CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – David Poole, who spent 13 years covering NASCAR for The Charlotte Observer, died Tuesday of a heart attack. He was 50.

Poole was stricken at his Stanfield home and his daughter called 911, the paper said. He was transported to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“David was as passionate about NASCAR as anyone, and had very definitive opinions about the sport,” NASCAR chairman Brian France said. “He served the industry, and most importantly the fans, through his reporting and commentary.”

Poole, who joined the Observer in 1990, covered Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, which ended when Carl Edwards’ car flew into a safety fence on the last lap and injured seven fans. His final column ran Tuesday morning, and in it, Poole questioned what it would take for NASCAR to realize changes needed to be made to the racing style at the Alabama track.

“Is racing at Talladega out of control?” he wrote. “I say it is, and Carl Edwards’ crash Sunday into the catch-fence in the tri-oval of the 2.66-mile track merely reinforced that opinion.

“Does somebody have to die before we’ve decided we don’t have control?”

Praise for Poole’s passion for NASCAR poured in from all corners of the industry. Three-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson said he worked “twice as hard to make sure I earned his respect,” and Dale Earnhardt Jr. called Poole “one-of-a-kind.”

“As someone fortunate enough to make a living doing what I love, I am indebted to David for the exposure he generated for our sport for 13 years, and the direct connection he had with the NASCAR fan base,” Earnhardt said.

NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick will mark his four race cars this weekend with Carolina blue decals – in honor of Poole’s alama mater, North Carolina – with his initials “DP.”

“He had the courage to say what others would not, and he was deeply respected for it,” Hendrick said. “Without driving a car or turning a wrench, David Poole was a racer, and he will be sincerely missed.”

Poole, who also hosted “The Morning Drive” weekday show on Sirius NASCAR Radio, was a four-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association’s writer of the year.

A Gastonia native, he first began working in newspapers as a high schooler at the Gaston Gazette, which he forever referred to as “the birthplace of NASCAR writers.” He joined the paper after college in 1981 as city editor, and later moved on to sports editor.

He moved to the Observer in 1990, and often joked he fell into the NASCAR beat when the paper, caught up in the coverage of the Carolina Panthers trip to the NFC championship game, forgot to hire a replacement for its retiring beat writer. Sent to a NASCAR assignment on his day off, he never relinquished the beat.

Poole had spent the first part of this season working on an upcoming project of 600 hours of coverage leading into next month’s 50th anniversary of racing at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord.

“He was truly one of the nation’s best and he always wrote what he believed,” said Bruton Smith, owner of Lowe’s Motor Speedway. “Whether you agreed with him or not, he made us all think, and that’s what the best writers do.”

Poole is survived by his wife, two sons, daughter, and one grandson.

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