Al Poole - May 1910


Long lost to open wheel racing is the role of the riding mechanic, called "mechanician" in the Heroic Age. The men that took the assignment in the day were typically understudies to the driver and aspired to take responsibility for the wheel.
Such was Al Poole, an obscure figure, a mere footnote to racing history aficionados today. Poole spent years as a mechanician for Locomobile, Chalmers, and finally Simplex.
One of Poole's high points early in his career came when he rode with Locomobile driver Joe Tracy in the 1906 American Elimination Trial. This was the qualifying race for entry in the Vanderbilt Cup later the same month. In those days countries were limited to five entries for the race under an assumption of nationalistic pride that at the very least seems anachronistic today.

In these early races the riding mechanic had legitimate responsibilities. Perhaps most obviously he was a spotter for the driver, warning him of upcoming challenges from the rear. He also monitored gauges to flag potential mechanical disaster or the need for simple maintenance. Oil pressure needed constant attention as the days of automated oil pumps were yet to come and all such adjustments were manual and the responsibility of the mobile mechanic.
Mastering mechanical knowledge was crucial to the success of a driver. First, in these days only the driver and his mechanician could work on the car, even on pit stops. Crews were reduced to merely arranging the necessaries for quick access: buckets of water, cans of oil or gasoline, tires, wheels and tools.
Such was the life of Al Poole and the rest. You know, guys like Glenn Etheridge, who rode to victory with George Robertson in the 1908 Vanderbilt. By 1909 Poole was judged by Hugh Chalmers as ready to take the wheel. He was entered in the June Indiana Trophy on a craggy public roads course around Crown Point, Indiana. Poole turned in a credible performance but not as impressive as his teammate Joe Matson who won. It was the preliminary for the Cobe Trophy, called the "Western Vanderbilt," together they were Indiana's first major auto races.
In May 1910 Al Poole delivered. Teamed with Charles Basle, the duo traded off turns at the wheel of the Simplex entry at the Brighton Beach 24-hour "grinder" and drove to victory. Yet, much of Al Poole's life is shrouded in mystery. What we do know is that for one, brief, shining and glorious moment Al Poole was at the zenith of his game.
You won't find more information anywhere about Al Poole than at First Super Speedway. No brag, just fact. Is that important to you? Do you love this auto racing history? If you do, click thru...