him that I put new torsion bars in the car so he came in after the heat race and I asked him how it felt.  He said, “Not too bad.”  I said, “Hell, there ain’t nothing wrong with it!”  After the race, I took him over to the trash barrel.  He said, “What are those from?”  I said, “I put a couple new torsion bars in the car.  I did have the right rear in backwards.”  So, that week, I went to the eye doctor and got my first pair of eyeglasses.  That was probably the only time for us to disagree about something with the car. 

    Kokomo 2002 – Teamed with owner Don DeSalle and driver Dave Darland, Phil Poor spent the better part of two seasons wearing Arctic Cat green (Randy Jones photo)

    KO:  So by that time, had he completely matured as a driver?  Did you ever have to tell him to dial it back? I know you liked the fact that he was going to gas it and go for it. 

    Poor:  No, I never had to tell him to dial it back because if you’re sitting in the pits and you’re watching a racecar go around the racetrack, it can either be like a ballet dancer where everything is smooth and running fine.  Or, it can be like a tap dancer out there.  You know what I mean?  With a racecar, you have to drive it to its limit to know if you need to make a big adjustment or a minimal adjustment.  When the car is going around the track and it’s not doing anything crazy, you don’t tell him to slow it down.  The only time I ever told Steve to slow it down was in the Silver Crown car.  When he came in, he said, “When I’m in a rhythm and I’m focused, you can’t change what you are doing.  It fucks you up!”  I said, “Well didn’t you see me out there on the track, trying to slow you down?”  He said, “I saw you out there about every lap!  But you can’t do that Phil!”

    A lot of guys drive their car over their head.  They are on the track where they shouldn’t be.  They are not getting into the cushion like they need to be.  And they keep doing it until they crash.  Steve had the finesse in the way he drove that it wasn’t an issue.  But in his early days, did he do that?  Once he learned how to win races, then it kind of came naturally.

    KO:  Steve had that engineering mind and I have to imagine that set him apart from anyone else you worked with.  Did he use that brain power while on the track or was that only in discussions with you in the pits?

    Poor:  I think the engineering deal was after the fact, working through issues on the car, what it wasn’t doing right and maybe what changes needed to be made.  And then you’d have to separate dirt racing from pavement racing.  Once you light the switch in dirt racing, you can’t take into account ruts and holes.  But on pavement, it’s more consistent.  It’s just a different mindset. 

    KO:  Steve also scored a Silver Crown championship in 1988 for Kenny Jarrett.  If I remember right, Steve might have also been listed as the chief mechanic on that ride in ’88.  Did you start helping on that car that year? 

    Poor:  No.  I hung around the car a little bit that year.  I talked to Steve a little bit about it.  But, Bud Whitacre worked on it.  Kenny worked on it.  Kenny’s boys worked on it.  Steve pretty much called the shots on it.  But what Steve didn’t do during that time was work in his shop during the week.  Now, he did come over there to work on it some, but even though they did win that championship, thereafter the biggest problem they had was dropping out of races.  They had brake failure, things like that.  The second championship he won was when he came to me and asked me if I would be willing to work on that car. 

    I said, “Steve, is Kenny willing to put any money into the racecar?”  He said, “Well, probably not.”  I said, “Well, look at the stuff that has happened.  The biggest problem is that you’ve got brake problems on that car.”  He said, “I know it.  I just can’t be down there all of the time to work on it.”  That’s kind of how I got involved in his other Silver Crown championship.

    KO:  Going to 1989, we’ve already talked about it but Jeff Stoops was putting together an Indy 500 effort.  He obviously hired Butler to drive the car.  Steve got up to speed very quickly but that practice crash ruined everything, including breaking his shoulder.  So, he was done.  Before that crash happened, was the Indy 500 effort a big distraction from the sprint car? 

    Poor:  It was.  I don’t know that it was something to take into consideration, but the way the whole outcome was, it did kind of affect us, because we were always trying to catch up.  We had another bad crash at Eldora later that year that reinjured his shoulder blade.  And by that time, with his family life and his children getting a little older, I think the strain on all of the racing that led up to that and all of what went on in ’89 changed his mindset. 

    He might of thought:  what do I need to do for a future?  Do I need to stay around racing?  To wind up at 45 or 50 years old without a full-time occupation – by that time - some of those things were floating in his mind.  Then, there was the fact that Stoops said after ’89 he was going to do something different.  We were going to sell everything, although the next year we did do the Terry Shepherd deal.  I think that led to a little dissention between us.  Steve wasn’t as quite as pleasant to be around.  He wasn’t more demanding or anything, but what we had done and done right for three years, the happy times, the smiling, the laughing, the cutting up, that kind of dried up.  It wasn’t so much like a business deal, but it was more like, when are we going to get through this miserable time?  Everything was going to come to an end after this year and that was thrown at him in a couple of different segments during the year.  He’s a thinker so he is processing all of this all of the time.

    Lawrenceburg 2001 – The highlight of Phil’s DeSalle Motorsports era was a Lawrenceburg Indiana Sprint Week win in 2001, helping them to claim the series crown (Phil Poor collection)

    KO:  After the Indy crash, how quickly did Steve get back into a sprint car?

    Poor:  I think it was six to seven weeks.  When he came back, he probably shouldn’t have gotten back into the car yet.  He was still hurting a little bit.

    KO:  Was that late June?

    Poor:  I think it was.  I got Kevin Briscoe to run the car.  I got Hewitt to run the car. 

    KO:  I remember Hewitt on pavement at IRP and even Gene Lee Gibson at Salem.

    Poor:  We set out maybe a race or two, but it was a short time.  Whatever the time the doctor said he could get back into the car, he did that. 

    KO:  Then you said he hurt himself at Eldora again.  Was that a winged show?

     Poor:  Yes.  And that’s one of the things.  He said the rear stop fell off the car.  I said, “No it didn’t fall off the car.  If you remember right, you’ve got to be careful.  We don’t have the brake that you need.”  I tried working on the brake over there, bleeding it and stuff.  Low and behold, he pushed up in turn three and stuffed the front end and dumped it hard.  I found a picture of the car upside down and I got out a magnifying glass and it had all four torsion stops on it.  So that was kind of a little bickering point and that was one of only a few times where we had a disagreement about a mechanical issue causing a crash. 

    KO:  By September, Steve was back again and he ended up winning the Four Crown.  In just ten USAC starts, you guys won twice.  I know you’ve already answered the question about the team disbanding after 1989, as it was Jeff’s decision to do something different.  Was it more about wanting to go Indy car racing?  Or, was he just done with sprint cars?

    Poor:  He had bought the dealerships in Indianapolis.  He knew he was moving to Indianapolis and he was going to be out of the community.  So his family structure was changing too.  Kids were getting older.  His business changed from going to Stoops Express every day, to buying these Freightliner dealerships.  He was traveling five, six, or seven days a week.  It was just a combination of things.  He had made the decision that ’89 was going to be his last with the sprint car – win, lose, or draw.  I had changed his mind going into 1990. 

    But, getting back to 1989, the best winged race that Steve ran when he came back was Pevely, Missouri.  Him and Ricky Hood at I-55 Speedway, it ended up with a standing ovation.  There was a cushion on the top and a cushion in the middle.  One lap Hood was on the top.  The next lap Butler would be on the top and Hood would be on the cushion in the middle.  I don’t know if he made him get out of the gas with a couple of laps to go, but it was going to come down to a side-by-side duel to the finish.  We won by a car-length.  Danny Arthaloney, who owned Hood’s car, came down and jumped all over me.  I said, “What do you want him to do?”  Hood dove him just as many times as Butler dove him.  It was just an intense race.  It was the best winged race that I have ever seen.  I was on pins and needles because it was just a super race. The fans just flocked down in the pits.  That was an All Stars race. 

    Lincoln Park USAC 1986 – On May 17, 1986, Phil and Steve produced their first USAC victory as a team at Lincoln Park Speedway (Phil Poor collection)

    KO:  Last summer when we were talking about doing this article, I talked to you in-depth about the 1990 season, which was a huge mess from your point of view.  But, you still wound up winning an All Star championship with Terry Shepherd without even winning a race.  Can you just recount the story about how you, Stoops, and Shepherd wound up working together?

    Poor:   Once again, Stoops had already made a decision to do something different.  I was to the point of a lot of years of a lot of racing and a lot of missed time at work.  My family changed a little bit.  I had decided that I wanted to scale back – be involved in racing but do a little something different.  So, I got everything prepared to sell and out of the clear blue Shepherd calls me and says, “What are you guys doing next year?  I hear you guys aren’t going to race.”  I said, “No, Stoops wants to sell everything.”  He said, “Do you think he wants to do a different deal, to race with me, if I could bring some good sponsorship money?”  I said, “Well, I don’t think money is the issue.  He just wants to do something different.”  That was at Christmas time.  He told me he could bring two motors.  He can buy all the tires.  He can buy all the fuel.  The only thing he needed was a transporter and a couple of cars and the equipment.  He couldn’t pull all that together.  He was getting motors from Gaerte.  He had a guy to buy tires.  And he had a Goodyear tire deal too. 

    I called Stoops and told him but he wasn’t interested.  I don’t know if it was New Year’s Day, but I called him (Stoops) back.  I said, “Look, it ain’t going to cost you much to go racing.  Shepherd is willing to work on the car.  All I have to do is go to the track.  Gaerte is going to furnish the motors.”  I said that we’ve got about everything.  We may just need to put one more car together, because we had already sold one of the cars. 

    He said, “Well, let me think about it.”  Jeff and I met Shepherd over at the old truck stop and of course Terry is a very pleasant guy.  He’s a good salesman.  He could sell you about anything.  We shook hands, and that’s the way we were going to do the deal.  That’s kind of how the deal started and later, it fell apart.

    KO:  How different was it working with Terry Shepherd than Steve Butler? 

    Poor:  Well, our setup with Butler was different.  I worked on it all of the time.  I worked on it in my garage.  When I went to the racetrack, there was nothing changed.  Unless we decided we wanted to change something together, then we changed it. 

    The Shepherd deal was different.  I was just showing up at the track and when the cars came to the track, things were different on the car than I was used to.  The deal was, Stoops’s name was supposed to be on the car just like it was.  That slowly changed.  I’d show up one time and there would be another sponsor on the car.  Although Stoops was still on it big, things were slowly starting to change.  I guess maybe what I didn’t realize was, if you’ve got someone else at the shop working on it, they don’t always think the same as you do.  It was just something that looked good on paper, but didn’t work out in reality. 

    Shepherd was a little more demanding.  He was a little more temperamental.  He was very hard-headed in the direction that he thought a racecar ought to go.  There were a couple of things of issue, as we had bought some new things for the car.  We bought some wings from Pennsylvania – Stauffer wings.  They were actually built a lot different.  Shepherd didn’t realize that and I didn’t realize that either.  The thing about it, Bobby Davis, Jr. and Kenny Woodruff brought that to my attention as to what was wrong with them.  I said, “Oh shit.  Now I know why we’ve always been so tight.” 

    It was just a combination of issues for me.  I should have worked on that car and done another year of racing with a driver driving the racecar.  I didn’t do that because I wanted to do things different in my life.  Stoops wanted to do something different.  What I’d done, in the same way that Butler had done later, I compromised and sometimes in racing, you can’t compromise.  You either have to do it right, or not do it at all.  

    KO:  Setup preferences and driving styles, were those altogether different also? 

    Poor:  We were only running wings, but then we did run a few non-winged shows. 

