WFO Radio Show Archives

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Major Loss...

NASCAR lost one of its most independent voices this week. David Poole of the Charlotte Observer and Sirius Radio passed away due to a heart attack on Tuesday. This is a major blow to the NASCAR media community and the sport in general.
My experiences with David were limited, but the opportunities that I did have to speak with him were educational and eye opening.

He was a progressive thinker who was not afraid to challenge NASCAR at the highest levels. David Poole spoke his mind regardless of the potential negative result. That will be very difficult to replace in the echo chamber that is the NASCAR media center.

Many factors come into play for those that cover the sport. One of the strongest factors is simply survival. The desire to continue to work and interview the sport's top athletes has a negative effect on many who try to do the job. Many do not want to “rock the boat” so that they can continue to pursue their own careers. They can’t risk alienating drivers or NASCAR officials with harsh criticism because they might not get an interview the following week. David Poole was never worried about rocking the boat. He was never concerned about anything other than his views as they related to the sport. That will be difficult to replace. If NASCAR wants to continue evolving to the level of other major sports it needs more people like David Poole, not less. David will be missed.

Farewell Pontiac

This week we have learned that General Motors will discontinue the historic Pontiac brand. This news hurts me to the bone. I can proudly say, “I am a Pontiac guy” and I always will be. Make no mistake; Pontiac was GM’s affordable performance brand. Over the years, from “Fireball” Roberts to Rusty Wallace and John Force to Warren Johnson, Pontiac was a force in racing. I myself race a Pontiac. While the majority of the American car buying public identify themselves based on Ford vs. Chevy, there was always the select group of individuals that bought Pontiac.

The Pontiac brand separated itself on several fronts. To put it simply, Pontiac was always classier than it’s competition. What the Firebird was to the Camaro and the GMC is to the Chevy truck, Pontiac was to its competitors; a nicer, cooler car with a personality all its own. Sure, it was a little more expensive, but the separation from the masses was worth it.

Pontiac owners are a special breed of people who will have to choose among watered down selections from now on. I believe that GM is making a huge mistake getting rid of Pontiac. They were the third largest seller at the General and sold double the cars that Buick does. While Buick survives due to its popularity in China, the loss of Pontiac is a sacrifice at the alter of the economy and a shot over the bow of all performance vehicles.

Who to blame?

I have been trying to take this as well as possible, but the more I think about it, the angrier I get. General Motors was not in great shape a year ago, but they were not going bankrupt. Pontiac was moving to all rear-drive cars with high performance and attitude. The Solstice, the GXP and the G8 all proved to be exciting, well built cars for a good value. They looked cool and had personality. Now, the brand is going to be closed down for good.

So, who is to blame? First, we have to blame General Motors for the mismanagement of their own product and lack of profitability. We must blame them for falling behind in the 1980’s and losing an entire generation of young car buyers who now think Japanese brands are synonymous with quality and excitement. While that was twenty years ago, the failures of the 80’s are a major reason for GM’s troubles now. They lost the public relations war against the imports and now you would be hard pressed to find people younger than thirty that view Pontiac with excitement. Then again, I think anyone who thinks a Honda Civic is exciting has a mental problem.

Second, we must blame those who put the final nail in the coffin, the stewards of our nation’s economy the past several years. While I am not an economist, I do know that our economy was mismanaged at the highest levels. The recession and inability to get credit, not lack of interest, is what finally killed Pontiac. Those responsible for our countries economic disaster are also to blame for the loss of Pontiac. They will be forever linked as far as I’m concerned.

Each Pontiac commercial I see is a reminder of what we are losing and who is to blame. I, unfortunately, will now know what it was like to have been a “Studebaker” or “American Motors” guy. It is not something that I’m happy about but I will have to live with it. Fortunately, my family currently has ownership of four Pontiacs (78 Trans Am, 05 GTO, 08 Grand Prix and a 98 Firebird) that I will cherish until I can afford to purchase a 2010 G8. Regardless of what new vehicles are rolled out in the future I would always rather have the option of buying a Pontiac. This is a sad moment in automotive history.