Texas’ Gossage Reacts To ‘Threat’ From Drivers
FORT WORTH, Texas – Eddie Gossage has termed the buzz about a possible boycott by IZOD IndyCar Series drivers after a recent test at Texas Motor Speedway as “a threat” that could have been avoided.
“If you have an issue, pick up the phone and call,” Gossage, TMS’ president and promoter, said during the track’s annual Media Day on Tuesday. “Pick up the phone. Pick up the phone, you know?”
Earlier in the program, IndyCar Series regular Graham Rahal said a boycott was “never discussed” en masse, and predicted a full field for the annual Firestone 550k night race on June 9.
“As far as any sort of boycotting, you know the show we’ve put on the last few years here has been second-to-none,” said Rahal, 23, a second generation open-wheel star. “I continue to say we’ll be back here and we’ll put on a good show again. It’s (a boycott) never something that’s crossed my mind before. I think everybody will come here. We’re going to put on a great show. We’re going to find a way to be here for many years to come.”
Third-year INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard, who counts Gossage as a staunch ally, reiterated Saturday the series would run at TMS as scheduled.
Two weeks ago, IndyCar Series regulars Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe and Alex Tagliani put the new Dallara DW12 chassis through its first superspeedway test on TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval. The boycott issue initially was raised by Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion, who voiced concern over
the inherent dangers of pack racing with the current aerodynamic package. Kanaan called for a reduction in downforce heading into an Open Test at TMS, which was rescheduled last Friday from mid-March to May 7.
Kanaan and series regular Justin Wilson also were quoted on various websites after the test as saying they did not feel boycotting was the right thing to do “at this time.”
“My problem with using the word ‘boycott for now’ – that’s the quote – it’s like saying, ‘I’m not going to beat my wife for now.’ So, that’s a threat,” Gossage said. “That’s just obscene, particularly when you look at the record of this track vs. other tracks. You deserve the respect to get a phone call and not read about it in the media, because we’re the one constant. No team, no racetrack, nobody has been involved in INDYCAR racing in its modern incarnation, constant, like us. Nobody – no sponsor, no TV network, nobody has written checks to Indy Racing (INDYCAR) larger than us. We spent more money with them and they’re going to treat us properly.”
Gossage was burned by an open-wheel driver boycott on April 29, 2001, when Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) drivers balked at racing in the inaugural Firestone Firehawk 600 – citing excessive G-forces through the banked turns caused by speeds in excess of 230 mph.
Safety has remained a sensitive offseason issue as series drivers and officials mourn the loss of two-time/reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon, who died as the result of injuries suffered in a 15-car wreck in the 2011 season-ender on Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Wheldon was killed when his head struck a fence post after his car went airborne following wheel-to-wheel contact. The fencing at TMS is similar in design to that of LVMS, a sister track in O. Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Inc. empire.
“We, after the horrible accident involving Dan Wheldon, met with engineers,” Gossage said. “What’s the right fence design? Is there something we need to change? They studied it and said the design you have is exactly what we need. INDYCAR has told us that they have not engaged an engineer, haven’t studied it and that they have no recommendation to us. INDYCAR’s report on the Dan Wheldon accident said the fence performed as it was supposed to perform. The drivers, none of which are structural engineers, have not engaged an engineer to come up with anything else. They’re simply throwing out opinions.
“So, why any driver would say anything is just absolutely beyond me. Particularly for a place that held two races last year, and had one caution in two races.” Gossage was referring to last June’s Firestone Twin 275s, a pair of 114-lap events run on the same night and counting as separate races. Amazingly, the second “sprint” race ran caution-free.
“INDYCAR racing may be the most dangerous form of racing in America,” said Gossage, who has played host to the series at TMS annually since 1997. “We all need to work to try and minimize any danger that we can. There’s a lot of emotion, including myself, following Dan Wheldon’s death. Totally, totally understandable. But any changes on safety, etc., have to be based solely on fact, no emotion at all. So the only facts we can turn to are facts provided to us by the engineers, and the engineers say that’s the best fence design out there.
“With where INDYCAR racing is and all the good things it has going for it, this is not a discussion we should be having in the media. This is a discussion we should be having in a closed room.”
Gossage added he learned about the “boycott” rumor on twitter. “To find out about it that way…” Gossage said. “They can sure call me about, ‘I need some more passes. I need a place to park my motorhome for free. Can you get my girlfriend in? Hey, can you get me reservations at a nice restaurant in Fort Worth?’ But you can’t call me about the fence? Sorry.”
Along those lines, Rahal said series drivers discussed pack racing and TMS’ fencing during a meeting in Indianapolis on Feb. 13.
“We’ve stopped innovating a little bit and we have got to find a way to develop the ‘next thing,’ ” said Rahal, driver of the No. 38 Service Central Dallara/Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. “The next obvious thing is fencing – how can we make a fence that doesn’t hurt the fan’s view, that doesn’t have seams to where a driver…obviously, what killed Dan was the hit on the head from a pole. How do we find a way to change that? I mean, at the end of the day whether the fence was in front of the pole or behind the pole, sadly, the result probably would have been the same in that case. But we’ve got to find a way to make it better.”
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