    Paragon 1997 – Phil and Brian Tyler teamed up for a second consecutive USAC sprint car championship with car owner Larry Contos in 1997 (Randy Jones photo)

    KO:  I remember Terre Haute USAC.

    Poor:  We should have won Terre Haute.  We were so fast at Terre Haute that he ran over the back of Jack Hewitt and spun the car.  He came from the tail and got fourth or fifth.  We ran Eldora and it was the difference between a driver understanding how to run Eldora.  He ran Goodyear tires that day and he should have never ran Goodyears.  But they were buying the tires, so they ran Goodyear.  It was a combination there. 

    Winged racing, by that time, was starting to get a little bit more sophisticated.  We were in a winged program.  You only ran against good die-hard winged racers.  But, there were several times when we went winged racing and had quick time.  We started right up front in a lot of races, but we couldn’t close the deal.  Was that setup?  Was that driver?  It was probably a combination of all.  Was setup different?  It probably should have been a lot different than the way we had done it.  I can’t say that the driver had done everything wrong and I had done everything right at the racetrack. 

    KO:  I remember talking to you about this recently and it just didn’t sound like 1990 was a fun year. 

    Poor:  Oh no.

    KO:  When you think about 1990, what sticks out in your mind?  Was it drama?  It definitely wasn’t full of the feel-good stories you had with Butler.

    Poor:  It just wasn’t a well-thought through plan.  And then, the first thing that came into play was that there were other parties involved, and Earl Gaerte was one of them.  He had a strong dislike for one of the guys who was putting money into the racing operation and that was because of Warsaw Speedway.  They had co-promoted.  He had told Shepherd that if this certain individual had anything to do with the racing team that year, as far as him personally helping, he wanted no involvement in it.  He had to reassure him that he didn’t, so that Earl would furnish two motors under the condition that Shepherd just had to freshen the motors.  He wasn’t responsible for anything else.  So, when Earl found out about this other guy being heavily involved, he said, “Hey, I’m done.” 

    So by that time, I was over complaining to Stoops that I was miserable.  He said, “Well, I’m going to tell you that we’re going to go up and get the racecars.”  I automatically thought that we were going to get a different driver.  I actually had Haudenschild lined up to finish the season out.  Shepherd had made arrangements to go to the Speedway and Stoops had a suite down there.  I think a day down there and Shepherd convinced him to stay with the deal.  By that time, I put another car together in the garage and I worked on the car there, and we went racing.  I had a bad taste in my mouth.  I got through the season ok and I can’t say nothing bad about Terry.  But like I go back and say, everybody has different reasons to be in racing. 

    KO:  How often did you think about quitting in the early to middle stages of 1990? 

    Poor:  Oh, probably about ten times. I was committed to getting through the year because of Jeff Stoops.  He had put a lot of money and time into it.  I wasn’t going to leave him hanging for love nor money.  If Jeff would have said he’s selling this tomorrow, I would have said let me get it cleaned up and organized for you.  I would have been very happy to have done that. 

    KO:  After Eldora’s finale in 1990, there were a few races left in Georgia to close out the All Star season and you had Danny Lasoski in the car.  How did you connect with Danny to put him in the car?

    Poor:  I had been around racing quite a bit.  I raced against him.  I talked to him a lot of times.  He knew we had good equipment.  He went to the racetrack and sat beside us and he could tell that we had just as nice of stuff as anybody.  He was a guy that changed a lot of rides.  It was at the end of the season and his schedule was pretty much done.  I had talked to him once before at some time.  He had made the remark, “Well, if you ever need a driver, give me a call.”  So I thought, “Well shit, let me give him a call!” 

    He said, “Hell, I’d be glad to come over and run that car!”  I said that I might need some help.  The first time he hot lapped that car, he came in and told me to put two turns under the rear of this car.  That’s why it pushes all of the time.  I put two turns under it and he went out there and we should have beaten Steve Kinser.  We had Steve Kinser beaten in one of the races and they had a red flag with two laps to go and actually, the tire that I should have put on the left rear was in the trailer.  I said to him, “Do you want to change tires?”  He said, “No, I think we can get by.”  Kinser changed the left rear tire and drove right by us. 

    KO:  Was that at Dixie or was that at Rome?

    Poor:  I think that was at Rome.  But, I had a lot of fun with Danny.

    KO:  Was he pretty easy to work with?

    Poor:  For me he was, just running for the weekend.  If he’d have run for me all of the time, maybe it would have been different.  Winged racing is all he’d ever done.  Your learning curve would have been so much better.  He’d already went through that learning curve. 

    KO:  So when Stoops got out altogether, what happened to the equipment?

    Poor:  The truck went back to Willie Boles.  We sold one of the cars to a guy that raced at Putnamville.  Jeff’s human resources director is Chris Paulsen’s wife.  Her brother was wanting to get into sprint car racing.  He had a Polaris dealership in Wisconsin.  He gave him a figure and he pretty much gave it away because of the connection.  Stoops called me and said that this boy was buying that car, so could I get it ready?  I said, “Hell, I’ll take it up to him.  Where do you want me to take it?”  It was up above Chicago and below Milwaukee.  He ran some of the IRA races and he ran Wilmot and Beaver Dam.  He actually came down here and ran the Fairgrounds with the World of Outlaws on the mile.  It had Stoops on it and everything.  They never even repainted it. 

    Monogram Model – After their stellar 1987 season, Monogram came out with this model of the Stoops Express sprint car, complete with Phil Poor decals (Internet photo)

    KO:  As a part of winning the All Star title, you and Stoops won a 1991 Gambler chassis which ended up going to Chesterfield grocery store owner and sprint car owner Don Murphy.  I remember seeing the Murphy 23 at Eldora’s World of Outlaws show in April with Bobby Davis, Jr. as the driver and you as the mechanic.  How did all that come about? 

    Poor:  Don was from Madison County and he had helped Tray House and Kermit financially.  He was a big Jack Hewitt fan and he finally wound up and bought a car.  I don’t know whether Don called me or Hewitt did or how that was, but at that time, I had a hard time getting that ’91 car because Bert Emick had an ad in a 1990 magazine that Gambler was giving that frame away.  So, we had won that (through winning the 1990 All Star Circuit of Champions title) and I had asked Bert, “Where’s the frame at?” 

    He said, “Oh, they’re not doing that.  They decided they didn’t want to do it.”  I said, “You’ve got it advertised.”  He said, “I know.”  It never did fly. 

    So, I called down to talk to Tommy Sanders of Gambler and I said, “Tommy, you’ve got this advertised in a couple of papers that you’re giving a car away to the champion.”  He said, “No, we ain’t doing that deal.”  I said, “Look, that’s one reason I stayed with the series, because I thought we were going to win that.  You’re either going to do that, or I’m going to get a lawyer to figure out if you have any liability.”  


    He called me back and said he had a car and he would honor that.  I took that ad down to him and showed him.  So, they gave me the car.  Low and behold, what I didn’t know was, that car wasn’t put together right.  It was a quarter-inch out of square.  I brought it back home, put it in my garage, and tried bolting the parts up and nothing would fit.  The geometry wasn’t right on it.  I called Tommy back up and said, “Now I know why you gave me that car.  This car is a piece of shit!  It’s junk.”  He said, “What do you mean?”  I said, “You know what I mean!  This car won’t go together.  It’s so far out of square.”  He said, “Well, bring it down here and let me look at it.”  So, I took it back down and without even measuring it, Tommy offered me another car. 

    In the meantime with Murphy, I decided to do that deal.  He had a Gambler car, but this was a reverse-tube car.  It was nice!  And I ran a reverse-tube car before and they were very fast, especially non-wing.  They were ass-kicking cars.  So, I got with Stoops and said, “Hey, we’ve got this frame.  What do you want to do with it?”  He said, “I don’t care what you do with it.”  I said, “I’m going to help Murphy next year.  Let me give him that frame, and I have a few other parts laying around here and we’ll bolt them on his car.  We’ll just put your name down the front of the hood.  Would that bother you?”  He said, “As long as I don’t have to put any money in it, I don’t care what you do.”  And that’s why Stoops’s name was on the front of it.

    So then we got Brooke Tatnell to drive it for us some.

    KO:  I remember Bobby Davis, Jr. at that Eldora outlaw race in April.

    Poor:  Yeah, Bobby Davis, Jr. came up and ran it.  But we didn’t have the motors like the Outlaws did.  Now, we had motors to run with USAC.  They were a couple of old Gaerte motors.  We broke those motors a couple of times.  He thought that Hewitt was going to run that car but Hewitt was in a time when he could get in about anybody’s car.  A lot of people were after him to drive their cars, but he couldn’t stay in them very long, because Jack was really hard to get along with, you know what I mean?  But then Jack did come back and I think we won maybe ten races that year.  We won some nice races.  We won some USAC races.  We won several All Star races.  We won a lot of local winged shows that year. 

    KO:  When looking back, was that a fun year for you? 

    Poor:  Oh yeah!  It was a fun year.

    Twin Cities 2002 – Dave Darland bombards the banking at North Vernon, Indiana in the 2002 season (Randy Jones photo)

    KO:  After 1990, ’91 had to be a breath of fresh air.

    Poor:  Yeah, it was a no-pressure deal.  Murphy was willing to put different drivers in the car, as long as they had a little credentials.  We weren’t selective in where we raced.  I actually got him a wheel deal that year.  He never bought a wheel.  He never bought a shock.  I got him a McCreary tire deal.  So, Murphy was happy.  I worked on the car and he knew that when we went racing, we went racing to try to win and be very competitive.  The other thing for me, I was very happy because working with Butler, it was kind of like we had done things together.  Now, I was more challenged to make some decisions on my own. It was strictly me.  I had to produce.  I knew my maintenance was good.  I would have to read the track on my own.  I didn’t do radical things though.  I stayed on a lot of the same format that Steve and I had done.  And what I liked about Hewitt was, Hewitt would say, “Just get it close.  Let me set up in the seat and drive the car.”  And I thought, “Damn, I want to hear that!

    KO:  So you had mentioned that the Gambler was a reverse-tube chassis.  Did it have reverse tubes on both the front and rear? 

    Poor:  No, just the rear.  It was standard on the front. 

    KO:  You had said that you had used a reverse-tube car in the past.  When was that?    

    Poor:  We had one with Shepherd in ’90.  The first car was one of the ‘89s that we took into the next year, and then I put another car together and I bought a reverse tube car.  It wasn’t so good for a wing, but for the non-winged races, damn, that sucker would fly!  It was strong!

    KO:  Just looking at the USAC results for 1991 and the Murphy 23, I see that Rick Ungar drove it at Granite City and finished 8th.  Then there was Brooke Tatnell at I-96, where he finished 8th.  Kevin Briscoe was 4th at Kokomo.  Johnny Parsons was 3rd at Terre Haute.  Jack Hewitt was 19th at Chillicothe.  Then, Jack took 2nd at Kokomo.  At Granite City, Hewitt was the winner.  Hewitt won the Four Crown as well.  You also had Brent Kaeding in the car for the CRA Midwestern Tour, winning at Hales Corners.  Were there any guys that I left out?

    Poor:  No, but in the CRA races, we never ran outside of fifth. Kaeding came and the first race that we ran was Wisconsin and Hewitt lapped us.  He came in and said, “We’ve got to put a wide front axle in this car.  You’ve only got a 50 inch axle.”  I said, “That won’t make that much difference.”  He said, “Well, I’ve got to have one to drive this.”  So, I went and got one off of Lealand McSpadden. He let me borrow one for the rest of the races up here, but I had to put my hubs and spindles on it. 

