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Gossage Is Back But With New Priorities

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 13 2009
Carl Edwards takes aim during a shooting match with Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage. (Getty Images/Tom Pennington)

Carl Edwards takes aim during a shooting match with Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage. (Getty Images/Tom Pennington)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Irving, Texas – Despite being outshot by NASCAR star Carl Edwards, happiness is a warm gun – and cancer in remission – for Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage.

“I feel great. The doctor tells me I’m in complete remission – don’t have any sign of the cancer – so it’s a great thing,” Gossage said after facing-off against Edwards in a “Shooting Olympics” aimed at promoting next month’s Dickies 500 weekend. “I’ve got more energy than I’ve had in years.”

Widely recognized as one of motorsports’ premier promoters, Gossage was a bundle of energy at Elm Fork Shooting Sports, where he and Edwards squared-off in a live ammunition contest with three different styles of firearms. Edwards prevailed in all three contests…but Gossage’s participation in the promotion was proof of his recovery from an undisclosed form of cancer.

Gossage’s battle with the disease was not disclosed until July 22, well after he had undergone 12 “minimal” chemo treatments that began in March and continued through the end of May.

“They were just kinda cleaning up my system,” Gossage said. “Then they gave me one huge dosage in June, the 13th treatment that really lays you out. But it did its job. It apparently has wiped out the cancer. We won’t know for years down the road, because these things can always come back.”

Along those lines, Gossage’s beard and hair have returned, but with a new look.

“They told me my beard would come back gray and my hair would come back curly and blonder…but eventually thicker,” said Gossage, who sported a TMS cap during the event. “I don’t know if it’s curly yet because it’s too fine to have any body to it. But it’s coming back. I’ll go without a hat soon, I guess. Those things – beard and hair – are inconsequential. The big thing is to take care of the cancer. Looks like we did that.”

Gossage said he was diagnosed approximately nine or 10 months ago, after finally listening to his body.

“I didn’t realize I was getting sick for a while there,” Gossage said. “As you get older and this hurts and you get tired doing this…you kinda say, ‘Ah, I’m getting older.’ I’m 50 and in good health, but I got to where I couldn’t even work out anymore. I worked out three or four mornings a week and I couldn’t do that anymore. So for about a year prior to the diagnosis I wasn’t working out because I couldn’t. Just didn’t have the strength to get on the elliptical or the stationary bike or lift weights.

“I started going to the doctor. The good news is that they found it so early that at the time it was diagnosed, they didn’t want to start treatment because it wasn’t time. So we didn’t start treatment until March…that’s the earliest we could have gotten on it.”

Gossage said he lost approximately 30 pounds during a two-month period that began in June.

“There was about a month when I didn’t eat anything,” said Gossage, who worked his routine packed schedule through the IndyCar Series Bombardier Learjet 550k weekend in early June before fading from public view. “It was a couple of months before I could go back to work because it just drains you. You have no energy. I told (wife) Melinda several nights when I went to bed, ‘You’ve got to get me a battery for my watch. It’s not keeping time.’ It wasn’t until I got better that she told me, ‘That’s a self-winding watch. You don’t need a battery. You’re not moving enough in the course of the day to keep it wound.’ So that’s how sick I was.”

Gossage said his experience with cancer did not present him with “some life-altering revelation, or whatever.” But it did allow him to re-examine his priorities.

“All cancer is serious and all cancer can kill you,” Gossage said. “Some are more curable and more treatable than others. But all of them, that’s a tough diagnosis to get. When the doctor tells you, ‘I’ve got bad news, you’ve got cancer,’ that’s tough to sit there and listen to. And my doctor talked to me and said, ‘You know, you’re going to go through some changes probably – your outlook on life and things like that.’ And I really didn’t. And I think that I realized that I had my priorities right. God is first and my family is second and what I do is third. So those things, nothing really changed and I realized I felt good about my life and where it’s at and where I stand in the big scheme of things. Because promoting races is insignificant – I’ve always known that.

“But I did learn this. I have five guys that are scattered around the country, and we’re all each other’s best friend. All five of us. Nobody’s second-place or third, we’re all each other’s best friend. And every day these five guys called me. They knew about it a long time ago but when I was going through treatment, every day they called me. And really, for that few minutes that I talked to each of them that day, I forgot about how bad I felt and trying to get better and forgot about cancer and laughed at their jokes and they laughed at my jokes.

“And what I learned from that is when I’ve got friends – people I know who are sick or going through tough times or whatever – that a little phone call makes a big difference. I mean, that’s the one thing I did learn. So, I’ve been blessed, I really have been.”

*For the record, Edwards prevailed in a target-shooting competition featuring Beretta Stampede handguns and Beretta Storm tactical rifles, and dual-clay shooting with Beretta Urika 12-gauge semi-auto shotguns. Sporting a black walking cast to protect the right foot he broke playing Frisbee, Edwards wrapped up the final contest by hitting five-of-six floating targets in his first try. Gossage rallied to hit three-of-six targets. Those performances, however, were easily topped by instructor Scott Robertson – a 19-time All-American and eight-time national champion _ who hit all his targets while firing the shotgun upside-down and chatting with the assembled media. Edwards earned an Olympic-style medal for his prowess.

*Edwards swept the Samsung 500 and Dickies 500 Sprint Cup races on TMS’ 1.5-mile quadoval last year for Roush Fenway Racing, the first Cup driver to do so. He also won on the inaugural Dickies 500 fall race in 2005. The 2009 version of the event, Race No. 8 of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, is scheduled for Nov. 8.  But Edwards, who won three of his series-leading nine races in the Chase last year, admitted his title chances in the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion realistically could be over before he returns to Fort Worth.

