Bob Pockrass won’t be covering motorsports for ESPN after this season, a revelation that should set off alarm bells for anyone who cares about NASCAR.
It’s not so much about ESPN. Though it’s scary to see another major news outlet step back from racing, that alone won’t have much impact on NASCAR’s current fans.
What would have an impact, though, is losing Bob. His future at the moment is unclear, and it’s possible he could remain on the NASCAR beat should another employer come along to scoop him up.
Let’s hope that happens, because if this season was the final one with Bob at the racetrack, we’re all going to be worse for it.
I’ve been dreading the prospect of a Bob-less media center for years, but I always thought it would be because he keeled over after working himself to death — not because an employer willingly let him go.
Bob’s work ethic goes beyond the hours spent at the track, which are well-documented. A relentless journalism machine, Bob’s mind rarely takes a break from the job.
Here’s one small example: Back when we were co-workers at NASCAR Scene, Bob would spend his one day off per week by going to the county courthouse to search the names of every driver and team to make sure a story hadn’t fallen through the cracks. Even now, if you look over at his computer screen during downtime at the track, he’s often doing a search of court records.
Bob seems to know everyone in the garage, from the top Cup drivers to backmarker Xfinity owners. He’s always checking in and asking for information (“Anything new with you guys?”), which means even the most minor stories rarely catch him by surprise. As such, people seek him out in the NASCAR garage and start conversations with, “What do you know, Bob?”
Even in the media center — aside from often asking the tough questions that need to be asked — Bob is seen as a source of information. If someone can’t remember a NASCAR rule or procedure, they ask Bob. There have even been times when crew chiefs ask him for clarification (“Does this mean we have to start at the back, Bob?”). And he always knows.
Those are just a couple reasons why NASCAR stands to lose so much without Bob on the beat. It’s not a knock against other reporters, but no one obsesses over the nitty gritty details of the sport quite like he does. And when you think about it, those smaller details (pit stall selection, for example) add up to feed the passion of NASCAR’s most hardcore fans.
Bob’s dedication to his work has seemed borderline unhealthy at times to friends, who have tried at times to stage interventions. Take a break, Bob! Relax! But attempting to get him to do less is like trying to snatch a juicy steak from the jaws of a pit bull. His extreme sense of duty to inform readers — you’ve seen this through his Twitter interactions — cannot be matched.
One of the most recent arguments, a negotiation that began months ago, is what Bob would be willing to do for his 50th birthday next year. It’s on March 1, and NASCAR will be in Las Vegas — a perfect place to celebrate with a dinner. The only problem is it’s the same night as a Truck Series race, and Bob has indicated he’d rather not leave the track.
Because of his dedication, Bob has become the backbone of the NASCAR media over the years. He’d never say that himself, and he’s probably going to be pissed at this column putting him in the spotlight. There’s no ego or self-promotion when it comes to Bob. But whether he acknowledges it or not, Bob has been the best on the NASCAR beat.
Fortunately for Bob, his skills can apply to any form of journalism. There’s no substitute for hustle, and I’m certain he won’t have trouble finding another job (even ESPN would be wise to retain him in a different capacity). I know he’s going to be just fine.
Selfishly, though, I hope Bob stays in NASCAR. We will all be less informed and less knowledgeable if 2018 turns out to be his final lap.
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) April 3, 2014