    I finally got to talking to someone and asked, “Why is Kaeding so down on this reverse-tube car?”  And this guy said, “Don’t you know?  The first night out in California, trying to run it non-wing, he went into the first turn and almost cleared the fence!” 

    So, I went over to him and I said, “Are you upset because you crashed a car?”  He said, “Oh fuck, these cars are a handful!”  And I said, “No they’re not! If you run ‘em right, you’ll love it!” 

    So, the next night we went to Hales Corners and won.  After that, we went to Eldora and I think we may have run fifth but we should have run a lot better than that.  By the end of the week, I think he made about $4,800.   When he came up here, I think he thought he’d have a hard time even making the races and running well.  It was a lot better deal than what he thought it would be.  He was totally amazed.  Another thing too – he wasn’t really a non-winged driver.  He’d stand on the gas, oh my God! 

    KO:  Who did you enjoy working with most in ’91 and why?  I know you said that working with Hewitt could be difficult, but you won so many races and yet you only had to get it close for him. 

    Poor:  As far as just winning races, it all goes back to a compromise.  When you’re winning races, that’s your ultimate goal.  For just winning races, Hewitt was the best to work with that year.  But as far as having plain fun and enjoyment, it was the Tatnell boys, Brooke and his dad George.  And I tell you what, George could keep you laughing.  And if you’d talk to Dave Sink, as he came with us a number of times, he’d agree.  There was always a story to be told.  They never got upset at anything you’d ever done.  They were the most fun, just for fun.  They wanted to win, but you knew with Jack Hewitt you could win without a wing and if you got it close with a wing, he was going to be right there too. 

    KO:  Was there anyone you did not like working with that year? 

    Poor:  No.  I’ve never really had bad experiences.  When I did the Murphy deal, I knew we were going to have a lot of different drivers.  Again, we just tried to get the best driver available for whatever we were going to do.  If we didn’t have a good driver, then there were some races we just didn’t go to.  And we ran quite a few races in ’91.   

    KO:  Do you have a favorite memory or win from that season?  You had the entertainment from the Tatnells.  Kaeding was an interesting guy and then of course there was Hewitt. All of those guys were colorful.

    Poor:  Oh, I don’t know.  Granite City was nice with Hewitt in the car.  We won some non-winged races.  We went winged racing the next day.  We won Lawrenceburg.  We won North Vernon.  We got on a pretty good roll there.  I think we won about four in a row there.   

    The only issue I had with Jack, we ran Kankakee and Jack was always big on putting tilt in the car.  Lay the car down!  And, he kept on me about doing that.  We were running a winged show there.  Finally, we got so terrible, I said to Jack, “Why are we doing all of this?  You just need to drive the car and let me work on it.  I’m going to change it back to the way I’d run it before when we were winning.”  And, I think we started 13th and run right up to 2nd.  After that, we got along very good.  All in all, I had a fun year. 

    KO:  For ’92, Murphy went full-time with Hewitt yet you weren’t part of the deal.  I often wonder why you weren’t you part of that equation. 

    Poor:  Well, I think I elected to slow down.  But, I remember at the end of ’91, Hewitt went out and ran for Phil Durst.  What he was wanting to do was take Murphy’s money out there and combine the efforts.  And I got irritated that Hewitt, after we had ran so good, why he would just up and quit. 

    He had different motives.  He was looking at next year.  He knew that this year was ending.  He went out there and ran and we ran against him with Lasoski and I think he ran a 16th and 17th.  If he would have went down there in Murphy’s car, he would have ran top-five and had a good weekend of racing.  I’m not so sure Murphy ran with him the next year, but whoever it was, they had a horrible year.  I wasn’t invited to the party but the guy over there near Troy, Ohio who had the gravel pits, he was the money man that year and Murphy brought some of his equipment to the operation.  Murphy was down on the totem pole on that deal and Jack was always jockeying to get something going.  I don’t think it worked out good for the racing team and it didn’t work out good for Murphy, although I never heard him complain about it.  It was just a different situation, a different combination.

    KO:  I know that you took care of the Jarrett Silver Crown deal for ’92, but did you have any sprint car stuff happening?

    Poor:  No, but with the sprint car program that I’d started back in ’85, it really picked up and then I got to the point that I knew I had to do something different.  I never really pursued much after that until the Jarrett deal came along.  And then a little bit later, the Brian Tyler deal and the Arctic Cat deal came along.

    Reminiscing – Steve Butler and Phil Poor reminisce at a National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum event held at Red Bledsoe’s shop in December 2015 (Kevin Oldham photo)

    KO:  1992 had to be a special year for you with that Silver Crown championship.  The series consisted of just 7 races that year and you started off 3rd at Phoenix.  If I recall, there were quite a few Beast cars up in the front of that field that were stout.

    Poor:  We sat on the outside of the front row and Noffsinger was on the pole.  Beast cars were sitting all around us.  All of them were pavement cars and there we had an old dirt Oz-Car. 

    KO:  So you started off with a 3rd at Phoenix.  Your worst race was at the Hulman Hundred, where you started 24th and finished 12th.  Going through the rest of the races, you were 7th at IRP, 2nd at Springfield, 6th at Du Quoin, and 3rd at the Hoosier Hundred, where you had a shot to win on the last lap before an incident with Shuman.  So, it all came down to Eldora and trailing by 18 points, you needed to win the race to have a chance at the championship.  Were there any special preparations before the Four Crown, or did you just do the same things?

    Poor:  We just did the same thing.  Of course, Eldora was very suited for Butler.  It was a good track that day – a good cushion.  He stuck it on the floor and never lifted in the two laps for qualifying and set a track record.  He started on the pole.  The only thing that probably lost the championship for Jeff Swindell was that he ran Goodyear tires.  Once again, we were back to the tire deal, and that lost the race for him.

    KO:  I remember Butler having a crash out at Sacramento in 1990 and Kenny Jarrett replaced the old Gambler with this Oz-Car.  Anyway, Butler had won with this particular Oz-Car at Eldora in 1990.  Were you confident heading into the finale given that this car had success there? 

    Poor:  Oh yeah.  That was a fast car.  Like the old ’83 Gambler, it was just a good car.  And you’ll hear drivers and car owners say that there is a difference in racecars and there are no two cars that are alike.  Some of them you don’t have to do anything to them and they are fast.  That Oz-Car was similar to the Gambler.  It was a good all-around car.  You didn’t have to deviate a lot from it.  You did the same thing on the mile as you did at Eldora.  The only thing we ever had done different with the Oz-Car was when Foyt promoted and he cut the racetrack up and it got to be like a washboard, it was so soft.  It was so bad that year that we had to put huge bars in the right rear and we ran a sprint car tire on the right rear, just like one that you’d run Kokomo because it was so slow. 

    KO:  So going back to that Eldora race, you guys got the pole and although Steve led the first 7 laps, Swindell took over and led to lap 27.  Johnny Parsons led laps 28 through 40 but hit the wall on lap 41 and dropped out.  So then Butler came on strong late while Swindell faded with his Goodyears, allowing you guys to take the win and championship.  When you got up there on the stage afterwards, did you know that you had won the title? 

    Poor:  Yeah, we pretty much knew that when we won that race, that was it.  I think we won the title by three points.  It was a good win for me.  It was more satisfying for Butler.  And as Steve had told me before, that just cemented me coming on board that year. 

    KO:  Was that your first year with the team then?

    Poor:  Yes.  I told Kenny that I wouldn’t be willing to work on the car unless he spent money on it.  He asked, “How much do you think it will cost?”  I said, “Maybe $12,000.”  He said, “Oh, I can’t spend that much!”  So, I think we compromised and got down to spending $9,000 on the car.  We replaced all the brakes and driveline, the stuff that had broken or was going to break because they had run them so many years.  Good maintenance on the car and being prepared was the key.  I think the only real failure we had that year was when we lost a fuel pump at Du Quoin.  It set us back a little bit.  We were in the hunt and we were strong.  It just reinforced with Steve that once we got back together and raced, that we could still be a good team together. 

    KO:  To date, that was your 5th national championship in 7 seasons.  Out of all the championships you have won, which one was the most special?  Was it 1992 or was it a bigger deal winning it with your own stuff in ’86?

    Poor:  1986 was probably a bigger deal winning it with my stuff, 100%.  1992 was good because it was a fun deal.  Kenny and Mary Jarret were good car owners.  You couldn’t ask for two better car owners.  They were very happy that we put the effort into it.  It was very rewarding in having them talk to you and express that.  They sent me letters and cards and couldn’t thank me enough.  It was good. I can’t say it wasn’t.

    KO:  Do you ever think back to the talent that existed in the Silver Crown series back then – both drivers and mechanics - and think about how much of an accomplishment a Silver Crown championship was?  There were some true legends in the sport involved in that series at that time.  Does that ever dawn on you about how special it was to win that title?

    Poor:  A lot of that translated from sprint car racing and staying current.  A lot of guys that run those Silver Crown cars did it because it fit their schedule.  When you only run a few times a year – six or seven times – it’s not like racing all of the time.  You get a little relaxed.  And two, back to the tire program, a lot of those guys would run Hoosier tires because they were given to them, instead of spending $300 for McCreary tires.  You couldn’t change their mindset.  Silver Crown racing is dictated by finishing the races.  It’s a long race.  You’ve got to be patient as a driver.  You’ve got to work the tires.  You’ve got to get off to a good start.  It’s better to start up front than in the rear.  Even if you can get to the front, you’d be using up your car to get there.  You’ve got to have a lot of luck and a lot of things have to go your way.

    KO:  1993 was your last year of working with Steve Butler and you two managed to win on the mile at the Hulman Hundred, which was an even more amazing feat considering that while racing, Steve diagnosed an engine misfire through a short in the kill switch and fixed the problem while he was out there driving, tying off the wire that was shorting out.  As a mechanic, what kind of an impression did that make on you?

    Poor:  Well, of course I didn’t know that went on until after the race.  But, I was wondering why he was fading.  It didn’t come down and backfire and spit.  It was just taking enough out of the ignition that it didn’t have a good spark.  Therefore, the cylinders don’t fire and the horsepower dropped down.  But, it eventually would have gotten so bad that it would have quit.  With Steve sitting in the seat and having experience in working with motors, he’d know that you’ve only got fuel and spark to work with.  Anything else just breaks and quits.  He had probably experienced a mag switch going bad on a car, maybe not while racing.  But if it went bad, you’d go through your process of mechanics and figure out that it’s the kill switch.  There’s only one thing that he can do – yank that wire off the ground and it would either run better or it wouldn’t.  So he did that and it started running better.  He had a 50/50 chance.  If it was fuel, you couldn’t fix it anyway.  It was just good instinct on his behalf.

    KO:  Ironically, that ended up being your last win with Butler, as he retired from the sport after that turbulent ’93 season in the sprint cars.  Did the frustration of his suspensions spill over to your Silver Crown effort? 

    Poor:  No.  That really wasn’t an issue.

    KO:  Did you feel as though his suspensions were fair? 