Edwards went into Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., last weekend 10th in points among 12 Chasers, 165 behind leader Mark Martin of Hendrick Motorsports. A sixth-place finish Sunday allowed Edwards to move up to eighth, albeit 192 points behind Jimmie Johnson. Is it time to stick a fork in Cousin Carl?

“No, I never ever give up. As long as it’s mathematically possible, then you can’t give up,” said Edwards, runner-up to three-time/reigning Cup champion Johnson last year. “You see it all the time in racing. Montreal was a good example, that Nationwide race. Marcos Ambrose leading the race…the last corner a bobble, and we won the race. And if I had given up two corners before that then we would never have had a shot. So I don’t give up. But I understand, I realize that the chances of the championship being won by our Aflac team get smaller and smaller exponentially if the points gap is getting wider. So we have to close that.

“I mean, we just go out and take chances because to make those points up, we’re going to have to do some dramatic things. Overall, you can do whatever you want, but if your car – if you’re not fast enough – there’s not much you can do. So that’s the primary thing. We have to be faster. Racing’s a lot easier when you’re real fast. I can tell you that.”

*Edwards actually is closer to the Nationwide Series points-lead than he is in Cup. Exiting Southern California, Edwards trimmed 95 points off Kyle Busch’s comfortable season-long advantage and now is 155 points behind. Busch, of Joe Gibbs Racing, will be seeking his fourth consecutive series victory at TMS in the O’Reilly Challenge on Nov. 7.

Incidentally, Busch is poised to become only the second driver to win four consecutive events at TMS. Brendan Gaughan accomplished that feat in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

*Sentimental favorite Mark Martin and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson fully are capable of breaking away from the 12-driver Chase field, Edwards said. “Everybody talks about how great it is when Mark Martin wins, and we all pull for him,” Edwards said of the 50-year-old star. “He’s like looking in the mirror and saying, ‘Man, I hope I can run like that 20 years from now.’

“But at the same time it is a little scary because of how fast they are. There’s a reason that 48 team has won championships…Jimmie Johnson and those guys have won championships the last three years. They’re on top of their game. He has an amazing win percentage in the Chase races. They can step it up. They somehow seem immune to the troughs…they kind of peak and go down to about average and peak and they don’t ever seem to run poorly.

“And Mark’s a great guy. Anybody out there who has anything bad to say about Mark Martin, I mean, there’s nothing bad to say about him. I was a fan of his and then I met him, and he was a nicer guy than I thought he was. But still…I don’t know if people will be rooting for him if he does this the next couple of years, because he’s so fast.”

*”Backstretch Buster”  seats for the Dickies 500 officially sold out Monday. The $20 seats, located along the first two rows of the backstretch, are the most inexpensive ticket ever offered at TMS. The “Backstretch Burner” special was first offered for the Samsung 500 weekend in April, and promptly sold out.

But fan-friendly deals remain available. On the backstretch, Rows 3 and higher are priced at $40 per seat. And the 7-Eleven 4-Pack offers four tickets, four hot dogs and four Coca-Colas for $159. On the frontstretch, limited Dickies 4-Packs remain available. Starting at $133, the 4-Pack provides a ticket to all four days of action (Nov. 5-8), including the Dickies 500, O’Reilly Challenge Nationwide Series race and Winstar World Casino 350k Camping World Truck Series event. The 4-Pack includes qualifying and practice sessions for all three series. Tickets can be ordered by calling 817-215-8500 or on the Web at www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

*Posted purse for the Dickies 500 is $7,359,286 _ largest payout in the Chase for the fifth consecutive year. The purse for the Dickies 500 is the only one among the 10 Chase tracks to surpass $7 million, and tops the previous mark of $7,319,807 established last year. That figure included Carl Edwards’ winning share of $496,300.

“They (TMS) pay more money than anyone, they’ve got a bigger crowd than any of the tracks in the Chase,” Edwards said. “I feel like the grandstands are full of really passionate racers here. Not just race fans, but racers from all over. It’s a neat crowd and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to come to Texas.”

Meanwhile, the purse for the O’Reilly Challenge Nationwide Series race on Nov. 7 will be $1,277,884. The WinStar World Casino 350k Camping World Truck Series event on Nov. 6 has a posted purse of $573,960.

*Samsung Mobile has signed a multi-year contract extension to continue as title sponsor of the re-named annual spring NASCAR Sprint Cup race at TMS.  The race billed as the Samsung 500 for the past three years will be marketed as the Samsung Mobile 500 _ accompanied by a new logo _ on the realigned date of Sunday, April 18, 2010.

The announcement extends an eight-year title sponsorship relationship between Samsung Mobile and TMS that began in 2002. Samsung Mobile collaborated with RadioShack and served as a co-title sponsor for five years before assuming sole ownership in 2007 of a race that annually is ranked as the largest-attended, single-day sporting event in Texas.

Neither financial terms nor specific length of the contract were disclosed. The agreement was announced by Bobby Billman, Samsung Telecommunications America vice president of marketing, and TMS president Eddie Gossage.

Season tickets currently are on sale, while individual tickets for the 2010 Samsung Mobile 500 Race Week will go on sale beginning Nov. 11, three days after the Dickies 500.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 13 2009
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