Somewhere in the universe, there is a very large space where John Allen Potts used to dwell.
Potts, 78, died on Thursday, March 16, in Indianapolis, where he and his wife of 48 years, the former Joyce E. Gater, lived close to one of his other loves, the Indianapolis ‘500 Motor Speedway.
To those who knew him well, he will be missed. He was talkative, bull-headed, opinionated and one of the best home-spun journalists around.
Potts was a familiar figure around Scott County for 15 years as the editor of the county newpapers, The Scott County Journal and The Chronicle. During those years in the 1970s and 1980s, Potts could be counted on to attend a multitude of high school sporting events, particularly basketball. To say he loved sports is an understatement. To say he was a dyed-in-the-wool fan of racing is also an understatement. His favorite perfume was, undoubtedly, Eau de Fuel Fume.
The local newspapers profited from his understanding of sports and events of county importance. His articles sparked with life. His only worry on press day was if he had the room in the newspaper to get all of the news – plus the latest high school games – squeezed in there. One of his favorite stories highlighted that concern. “An unidentified man’s body was found. The original headline read along those lines, but by the time we got through shoe-horning in what we could, we were down to ‘Man Dead.’ ” he’d recall.
John had an imposing personality, mixing like oil and water with some in town but finding his own camaraderie among police officers. He was also a big man, a really big man, quite heavy, a seemingly prime candidate for a heart attack, especially since he enjoyed smoking the worst-smelling cigars. Or chewing them in frustration when confronted by a younger reporter over an issue.
He was also a good teacher, always taking time to point out to a novice reporter how something could be expressed more succinctly. His advice included, “Don’t write down to people. Pull them up, whether they want to be pulled or not.”
John moved on from the county newspapers in 1985 after they were purchased by Green Banner Publications a year earlier. He went back to his first love, racing, at the old Indianapolis Raceway Park, now Lucas Oil Raceway. He served there as news director for 15 years, and then he and Joyce moved to London, Ky., where he was public relations director for the London Speedway and for the Corbin Speedway in Corbin, Ky. The old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville was one of his offspring, and he remained a track official there until it closed in 1980. He flagged thousands of races and demolition derbies for not only the Scott County Fairgrounds but also the American Speed Association, the Sports Car Club of America, the Auto Racing Club of America, the American Motorcycle Association, United Midget Racing Association and, yes, NASCAR.
In 2000, John wrote “Driven to the Past,” a recounting of those racing days and the colorful figures that populated the sport. Others recognized his writing talent and devotion to racing in 2012 when John was inducted into the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame.
A memorial service for John was conducted on Wednesday, March 22, at Conkle Funeral Home in Speedway. That’s the funeral home located nearest to the ‘500 track.
In lieu of flowers, his friends can remember him by making contributions to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, 4500 Adam’s Way, Randleman, N.C. 27317 through the mail or by visiting victoryjunction.org.