    Poor:  Well, the thing about those suspensions – I wasn’t at Terre Haute, but in my mind, and I touched on this before, but when we quit racing together and Steve’s racing format was going to change, his family was changing, and the whole dynamics were changing, he went to race with several guys for all the wrong reasons.  That kind of looked good on paper, to fit his work schedule and be home more.  But, the reality of what they said they were going to do just didn’t pan out.  One of them didn’t get the cars and get the motors and didn’t follow through.  The other one got free tires and wouldn’t go back to McCrearys and run.  He had the motors and stuff.  Some of those decisions compromised him.  I wasn’t at Terre Haute, but for some of the things in his journey when he started out racing, I could see problems coming.  When they would happen, I wasn’t sure when things would boil over.  But they eventually did.  It’s like Karl Kinser said one time, “These racecars get so fast anymore that you don’t have time to blink from one turn to the next.  You’ve got to make a decision on what you’re going to do.  Sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong.” 

    Knowing Steve, he sometimes tries to carry a car.  But when you don’t have a racecar that you can do that with, you’re going to step on your wienie every once in a while. 

    Restoration – Phil Poor proudly displays the fruits of his labor after a lengthy and detailed restoration of a 1989 Stoops Gambler sprint car (Phil Poor collection)

    KO:  Did you feel any sadness about his resulting retirement? 

    Poor:  Oh yeah.  In fact, I got right on the phone and called him.  I said, “Steve, I can understand not going sprint car racing.  It takes a lot of time.  But, stay with the Silver Crown.  I can get a Silver Crown program going and we can race that thing for years and years and still be competitive.”  He said, “No, once I made up my mind that I’m done, I’m done!” And I said, “You ought to re-think that.”  And he said, “No. I’ve made up my mind and that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m not going second-guess myself.”  And I said, “I wish you the best of luck.” 

    There is no doubt in my mind today that he could still win a race in a Silver Crown car.  You couldn’t lay out of it ten years and come back, but if he would have stayed with the Silver Crown, he would have been up there.  If he didn’t break, he was always a front-runner.  You go back and when I even worked with Johnny Parsons, was Johnny Parsons a balls-out driver?  No, I wouldn’t say that he was a balls-out driver, but he had a lot of knowledge with Silver Crown cars on the miles, about going out there and not using up a car early on. 

    KO:  Had that ’93 season not happened with the turmoil, the ridicule, the suspensions – had it been a clean season – do you think he would have kept going?

    Poor:  He might have went a few more years, but I think his issues would have only gotten worse.  That’s my personal opinion.  If it hadn’t have happened this year, trying to compromise work schedules and family schedules, to get to the track and then get home, it would have happened soon.  As a racer you’ve got to be all into racing and completely buy in.  If you’re only one of the 22 or 30 starters out there, you’re just taking up space and time.  You’re just spinning your wheels and not going too many places.

    KO:  After ’93, did that force Kenny Jarrett’s hand to say that he was done too? 

    Poor:  They were getting a little older.  They were spending some money.  They had a couple of boys.  They had grandkids.  They had a farming operation.  Realistically, when they got into racing, they had that bad experience with George Toney.  George wound up with some of the cars and motors.  That left a bitter taste in their mouth.  That’s one reason they wouldn’t pursue any more sprint car racing.  Kenny made a remark to me one time, saying, “I spent $125,000 and only got to race 12 races.  You ran 65 races and it only cost $2,000.”  I think their dynamics changed and it came to the point in time that it was time to do something different.

    KO:  Did the Hoffmans end up buying the Jarrett Silver Crown car or was it someone else associated with Best Farms? 

    Poor:  No, Gus Hoffman bought the car.  I think he gave Kenny $21,000 for that car.  He bought it out lock, stock, and barrel.  He came over to my garage and picked it up.  And then, they took it down to Loveland.  I’m not for sure if they raced it that year or if that’s the year I started helping them.  (Author’s note:  They actually ran the car in 1994 with Robbie Stanley at Phoenix and Cary Faas at the Hoosier Hundred and Eldora.)

    KO:  My memories of the Hoffmans having that car were in the ’95 season, first with Kevin Huntley at the Hulman Hundred. 

    Poor:  Right, right.  He started right up front.  We qualified third.  His seat belts came unfastened on the parade lap.  He didn’t stop in the proper place to tell them and they put us on the tail.  Terrible!

    KO:  Were your services part of the package when the car was purchased? 

    Poor:  No.  Gus called me one day as asked me, “Would you work on this car?  Richard and his boy don’t have time to do it. I’m just kind of stuck.”  I said, “I don’t really want to, but I guess I could.”  He said, “Well, I’ll pay you to work on that car if you’ll help.”  I said, “Oh, I don’t know that I want any money to work on it.  It’s just the time and family and different things.”  So, he called me several times and I told him I’d do it.  I took the car back to Anderson. 

    Earlier, you mentioned Best Farms.  That was Gene Best.  He went to school in Markleville and Gene liked racing.  I went down to him and said, “Would you like to help sponsor a car?  I’m going to take care of a Silver Crown car this year.”  He knew Butler and knew I had sprint cars and had been to a few races.  I think he gave me $400 per race so I called Hoffman and asked if he’d put his name on there for $400.  He said, “Oh hell yeah!  It’s less I’ll have to pay out of my pocket.”  I got to talking to Jeff (Stoops) and told him I was going to do the Silver Crown deal and see how it goes.  “Would you be interested?”  He said, “That’s way too much money for me.”  I said, “You won’t have to put much money into it. Would you freshen the motor – a one-time deal? I’ll put your name on the side of the car.”  He said, “Down the front, or along the side?”  I said, “Down the side.” 

    So I called Hoffman and said that I might have a sponsor to freshen the motor for you, but I’ll only bring him on board if you buy a new set of heads for the car (because they only had an old set of -12 heads and the newer heads with down nozzles were out).  He said, “Well, if you bring me a sponsor to freshen the motor, I’ll spend $6,000 and buy the new set of heads.” 

    I called Stoops and said Hoffman will buy into that, but we’d have to buy a new set of heads.  And he said, “Oh hell, I ain’t buying a new set of heads for that car!”  I said, “No, Hoffman will buy the heads if you freshen it.”

    We won Du Quoin and Johnny Capels called Stoops and said, “Oh, I saw that your car won.”  He said, “What car?”  Capels said, “Your car won the Silver crown race.”  The rich called the rich, you know what I mean? 

    So that’s how Best got on there.  He did go to Du Quoin and he got to take the trophy home, keep it for a week, and show it to people.  Ironically, in all of my racing, Larry Rice got his last sprint car win in my car.  Parsons got his last Silver Crown win in my car.  I think Jack Hewitt did too.  (Author’s note:  Jack actually scored his last All Star victory with Poor at Kokomo in 1991.)

    KO:  In that ’95 season, there were a variety of drivers in that Hoffman number 65.  I already mentioned Huntley.  Mark Cassella, who was driving for the Hoffmans in the sprint car series, was in the car for a little bit.  Dan Drinan ran a Hoffman 65 at IRP, but I don’t remember if it was the same car or not.  And then of course Johnny Parsons. 

    Poor:  I don’t remember Drinan driving that car.  They might have had a pavement car, but he never drove that dirt car. 

    Santa Fe 1985 – Tray House was Phil’s first driver, shown in USAC action at Santa Fe Speedway in August of 1985 (Patrick Poor collection)

    KO:  On Labor Day weekend, Parsons set a one-lap record at the Hoosier Hundred but finished 28th.  Two days later, you won Du Quoin on a blistering hot day.  100 miles is a lot of wear and tear on a Silver Crown car, let alone 200 miles.  What went wrong at Indy? 

    Poor:  We had just gotten the motor back from Earl (Gaerte) and one of the oil return lines, not the suction line, was loose, and I missed it.  I failed to put a wrench on the oil return lines.  We set that track record, and I don’t know how many laps we led, but we got $100 for leading each lap. 

    There’s two stories to that.  That tire probably would not have made it through that race. We would probably have blown the tire before the end, but the oil line came first.  He came in and I tightened the oil line.  We went back out but by that time, we were already two laps down.  So he ran a few more laps and made sure that the oil pressure stayed up on the car.  But, I came home that night, pulled the pan, and put a set of bearings in it.  But that same tire that we set the track record and ran the first part of that race, is the tire that we won Du Quoin with two days later.  We had a red flag on about the seventh lap of the start of the race. 

    I said, “Go get that other tire – we’re going to put it on.”  Hoffman said, “Hell, that’s a used tire!”  I said, “That’s the tire we need to put on the car.”  Hoffman said, “Why would you do that?”  I said, “That tire is grained.  Look at the tire we’ve got on the car.  It is already starting to shine up.  It’s going to glaze over and we’re going to go backwards.”  We were leading the race and Hoffman questioned that.  We stuck that tire on there and we took off and led quite a bit.  Then Chuck Gurney came on and passed us.  He ran about six laps and I said, “Hell, he isn’t going to run any more than three or four laps and it’s going to blow.”  You could see it pushing water out on the straightaway.  It eventually blew up on the back stretch.  So we went on to win that race.

    KO:  You already talked about JP not necessarily being a balls-out driver.  But, just how good was he on the miles? 

    Poor:  John had run so many laps on the miles that the first thing that he said to me was, “I just want to warm the motor up and get the brakes run in.  I’m not going to run too many hard laps.”  So he went out and ran a few laps and I questioned him.  I said, “Why do you want to do that?  Why don’t you want to get some laps on the track?” 

    He said, “This track is going to change.  All we need to do is to get somewhere in the ballpark for stagger.  I like an inch and a half or an inch and seven-eighths.  As long as the car feels decent, we’re going to go out and run four hard laps.  If you want to scuff some tires in, we’ll do that.  But we’ll go out when the track cleans off and we’ll run three or four hard laps and I will tell you whether we need to change something in the car.  Just get it tight now and we’ll loosen it up to go racing.”

    He wasn’t a balls-out driver but he ran the car very hard.  He had the finesse.  But then again, when you come to Eldora and to run Eldora like you had to run Eldora, then it was a little different deal.  It wasn’t that we were that bad at Eldora.  We were third in qualifying and fifth in the race, but between the young guys like a Haudenschild or a Butler who will get up there and bang off the wall, he wasn’t going to do that.  I think that’s just age.  But for running the miles, you couldn’t ask for a better program working with him.  He just had a lot of knowledge.  He taught us not to chase the racetrack because if you do, it’s going to change. 

    KO:  Years ago I asked you this question, but given how great the Oz-Car worked and the success you had with that car, do you think you could still make that car competitive with the right engine combination?

    Poor:  Yes, I think it would.  The only difference from today to our day, we ran softer tires.  Now, how that car would relate to running a 65 Hoosier compared to a 50 and a 55 McCreary, I can’t tell you.  I would think that with somebody who understands how you have to run a Silver Crown car, how important the brakes are, balancing the car to make the car turn in, to not turn the wheel much, to make the car push…once you understood that, and that wouldn’t be a quarter-mile sprint car driver, this would be a guy who’s been there, done that, and understands what it is.  It would have to be a veteran on the miles or someone with a lot of talent who catches on quickly. 

    The tube heights aren’t any different.  The wheelbase is the same.  We ran the same width axles back then as they do now.  They are on the same tracks, and there aren’t any real new tracks.  It would just be how you would adapt to a lot harder tire.  The shock packages are a little different.  They’re a little more engineered and precise.  Between a little shock package and a harder tire, there’s not that much difference.  I would think it could be very competitive. 

    KO:  If you had Brian Tyler on a mile, do you think you could get it done?

    Poor:  Him, Darland, another Butler.  Kody Swanson. 

    KO:  That was a good car.  I don’t know where it exists now.

    Poor:  It’s setting up in Michigan.  It’s been changed around a lot.  The people that bought it off of the Hoffmans crashed it and changed the rear shock mounts.  They put wishbones on it.  It’s got a coil front end on it.  It looks terrible.  I saw it several months ago and it was a scary sight.

