by Matt Panure
This past week has been the most painful for short track fans, drivers and officials in recent memory. A man who was a good friend, a mentor, a hero – was taken from us far too soon. A man who was one of few who transcends the mystique of short track racing will no longer be a part of our small little world.
I cannot claim that I knew Tom Powell as much as I would have liked to. I had the honor and privilege of working closely with him for several seasons at Slinger, where he instantly won over every official and driver with his infectious enthusiasm for the sport and entertaining quips over the radio. Our friendship lasted even after we went our separate ways from the Speedway. It was always great to see T.P. and catch up.
Some have known Tom much longer, and have many stories to tell. Let us all be thankful, even if we only had met him once, and only have one story to tell. It’s more than most people can say.
It was hard to go to a big race event and not see T.P. Let’s face it, he was and still is the most entertaining man to pick up a set of flags anywhere, anytime. By the way, don’t call him a flagman, that’s what you call the guy directing traffic at a construction site. I dare you to go anywhere in the country and find someone in the flag stand with more flair (and better hair) than T.P. It was no secret that he was the best, and yet, he never let that give him cause to be arrogant.
Sure T.P. was stubborn once he got in that flag stand. He knew what he wanted, knew how to run the race to his liking and was going to do it his way. But once he hopped out of that flag stand he was just a regular guy. He’d ask you questions, shoot you a wink and a smile or take the time to tell you a joke. You always could expect T.P. to brighten your day, no matter how bad things seemed to be going.
It’s hard to say if anyone will have the same impact T.P. had in the flag stand, but I would argue (and I’m sure many of you would help me out) that T.P.’s reach went far beyond the flag stand. I remember when I started announcing, while T.P. and I were still working at Slinger, how often he would tell me I was getting better. That extra boost of confidence, whether to a wet-behind-the-ears announcer, or a rookie driver, or anyone who could use it was exactly what I will remember about T.P. He was always there to help out, boost your confidence, help improve the sport, and be a friend when you needed one of those too.
Many of you have already logged your favorite T.P. memories on Facebook. I encourage you to keep doing so there, and please share on our Racing Online Forum as well. It is certainly great therapy, and an excellent way to ensure that T.P.’s legacy will carry on. We ask you please keep your thoughts and prayers with T.P.’s family in their time of need.
So in honor of T.P., let’s all “Be Advised,” “Bust a Move,” “Get Jiggy with It,” “Twist ‘Em Hot,” “Shake It, Shake It,” and “Fly One!” Godspeed T.P. You were a great friend to many, and will be missed by all.
This article was posted to the website on May 5th, 2011