    KO:  Moving forward to ’96, at what point did you get hooked up with Brian Tyler and Larry Contos and how did that come about? 

    Poor:  Contos is from Anderson, with his supermarkets.  Tyler was running for them.  Dave Smith and Jason McCord were working on the car.  Of course Jason was married to a Contos.  I knew Jason through the Adams family.  I knew Smith – he was a businessman in town.  His son works for USAC.  They got ahold of me and wanted to know if I’d help them on the dirt.  Of course they had called a few times on a motor problem:  setting the injection and doing some different things.  It wound up that they asked me to help them on the dirt and they would take care of the pavement.  That’s how that arrived, plus they had a reverse tube car that I was familiar with.  They weren’t too familiar with it.  It worked out good and we won several races together.

    Warsaw 1985 – Phil Poor’s first win as a car owner came in September 1985 at Warsaw, Indiana (Phil Poor collection)

    KO:  So were you maintaining the car at your shop or theirs?

    Poor:  No, they maintained it at an old filling station up town, close to one of his old stores that he had closed.  They kept the equipment there.  I would go up there prior to the races and block the car, check the bars in it, go through the shocks, and stuff like that.  But cleaning it, servicing it, changing the oil, running the valves – they pretty much did that.  But I put the tape on it, measured the car, and got it the way I thought it should be. 

    KO:  Was it an adjustment getting used to what Brian Tyler wanted in a car?

    Poor:  For a racecar driver, if he’s fast and you start off good, you kind of keep it simple.  You might ask what kind of bars he likes in the car.  He tells you 1025 and you’re thinking 1050.  That’s not that big of a deal because ride heights and wheel offsets are the two biggest things in a sprint car.  It can either make it evil or somewhat decent.  But twenty-five thousandths in a torsion bar is nothing.  On pavement, it might be different, but I’m not a pavement guy.  Then again, drivers have run these racetracks and I’ve run these racetracks a lot.  It wasn’t like:  “Where do I start?”  You’ve already got that range that you need to be in and you take off from there.

    KO:  What kind of chassis were you running with Tyler?  You said it was a reverse-tube car but I seem to recall some down tubes were added to this car at some point in time. 

    Poor:  They were Gamblers on dirt.  I think that car came from Donnie Adams originally, but I could be wrong.  I’m positive it was a Gambler.  I think one of the original cars they got, they welded down tubes on that car.  But I don’t think that was the car when I helped them. 

    KO:  Tyler was consistent enough in 1996 to win the USAC sprint car championship without getting a win.  Were you a part of that one in 1996?  When did you start working with Tyler?

    Poor: I kind of helped them sparingly in ’96 but I helped them more in ’97.  They asked me to help them in ’97 and we won three races.  Although he won the title in ’96, I can’t take any credit for that. 

    KO:  So for ’97, as we just talked about you and Brian scored three wins on dirt, two of them at Lawrenceburg and one of them at Eldora on national TV. 

    Poor:  Right.  We beat Frankie Kerr, which was a big deal.  Frankie was a McCreary guy and he came down to the car after that and said, “I thought I was going to beat you guys.”  I said, “Well, I was on a McCreary too.”  I knew we stood a good shot.

    KO:  By this time, you had already won so many races and titles.  What kind of satisfaction did you gain from assisting in yet another championship?  Your resume was already pretty stout.

    Poor:  The satisfaction was just working with a good racecar driver.  Brian was good.  He was a little temperamental and hot-headed at times, but by that time, he had matured a lot.  I always liked Brian.  I never really had any heartburn with Brian, except for the deal with him and Butler at Eldora.  I thought he was wrong doing that and I expressed that to him, even the day I started helping him.  He never got upset over it. 

    KO:  I had forgotten about that incident!

    Poor:  I kind of cleared the air with him.  He had super parents.  A good sister.  Donna – she was my tire lady for years and I got along with her good.  You knew he had the credentials to win a race.  If you’d get pretty close, he’s going to sit up in the seat and drive it.  It worked out good.  I’ve got all the praise in the world for Brian.  He’s a good racecar driver.

    KO:  Comparing him to any of the other drivers you worked with, and you worked with a lot of good ones, was he just as good?

    Poor:  Yes.  He was very versatile.  He could run a stock car.  He could run an Indy car.  He’s like a lot of them that had that desire to branch out and do different things.  It’s a money thing.  He didn’t have the money.  You can only beg, borrow, and steal for so long.  You can only ask for so much help.  Sometimes some of the drivers have that capability and longevity of getting it.  Once the well went dry, trying to do different things, it dried up with him.  He was a good racer and he was right up there at the top, with all of them.

    KO:  Going to ’98, he went to drive for the Booe Brothers and they had a new Stealth pavement car.  The dirt deal, it seems like they bought a bunch of equipment from various people.  I seem to recall Jimmy Sills driving for them during Sprint Week, and you were part of that deal.  Do you remember anything about that?

    Poor:  Yes, I do.  We never qualified worse than 6th with Sills.  And the time we qualified 6th, we tied Tony Elliott for 6th, but he went out before us and he got the time.  We ran 2nd in a race (at Paragon) and should have won it, after we turned upside down in qualifying and qualified 5th.  And we went out at the end when the track was bone-ass dry.  Sills had never run non-winged that much.  I thought he was a non-winged racer when I called him, but he says he was a winged racer.  He was amazed at how hooked up that thing was on our slick tracks. 

    The other guy who was driving that car when I helped them was Jay Drake.  We had a good run going at Terre Haute.  The Hayden boy stuck a wheel in him and sent him on about 15 end-over-ends down the straightaway there. 

    KO:  I had forgotten about that too.  Jay got pretty messed up in that accident. 

    Poor:  Oh yeah.  There’s only one guy that I despise in sprint car racing and that’s Brian Hayden.  I went over to confront him and said to him, “You had to see him out there!  He was almost a full car-length in front of you!  Why did you put that wheel out there and dump him like that?”  He looked right at me and said, “That was a transfer spot.”  I have no respect for Brian today.

    KO:  Jay was laid up for a long time after that.

    Poor:  He tried to drive the car the next week or two weeks later, at Lawrenceburg.  I had won the last two USAC races with Brian Tyler there.  He hot lapped the car and got out and said, “I can’t drive it.”  The only driver that was around was Heydenreich.  I had to put him in the car but I thought we should have put it on the trailer.    

    KO:  I know that the Booes were quite interesting people.  They were into different things like logging and flying.  I think the two Booes brothers were Richard and Jim.  How would you describe your time of working with them? 

    Poor:  They were some good boys.  I never got really close to any of them.  I was a racetrack guy only.  I showed up at the track and gave them guidance on the chassis. 

    KO:  I remember Sills driving that car for the Booes.  We talked about Jay Drake.  Didn’t Tyler drive the dirt sprinter for them?  I remember seeing him run well at Red Hill late in the year.

    Poor:  That’s why Jay Drake was running, because Tyler was running an IRL race or ARCA.  He had a couple of commitments that year, because he couldn’t run Lawrenceburg either.

    Super Sub – Jack Hewitt was one of many to sub for injured Steve Butler in the 1989 season, shown readying for battle at IRP (Drew Oldham photo)

    KO:  For 1999, you were hooked up with Derek Davidson and Bill Biddle for the start of the year and you won the USAC opener at Eldora.  The next time back in early May, Derek won again and I think you were part of that win too. 

    Poor:  We won those two races at Eldora.  I’m not for sure how many races I ran, maybe three or four.  But, it fell apart at Attica.  There’s a couple of things that went on.  If you knew Bill Biddle, I don’t know how anybody could drive for him or even work for him.  That’s just my opinion.  His total thought on racing was so far off the wall that my eyeballs rolled around when I talked to him.  I was volunteer help.  I got a pit pass out of it.  He had another guy that worked for him and I tell you what, he called me everything but a white man.  I can’t think of what that kid’s name was.  We had won both Eldora races and then we ran Attica – I think we qualified 12th.  The track was really heavy.  We were really, really tight.  We had the transfer made in the heat race and Derek got a little too aggressive and tried to go for third spot.  He went back to fifth or sixth and then he missed it in the B-main.  After that, I don’t know whether I quit or Derek told me he was going to have to do something else because of Biddle.  I don’t know what the deal was.  I really liked Derek.  He could have been a great racecar driver. 

    KO:  Was that your first time working with Derek when you won at Eldora at the opener?

    Poor:  I had helped him and his dad when they got started.  I helped them at Terre Haute one time and they ran well.  We were just good friends.  Once or twice I helped him, but it was always talking at the racetrack or he’d ask me a question. 

    KO:  Obviously you thought enough of him as a driver to volunteer with the Biddle deal.

    Poor:  Another thing, we ran an open competition winged show at Terre Haute in Biddle’s car.  If we hadn’t thrown the torque tube out of it, I think Derek would have won that race.

    KO:  I remember thinking back at the start of ’99 that the two of you were going to win a lot of races.  I thought that the combination would be a big thing.  Was that a disappointing deal for you?

    Poor:  Oh yeah, very disappointing for just volunteer help.  I think if Derek would have been with the right car owner, there would have been a lot more wins and maybe some championships.  He was really getting comfortable in sprint cars, standing on the gas, getting up on the wall.  As a family, they just ran out of money and he was working on an education.  His circumstances changed too with getting married and having kids.  It changes your direction.

    KO:  I can’t remember any deals for you in between Bill Biddle and Don DeSalle, but with DeSalle, here’s another guy from Anderson.  Of course he started running Eric Gordon.  About a year later, they started running a second car for Dave Darland.  I remember riding with you to Sun Prairie with David Sink.  For 2001, you wound up winning Indiana Sprint Week, which was a huge accomplishment given how tough the local sprint car scene was. 

    Poor:  We were running 39 inch cars.  That was kind of the trend.  They weren’t the best cars.  With Darland, we could always finish well, but we couldn’t get started off.  We couldn’t qualify worth a shit, but didn’t really realize what was going on.  If I had that car back today, we would run the car a lot different.  I would run it a lot more loose.  It was always too tight early.  The track would always come to us.  Shit, I couldn’t believe the amount of cars we passed.  We started on the tail in one race and almost passed Jay Drake.  Well, we did pass him but the yellow came out. 

    DeSalle was from Anderson.  Dave Smith, Jason’s dad, was taking care of the cars in his shop.  He came and asked me to help him on the dirt.  That’s how that got going again.

    KO:  I don’t know if you’d ever worked with Darland before, but what were your recollections of first working with him?

    Poor:  He could drive a racecar!

    KO:  I know most people say that Darland doesn’t ask for much – he just wants a fast car and he’ll make it work on the track.  Was that true when you worked with Dave?  Did he have any specific demands?

    Poor:  No.  Today, if Darland would go to drive for somebody and it was a DRC and he’d run DRCs before, he’d say, “I normally run these bars or those bars.”  His wife said more than he did.  Dave was trying to get a ride and he’d drive the wheels off of it.  He did acknowledge, “We can race good, but why can’t we qualify?”  Well, if I knew, we’d qualify better!  But, we did have some decent qualifying that year.  Our deal was, 10th, 11th, or 12th.  If we were out when the track was suited to our car, then we’d be alright.  Only one time was I ever disappointed in his qualifying effort, and that was Haubstadt.  We qualified 32nd.  We were right on pace in hot laps.  In my opinion, he just got on the wrong part of the racetrack.  We probably started dead-tail and within 18 or 20 laps, we were passing Drake for the lead but the yellow came out.

    KO:  Being able to work with Darland, I would think that was an enjoyable experience for you.  Was that the case?  

    Poor:  As far as Dave personally, it was a fun time.  He was just very good.  But there were some other circumstances around him that could make it difficult, especially because I am not doing this for a living.  I’m here to have some fun and I’m just trying to help.  And I didn’t need that. 

    USAC Banquet 1986 – Joined by their respective wives, Steve Butler and Phil Poor celebrated their 1986 USAC sprint car success at the season-ending banquet (Phil Poor collection)

    KO:  How well did you know Don DeSalle?  It seems like there was a cloud of mystery surrounding that guy. 

    Poor:  Don DeSalle was a school teacher and he had some controversy.  My first experience of being around him was when he had a racecar.  He had been in the newspapers in Anderson a time or two over some issues at school.  Don was a little different.  He liked racing.  I can’t say nothing bad about him.  He wasn’t afraid to make calls.  He had a girlfriend at that time who was on the telephone constantly, trying to get sponsorships.  The bad thing about that was that there were too many fingers in the pie, doing different things.  It needed to be centrally in one location with one or two guys working on it there.  Those guys just loved to drink beer.  I’m not saying it was a bad thing, but it was a different deal than what I was used to.  In several of the deals I worked on towards the end, it is one thing to have it in your shop, manage it, massage it, babysit it, take care of it.  But to just come in and show up at the race track, you can only do so much.  Part of the puzzle is always missing.  By that time in my career, I was just glad to be able to race a little bit.  I looked at it a lot different.  My expectations weren’t near as what they were in the past.  If a guy came up to me and said, “I’ve got this to work with and I’m willing to buy that,” I would have felt a little more obligated.

    KO:  What eventually went wrong with the DeSalle and Darland deal?  Was it a performance issue or was it simply too many hands in the cookie jar?

    Poor:  Well, first of all, on DeSalle’s end, it was what deals he could get.  When we started off running Eagle cars, they weren’t a bad car.  Today, an Eagle car is a Maxim.  They were good cars and if he would have stayed with that and used a 40 inch car and got away from the 39, we would have been alright.  But then the next year, Stealth came to him and said that they would give him two free cars.  He said to me that we should run the Stealths but I thought we should have stayed with the Eagles.  It’s what we worked with.  And he said, “Well, I’d have to buy them.”  I said, “See if they’ll do a deal where if you buy one, they might give you one, and then at the end of the year, give it back to them.” 

    He said, “I don’t want to do that.  Stealth is going to give us this and give us that.”  Shit, those cars just didn’t work!  And then, too many things were going on at the shop.  You can’t drink a lot of beer and work on racecars.  A lot of stuff wasn’t getting done. 

    Darland wound up and got hurt.  It went from something the year before that you could live with and work with, but instead of getting better, it went the other way.  Finally, all the unnecessary drama got to the point that I couldn’t deal with it anymore.  I’m not going to come here and volunteer my time and put up with that.  I don’t need it.  It wasn’t worth the four or five hours that you were out a night, buying your own gas to get there, working on the car, and getting a $25 pit pass.  I could sit in the grandstands or just roam the pits and have as much fun.  Darland has been with a lot of good teams.  And some performances have been good, some haven’t been good.  There’s just all kinds of stuff that goes on in a racing team.  You can’t take nothing away from Dave Darland though.  He can get the job done if the car is good, if the car is decent. 

    KO:  After your time with DeSalle, I can’t even recall where you would have wound up or who you would have been helping.  Can you clue me in?

    Poor:  After the DeSalle thing, I pretty much went to the races and didn’t worry about working on racecars anymore.  By that time, I had grandkids coming to live with me.  In fact, I think I did have grandkids living with me full-time, 24/7, for about seven years.  I just kind of dropped out of the scene of working on racecars.  Once in a while I would go to the racetrack and once in a while, somebody would call me.  I helped Adam Nigg a little bit for a few races.  The older you get and the more you are away from it, it gets tougher.  A lot of the younger kids don’t know me.  A lot of the old timers still do.  You just grow apart from that scene of working on it.  I’m sure if I would have called around I could have found something.  There was a time when there were a few ads in Speed Sport wanting help, but finally I said, “Hey, it’s time to do something different in life.” 

    KO:  In those early to mid-2000 years, did you sense a change was coming in the sprint car scene?  It seems like there was a lot more money involved and quite a few big name drivers, teams, and mechanics began to fade away. 

    Poor:  It was just a whole change of everything, but personally for me it was more with the grandkids and the time.  I had my few years of glory.  You get older and circumstances change.  If you’re going to race and you want to be good at it, you have to put your heart and soul into it.  It’s just part of life.  It consumes you.  I had my good days.  I had good people that helped me financially.  I had good drivers.  I looked back over the guys I won with:  Rice, Kaeding, Tyler, Parsons, Davidson, Hewitt, Butler, and Darland.  Most of my wins came at Eldora.  Eldora was my favorite track.  I always thought it was the easiest track to work as far as working on the racecar, but it took a select few drivers that could win on it. 

    KO:  For the last decade, you’ve been attending races very regularly.  You’ve always been willing to help a racer in need, as you’re always in the pit area, stopwatch and maybe even a flashlight in hand, paying close attention to what is going on.  Do you miss being heavily involved or do you like your current status where you can do things on your own schedule and agenda? 

    Poor:  You can stay away from the races, but you can’t take the racer out of the guy.  It’s kind of that way with me.  Do I miss working on a racecar night and day?  I’m 72 now, soon to be 73.  Your mind still runs good and is very active in what you should do, what you shouldn’t do, what you’d like to do.  But you’ve got to give so much concentration and it takes such physical demand if you want to work on a racecar.  If you want to own a racecar and just show up at the racetrack and wash it off once in a while, it might not take as much out of you.  Physically, I can still work on a racecar but if you look at Paul Hazen today, he has to have a lot of help now.  The mind still runs good, but the body and the limbs and the endurance, it’s tough.  I don’t know how he even does it. 

    I still love racing.  I still think in the right group, it could work, but I would need help.  I would need two to three good helpers, good workers, that can do a lot of the work.  I could instruct people and tell them what to do and how we’re going to do it.  I still think I could be a good asset to a racing team.  But is racing today like it was in the ‘80s?  It’s like daylight and darkness.  That’s how much difference there is in racing today.

    KO:  Over the last year or so, you’ve spent a great deal of time restoring a 1989 Gambler sprint car that was a former Jeff Stoops car that you used in that ’89 season.  How did you keep tabs on that particular car, all these years later? 

    Poor:  Well, that car went north.

    KO:   Was that the Wisconsin deal?

    Poor:  Yes.  It did go to Wisconsin.  I knew where it was at.  I actually located the car off of Facebook on where it was at in Minnesota.  I’d been going to the races even though my wife died in 2010.  I just decided that I needed something to do.  When I found this, and I was very confident that this was the car, I told myself, “Why don’t you just buy that thing and make it a project?”  That’s how it led into this restoration.

    KO:  What condition was the car in and how much original stuff came with the car?

    Poor:  I got a frame and a motor plate.  The center section of the hood, that was also original.  All the rest of it I either bought new or from various people.  I bought a new motor plate, new rear arms, new birdcages.  I got some new stuff off of Kevin Briscoe.   Of course they had run Gamblers years ago.  They had some hoods and different things laying on top of their garage.  I got a sump tank off of him.  And, I just bought some stuff off of the internet.  Actually, today that car has got as nice if not nicer pieces on it in ’89.    

    KO:  Were there any other challenges in making that car as period correct as possible?

    Poor:  No.  I had a lot of the old fuel lines that are on the car at my garage.  I had one of the old, original steering wheels.  I had the tach.  I had several things laying around the garage.  It was just trying to find some pieces that were of that era.  I had tons of pictures.  It wasn’t hard to duplicate things on the car. 

    KO:  Where’d you get the engine from?

    Poor:  I got it from Bryan Ruble.  Actually, it’s a Gaerte block.  We ran Shavers back then, but I had an old set of Shaver valve covers in the garage that I ran on the pavement car, the one that Dave Sink’s got.  I put them on there.  It had Hillborn injection on it, just like we had.  It’s got a Gambler oil pump on it, and that’s what we ran.  So I just wound up buying a new oil pan for it.  If you’d pull the hood off of it and take a picture of our ’88 or ’89 car with the hood off of it, it looks just like a Shaver motor sitting in it.

    KO:  You finally got the thing finished in late 2015 and you took it down to Haubstadt on Labor Day Weekend and later, you took it to the Four Crown to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of your first USAC win.  Did you actually drive the car around Haubstadt - on the track?

    Poor:  Yeah, I took it around there 10 or 12 laps, just slow.  In fact, that’s the first time in all these years that I ever started a car and drove it around.  I had started it on the street a lot of times and I started one time at Anderson Speedway, just to start the motor. But, that was the first time I had ever been out there.  I pushed up to the push-off point and sat there and visualized what would go through a racecar driver’s mind, getting ready to push off.

    KO:  So how much of a thrill was that?

    Poor:  Oh, it was a huge thrill!  I really can’t wait until I get the car back from Knoxville.  I’ll get that back in the spring of ’17.  I’m going to let it set out there the whole year.  I could go back and get it in September or October of this year, but why do that?  I’ll let it set out there all winter.  I’ll go out on opening day of Knoxville and pick it up. I’ll get a little more stagger to put in the car to run the short tracks.  In 2017, I hope to do maybe 5 of those shows in this area.  I want to go to Fremont and take it to their race of champions.  By that time, I’ll have a top wing on the car.  A lot of the Ohio tracks, we ran wings in those three years. 

    KO:  Do you think you will you ever get Steve Butler to come and drive that thing?

    Poor:  Steve wants to.  He was actually going to come to Eldora because we thought we were going to be able to get on the racetrack.  But the way it wound up, they had some controversy the year before.  Some guys were driving too fast over there, so they kept them off the track.  This year, they may get back on the track, but I won’t have the car.  But, that is Steve’s goal and in fact, he came down and sat in the car.  He said, “You think you could take this padding out of the seat?  I could get in it if you take the padding out.” 

    And actually, the seat that’s in the car is the seat that Steve used to win the Four Crown in ’89.  And that’s another thing, that’s the last dirt sprint car race that Steve Butler won.  He won some pavement races with Vance and the Hoffmans, but I never remember him winning another dirt sprint race after that 1989 Four Crown.

    KO:  So, with the success of restoring the car, does that fire you up to do any more projects like that?

    Poor:  Well, I’ve got Dave’s (Sink) pavement car, which was actually our first ’87 Gambler that we took to Florida.  Eventually we converted it over to run strictly pavement.  It’s sitting there.  I have cleaned up some of the parts and pieces for Dave.  The rear end, the steering, the front hubs – a lot of that car, probably 70%, is original from that day.  It’s just a matter of money coming together.  It takes money.  If he’d give me that car, I might start on it.  But, I don’t own it.  I just don’t feel like I can put money in it.

    KO:  We’re obviously reminiscing today about what I consider to be the glory days of racing.  These are my best memories of the sport.  When you’re putting that car together and you’re out in the garage, how many times were you thinking about those years and what memories did it bring up?

    Poor:  It was not so much the memories of racing the car, but it was more of measuring the ride height on the car, looking at the arm angles, and jacking the rear end up to see how the wheel laid.  Things like that, which I was always paying attention to, those are the things that came back through my mind.  I was trying to remember, how long were those arms?  Were they 15 inches or did I have them 14 and 7/8ths?  But, with this refurbished or reconditioned car, why would I worry so much about how the ride height was on the car?  There wouldn’t be one out of a thousand people who would recognize that and walk up and say, “That car sets an inch lower than it did when you raced it.”  But, those were always things that I paid attention to.  So much as far as racing the car and it being on the track, those things from over the years really haven’t come back that much.  It was just something that you’d done.  You enjoyed doing it.  The next day was a different day. 

    KO:  You have already touched on this, but to recap, you and Steve had this chemistry.  You clearly clicked.  Was that the number one reason for your success? 

    Poor:  Well, it was that, and our personalities were pretty much alike.  We’re both still pretty quiet.  We’re deep thinkers, all the time.  At times, I would get in a panic.  I would yell, “Get the f-ing jack!”  Things like that…I didn’t think I was hard on people, but I’ve had people mention to me, “God damn, you gave me hell!”  I guess like a couple, sometimes they go through hard times. 

    But for whatever reason Steve and I got along.  If you start off on the right foot, then the left foot comes along and you march in sequence.  That’s just how it started.  My wife was with me.  His wife came along.  His kids came along.  It just worked out well.  But everybody has different reasons for being in racing.  I don’t know about today’s teams, but if you’re an asshole to work with, you probably won’t get along with very many drivers or very many crews.  If a driver has that mentality, always ranting and raving, they won’t be around long or they won’t drive for you.  It’s just very good that it worked out that well for us.  Later on, many years after he retired, Butler told me, “I wish I could have ended my sprint car career with you.  It would have been a lot more enjoyable.” 

    KO:  Is there one statistic from that ’86 to ’89 era that you are most proud of when thinking back to that era?

    Poor:  Just being competitive.  Just knowing that every time we went to the racetrack, we were going to be a threat, barring anything that might go wrong like breaking a motor.  There might have been some winged races we went to where this wasn’t the case, but from the day he stepped in that car, to the day he quit, there was never a time when we went to a non-winged race that I didn’t think we were going there to win that race.  I went there with that confidence that he was going to give 110% and there would be very little distractions.  Some of those distractions started coming right towards the end of his racing with us.  A lot of that went on after he quit racing with us.  But, I knew that if things went right and if we had a little luck at all, we were going to have a good day of racing.   

    KO:  You already mentioned that Eldora was your favorite track – would you confirm that?

    Poor:  Eldora – yes.  As far as a car owner and working on cars, when you’re fast, they are all great, but I enjoyed Eldora because I always thought I understood Eldora a little bit better than most.  It still goes back to the drivers.  The guys that raced the short tracks and stayed on the short tracks all of the time, they can’t go over to Eldora.  They’d like to go over to Eldora for the end of the year and run one race and get some laps.  That actual car can win on any short track, but when you go over and set it on Eldora, it’s a whole different deal.

    KO:  Did you have a preference for right rear weight there?

    Poor:  Yeah.  With Jack Hewitt, he ran more right rear weight than anybody.  You’d better have some good right rear weight with Jack.  With Butler, we were a little outside weight, kind of around flat weight a lot of times.  But getting back to the Wisconsin deal, Cory Kruseman ran for me up there and I could not put enough inside weight in that car.  I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”  He said, “No, put more inside weight in it.”  It had an unbelievable amount in it.  When I brought that car home and jacked it up, I thought it was going to tip over on the left rear.  But, that’s the only guy I ever had in a car that ever ran that kind of weight in the car.  I don’t know if that’s just his style from California, but the only time I ever tried run weight like that was with Tray House – not quite that much and we got slower and slower and slower.  To each his own.

    KO:  You have worked with a ton of incredible drivers in your time.  Is there one driver you wanted to work with but never had the chance, like maybe a Steve Kinser?

    Poor:  Well, those guys I always felt like were so far out of my league.  The only time I ever had a driver call me and I wondered why that guy was calling me was Mark Kinser.  He wanted to know if I’d come to work for him early in his career.  I always wondered what it would be like to work with Wolfgang.  But, he was temperamental.  I had talked to Doug several times over at Knoxville and the PRI show.  When we were over in Pennsylvania, he told me once, “You f-ing guys.  I’ll take that wing off and I’ll kick your ass!” It rained out that night and we were running wings.  He would have probably been a tough cookie to work with.

    KO:  He was intense.

    Poor:  Oh, he WAS intense!  I can’t really say that there was anybody that I wanted to have drive for me that didn’t.  If you look over the list of who won in my car and who drove my car, maybe out of those 15 or 16 drivers, there were probably only 3 of them that were not capable of winning.  That’s just a big part of the equation. 

    KO:  You mentioned that in the beginning, that if you’re going to do this, you need that driver who can take it to the front.

    Poor:  Right.  If there’s a mediocre Joe or a really talented guy out there, even though you’re only going to get him for one or two races, you need to go with the talent.  In my days of starting, I wouldn’t make a commitment to a guy.  I’d say, “Let’s just get started and we’ll see how we do.  If it works out, we’ll run some more races.” 

    I wouldn’t tell a guy that he was going to be in my car for the rest of the year because I’d probably be the type of guy that would eat crow before I would change, and then that would make it awfully miserable for you.  Good racecar drivers and guys that have been around racing know that you’re subject to change.  They might not like it, but it’s not going to end their world because you changed drivers on them. 

    KO:  Who do you think is the all-time best sprint car driver you have witnessed in person?  It doesn’t matter if it’s winged or non-winged.  You were a fan for a long time before you did this, so you had to see some great ones.

    Poor:  You go through different eras with different tires, so you kind of have to break that down.  Look at some of the records and go back to Stevie Kinser.  He could win with a wing, without a wing.  He ran in an era without wings and won.  Could those guys come back and take the wings off?  They would have to adapt a little bit.  There’s a few of the California guys who have run with some wings, but you don’t seem to see that much today.  You stay in one area.  You’re either a midget driver, you’re a non-winged sprint car driver, or you’re a winged World of Outlaws driver or All Star driver. 

    KO:  That was definitely the cool part of being in the era you were in when you first started.  Guys bounced between everything.

    Poor:  Right, because wings were coming in.  Now, times have changed.  People made a lot of parts back in the ‘60s and ‘70s and that kind of went away to kits.  Then the shock deals changed.  Not so many people build their motors today.  They might do the short blocks now.  If you’ve got a little bit of money which is a more of a select group, you go out and buy your motors.  It’s like the old Fram commercial, you either pay me now or pay me later.

    KO:  Who was the one consistent driver that you most feared as a competitor?

    Poor:  Well, probably the most I raced with was Hewitt, because he bounced from wings to non-wings.  He could win at Eldora.  He could win on any short track.  When he was in his prime, he was tough.

    KO:  What about a mechanic or team that you knew you would have to beat?  Was it the Hoffmans?  Was it Jim McQueen when he was with Johnny Vance? 

    Poor:  I didn’t think about it.  I was just interested in canvassing the pits to see what everybody else was doing.  What stagger were they running, whether they had the front end up or down on the car, whether they had the car laid down with tilt in it…

    KO:  Who do you think was the most skilled with the wrenches?

    Poor:  Paul Hazen was good.  He was a good, versatile mechanic.  Of course, I can’t really say a lot about the winged guys, because there were so many.  Personally, I wasn’t in tune with a lot of guys that worked on the cars.  I think there were a lot of guys that had the reputation of doing different things.  I probably didn’t think they were any greater than I was.  They just had some good circumstances and some good drivers.  As far as setting back and judging anybody, when you pull into a track and you start working, putting the wings on, changing the tires, you don’t have time.  If you put me against a list of guys, Jack Steck was good.  I was never a fabricator. 

    I tell you two guys that I had a lot of respect for:  Bob Hampshire and Doug Howells.  They were good mechanics and good fabricators.  They could weld, they could build motors.  I couldn’t do that.  I can fit and file and put a car together, like it should have been for our day, but there are a lot of things that I couldn’t do.  There’s a big difference between an all-around mechanic that can do all of that stuff.  Today, maybe you’d put Keith Kunz in there.  They can probably do all of that, although they do get Toyota motors.  They are a full-time business.  They’ve had to learn how to do that. 

    There’s still a lot of guys out there, from a Brian Cripe to Jeff Walker.  Jeff can mechanic and do some things, but there are a lot of things he can’t do.  He’s kind of like me, just a little younger.  It’s just hard to put in words of different people.  But, I respect anyone who works on racecars and dedicates themselves to it.  I can’t say anything bad about anybody.

    KO:  Who was the most underrated driver you personally worked with?  Would it have been Brian Tyler?

    Poor:  I think Brian had the notoriety.  I think Derek Davidson could have been one of those.  He fell to the wayside due to different circumstances.  At one time, he had the desire but as we go back to say again, everybody changes direction because of something.  It’s not maybe what they want to do, but they feel like they have to because they are getting older or getting a family.  On a scale of 1 to 10, all the drivers that sat in my car, they were generally an 8.  It wasn’t like you put a 4 in and if you stuck with him another two or three years, he’d have been right there.  By that time, you’d have been out of the racecar business as an owner.

    KO:  Out of the current crop of drivers, who impresses you the most?  Who do you enjoy watching?

    Poor:  I go back to say again, as far as racing drivers, I never disliked anybody.  In the same way, when I go watch them today, the guys that stick it out there and drive the car hard, I’m just so amazed.  Like Butler said to me one time, maybe three years ago:  “Did I ever drive a racecar that hard?”  I said, “You never had to.” 

    The way they drive the cars today, it still amazes me every day that I go to a track.  Eldora – it’s a little different, but it has changed a little bit too.  The short tracks, they have changed.  The tracks today are in better shape than they were in the ‘80s, when I raced, as far as the surfaces.  So, that makes a big difference too.  The tires have changed.  The compounds have changed.  The chassis haven’t changed much, but it’s kind of a mentality thing.  If you’re a racecar driver and you’re following a guy and you emulate him and do it that way, how do you know to do anything different? 

    Evidently, you drive the track one time and you’d say, “Oh shit, I should have been doing this years ago!”  But do you actually pick up and do that?  If the west coast guys had never come here and the east coast guys had never went out there, they might still be driving our racetracks here today the same way as the late ‘90s and early 2000s.  Those guys came here and they’re driving the cars in and tying the cars down.  Pretty soon, it is monkey-see, monkey-do.  And then the rotation of drivers, with all the new guys coming in, it’s like the new guys coming in today, they don’t step in cars like they did in the ‘80s.  Before, you had to drive an old shit box before you got into anything decent.  These guys come in today with everything it takes to win except the talent to drive it and work on it. 

    I love to watch them all.  If you go to Kokomo, you can watch a local guy and still be entertained.  Ballou is probably my non-favorite driver, because of personality.  But, I’m the first one to say, “Hey, that boy, he’s a fuckin’ helluva driver.”  If you have to rate it for his ability, he’s right up there at the top.  Personality-wise, I don’t care too much for the way he talks and the way he acts.  The Stockon boy is great.  I love to watch Scotty Weir, although he’s not been the best performing.  Justin Grant – you know – at Kokomo and Eldora.  I mean, there’s just so many now that can light up the night for you. 

    KO:  Do you feel that the sport of wingless sprint car racing has any issues that need to be addressed? 

    Poor:  It’s the economics of it.  It costs so much to race.  If you look at most of the racing programs today, there’s a lot of family involved.  It’s mostly father-sons and family.  You’ve only got a select few who can afford to race and hire a driver and pay him 40 to 50 percent of what the car makes.  So racing today is about how much money you make and how you can manage your losses.  Will there always be guys that love to drive racecars?  They’ll be more of them than those who can afford to put a racecar on the track.   

    KO:  If you could list your top three most memorable races as a mechanic, which ones would be on the list?  I know you mentioned Pevely and I have to imagine the Eldora Four Crown of ’92 would be on the list.

    Poor:  Eldora for that first win would be on there, although it may not have been the most exciting win, it was a big deal to get a national win, especially at Eldora with a well-known driver in your car.  Who would have ever thought the first year that you bought a racecar you’d go out and win a few races?  You could probably think of a lot of local racers who’ve been around here who might have raced 10, 12, or 15 years and probably never won no more than a B-main.  Between that, the winged show at Pevely…I’m trying to think of another. 

    KO:  Could it be something like the Kings Royal where you ran very strong in ’87? 

    Poor:  The Kings Royal was good, but I wasn’t in tune with wings.  My big thing in the races that would be on this list would be how exciting it was for you tonight – maybe the moves that the driver made to get himself into the position, how much it made you set on the edge of your chair.  That could have been a local race or it could have been a big race. 

    KO:  The Four Crown in ’92 had the drama and everything!

    Poor:  Right, right.  That was a good deal, but I can’t remember the exact race at Kokomo.  It must have been either ’85 or ’86.  Butler split two cars going into three.  That was probably the most amazing move that stuck out in my mind.  Probably that race at Kokomo, I don’t know if it was a USAC race or just a local non-winged race, the one at Eldora, and definitely the Pevely, Missouri All Star race, those would be my top-three.  That Pevely race is on the list because it was intense from the drop of the flag until the last lap.  You never knew who was going to win that race.  Normally in a race, you might get out and lead and you weren’t too challenged.  Or, you might have come back from fourth or fifth place and got up there.  But all races, as long as you were competitive and going forward, are outstanding.

    KO:  Are there races or championships that you always wanted to win but didn’t get done?

    Poor:  I would have probably have liked to have won a race at Bloomington.  Bloomington seemed to be either the hardest track for me, or the breaks didn’t go our way.  I like Bloomington, but I couldn’t seem to have everything go right.  I could have a decent night there, but never an outstanding night. 

    KO:   For the young racers and fans reading this article who never had a chance to watch you and your teams in action, how would you describe yourself to them?

    Poor:  I’m just a guy that had a love for the sport, a burning desire to win, to be the best that I could be.  I would just roll with the punches.  I took what came along.  I’d have to say that I was very fortunate to be in that era.  Could I come in today’s age of racing and buy a car?  I don’t think I could do it like I did in the ‘80s.  I think times just changed too much.  I don’t think any one guy could totally dominate, although Ballou did win a lot of races last year.  Racing is just so much different today.  I’m always of the concept that it takes three things in racing – it’s this way in all of racing but definitely sprint car.  It takes a good car owner who is willing to fund the operation and understand it well, understand his expectations and has to go in it very open-minded.  You have to have a guy and a crew that’s willing to work on it day and night to give you the best car.  And, you’ve got to have the best available driver out there.  If you take any one of those links out of it, then it’s just one spoke missing from the wheel and it’s going to be just ups and downs.  Every once in a while you might have a decent run, but you’re not going to be consistent and be in there for the long haul.

    KO:  Looking back now, is there anything that you would have done differently in your racing career?  Would you have started earlier? 

    Poor:  It would have been nice to have started earlier, but I might still be working for a living somewhere.  Times were a little bit different back then.  Racing can be like being addicted to alcohol and drugs.  You get hooked into it.  You might survive and you might live, but you might not live in a house like this.  It would be the same way with you.  If you wanted to work on racecars all the time and be gone and stuff, you’ve got to sacrifice.  Sometimes there’s guys who have a woman who understands that, someone you can drag along.  And sometimes guys have a good hardworking woman and if the guy wants to do that, pretty soon the woman will be gone. 

    KO:  You were lucky to have a wife who wanted to be a part of it.

    Poor:  Yeah!  My wife never done without anything.  Of course, I was 26 or 27 and she had been married and had children and everything.  If I dug a ditch for a living and spent all my time racing and never had a house to live in and a decent car to drive, she may have never stayed with me.  You just never know though.  Once again, you get back to the fact that everybody races for a different reason.  I had a game plan when I knew I was going to be able to get a car.  If I could have five or six good years, that’s all I ever wanted.  The rest of the time I could either go and watch, take a family, or take a grandchild.  It wasn’t like I was going to start it at 16 years old and that’s what I would be doing the rest of my life.  But, there are a few guys who have made a living out of it.  But, you can count all of them on one hand. 

    KO:  Are you completely satisfied with your career?  You’ve got a bunch of wins and championships.  I know I tried to count that ’96 title, but if I am counting, it’s ’86, ’87, ’88, ’90, ’92, and ’97.  Is it more than you thought you’d ever accomplish?

    Poor:  Oh yeah.  When I bought that car, I had an expectation of racing, having some fun, and doing some things, but I never really thought about how soon I could go broke with that car.  And, I had a racecar driver who likes to race and wants to race.  They don’t care.  They’re like, “Can we go run tomorrow night?”  Then you’re on that high.  You ran good tonight.  Maybe you won last week.  I’d say, “Oh yeah, we’ll go.”  But, I was going to go home.  I was going to take the day off.  Then the driver calls you and says, “Let’s go over to Chillicothe and run.”  Butler did that a lot of times.  You drug in late at night.  You washed the car and you’d take off and go.  At that stage, you’re an adrenaline junkie.  I felt very fortunate and like I said, could I do that again today, in this era?  Probably not.  One thing, I couldn’t afford the expense.  It’s just amazing how it shot through the roof.

    KO:  So what year did you retire from GM?

    Poor:  ’06. 

    KO:  So, you have been retired for about ten years now.  How do you spend your days? What’s your average day like?  I know you said you were going to the shooting range tomorrow.

    Poor:  Life is different.  If my wife hadn’t passed away, I’d be getting up in the morning and probably doing things with her.  There’d be more grandkids things, more things with the stepdaughter, more things around the house.  I’d go to Florida in the wintertime with her.  Now, in my situation with the way it is, when I get up in the morning at 8:30 or 9:00, if I don’t want to do anything, I don’t do it.  If I want to go out in the garage and do a little something, work on my house, or travel, I just do it.  Life is different, because circumstances change.

    KO:  How many kids did you end up having?

    Poor:  I only had one child.  She died in ’75.  She had congenial heart disease.  She was born in ’71 and died in ’75.  I had one daughter and I have two step children from her previous marriage.

    KO:  We’re sitting here and it’s the middle of January.  Back in the day, you would have been thrashing to get cars ready for Florida.  Do you look forward to the start of the racing season more or less than you did back then?

    Poor:  Definitely back in those days more, because I had something to get done.  Sitting here now, I’m thinking, “Why didn’t I go to the Chili Bowl this year?  Am I going to take off and go to Ocala?” 

    Like I say, you can take the person away from racing, but you can’t really take the racing out of the person.  It goes through my mind all of the time about if I was running Eldora, how I would start the car?  That’s just subconsciously.   It doesn’t pop into your mind every minute of the day, but when you happen to fall into that element or you turn on your phone and you look on Indiana Open Wheel and see who won, you think about the race.  Maybe I wasn’t there, but I’d think, “I wonder how he ran the car.  What tire did he run?”  Things like that.  Your mind never totally wanders away from the racing community or events.

    KO:  As a kid, I was so into sprint car racing.  This was that era when you started and were winning a lot.  It was a big deal to be around you, know you, and sneak in a conversation or question here and there.  I distinctly remember that after the 1987 season they came out with a Monogram plastic sprint car model of the Stoops car.  They probably sold that thing all over the world.  Your name was on that car.  How cool was that?

    Poor:  That was cool.  I still have people ask every once in a while, “Is that you that’s on that car?”  I always used to laugh about that.  Everybody knows the driver, but nobody knows the mechanic.  Back in those days, I always put my name on the left side of the car and put the driver’s name on the right side, mainly because everybody knew the driver, but nobody knew the mechanic or owner.  When I restored this car here, I put it the opposite way around like it should have been.  I put it with the driver’s name on the inside of the car.  Somebody would always say, “Why did you do that?”  I said, “Hell, where do you think they take the pictures at?  They take ‘em from the infield!”  That was always kind of a joke to me. 

    KO:  But, you always had your crew members’ names on the car.  Go through the names that used to be on the Stoops car. 

    Poor:  Keith, Pat (Keith’s son), and Bob.  Bob Fesler, he was from Markleville.  He helped me in ’86.

    KO:  In this career retrospective article, I didn’t want you to not mention those guys.

    Poor:  Dave Sink went with me too.  When I first started racing, Dave was pretty small.  He kind of grew up.  I’ll tell you a story about Dave.  He must have been about 13, something like that.  He finally said to me one day, “Could I go to some of them races with you?”  I said, “Yeah.  Yeah.”  He said, “You’ll have to come over and ask my dad.”  I said, “Well, why would I go ask your dad?”  He said, “Well, he hears you hollering over there every once in a while, you know?”  So, I went over there and asked and said, “Hell, let him come to some of the races with me.” 

    Later on, I don’t know how old he was, but he wasn’t old enough to drive yet.  He was under 16.  We were in a big hurry to go to Eldora one day.  I had to stop and get gas.  I said, “Pump the gas Dave.  I’m going to run in and get some ice and some pop.”  I came out and Dave was still standing there.  I yelled, “What the fuck are you doing?” 

    I got all excited and he said, “Phil, I’ve never pumped gas before.”  I felt about that big…  I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”  He said, “No.  I’ve never done nothing with dad.  This is the first time I’ve got to do anything.”  Man, I really felt bad.  I had to show him how to set the pump and pump the gas in.  We laugh about that all the time. 

    KO:  You mentioned your nickname was Jocko.  Is there a story behind that?

    Poor:  Yeah.  My dad’s nickname was Jock – in school.  So, they called me Jock Junior.

    KO:  Was he good in sports?

    Poor:  Yeah.  Everybody back in our days had a nickname. 

    KO:  I just know when Aaron Mosley talks about you, he says “Ol Jocko”. 

    Poor:  Yeah, yeah. 

    KO:  It wasn’t just Jock, it was Jocko.

    Poor.  Yeah.  And then kind of later in life, somebody put the O on the end of it.  He probably remembers that from his dad and me.  We used to hang around.  Somebody started calling me Jocko.  There’s a lot of guys around, and it’s not so much guys down in this area, but in and around the Markleville, Anderson, and Madison County area, a lot of people know me by that nickname of Jocko.

    KO:  Well, we’ve been here a long time this afternoon.  I underestimated the time.  But, we talked about a lot.  Is there anything I missed?

    Poor:  Other than the fact that I feel very fortunate.  I’d still like to be out doing this, but your age, your time - you can’t do something forever.  I felt like I did it right, did a good job, put a lot of dedication into it.  It probably was a lot harder on the people around me, like my family, than it was me, because I was so concentrated on it at that time.  And a lot of people get caught up in that. 

    KO:  But you were the ultimate in hardcore. 

    Poor:  Oh yeah.  I was a hardcore racer.  I never thought much of anything else in that time.  I was addicted to it.

    And with that, you have reached the end of Glory Days and the story of Phil Poor’s meteoric rise to sprint car mechanical success.  Thank you for your continued interest! 





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