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TMS Extends Its Global Reach

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 7 2016
Texas Motor Speedway gave a warm welcome to fans from the world's coldest continent over the weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)

Texas Motor Speedway gave a warm welcome to fans from the world’s coldest continent over the weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)

FORT WORTH, Texas – Its stature as “The Great American Speedway” firmly established, it’s time to acknowledge Texas Motor Speedway as “The Rand McNally of Motorsports.”

That tag became applicable Sunday, when three temporary residents of Antarctica attending the 12th annual AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase race allowed TMS to complete a fan sweep of all seven continents.

TMS long ago checked off fan attendance from all 50 states. And during the past five years, the facility opened by Speedway Motorsports Inc., Executive Chairman and NASCAR Hall of Famer O. Bruton Smith in April 1997 has seen fans visit for its NASCAR and Verizon IndyCar Series races from 41 countries and provinces and six-of-seven continents.

The missing puzzle piece was put into place when temporary Antarctica residents Jeff Frye of nearby Flower Mound, Texas; Dr. Kimberly (Shillcutt) Tyree of Clemmons, N.C., and Glen Shoen of Hermansville, Mich., set foot on the grounds in far north Fort Worth.  

We were trying to hit for the ‘continent cycle’ when we started looking at this,” said TMS President Eddie Gossage, sporting a hooded parka and accompanied by the Coca-Cola polar bear mascot during a media session. “We don’t like to not have everything covered, so we began a search for anyone that’s attended races here from the seventh continent, Antarctica.

“There are no permanent residents in Antarctica. There are temporary residents there for scientific expeditions and (military) things of that nature. And we discovered the company that does most of that is owned by Lockheed Martin, and Lockheed Martin is in Fort Worth. So we went to work and without a whole lot of effort found three folks that are here and they’ve been working in Antarctica, so all seven continents are represented.”

TMS’ Media Relations staff went on a “search and reward” mission one week ago via traditional and social media to identify temporary residents of the continent that is home to the South Pole, and a big chill like you wouldn’t believe. More than a dozen folks responded and the three on-site were rewarded with a free VIP race-day experience for two that included Victory Lane Club suite tickets to the race, garage passes, pre-race concert passes for country artist Jake Owen, VIP Sprint Cup drivers’ meeting passes and assorted TMS merchandise. Considering that rain began falling shortly after the playing of the National Anthem by the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division Band, umbrellas would have been a solid choice.

Frye was assigned to the Naval Support Force Antarctica’s “Operation Deep Freeze” on three separate deployments from 1982-85. He was assigned to McMurdo Station the first half of his initial deploy and William Field for the second to manage flight operations. For his second tour, he was selected to replace the lone air traffic controller stationed at the South Pole and assumed those responsibilities at William Field. His final trip was a return to William Field, where he and a group relieved 20 people “wintered over” at the South Pole and handled flight operations.

“South Pole Station was a barren, desolate place,” Frye said. “The atmospheric pressure was like living at 10,000-feet. It was quite a challenge just acclimating to that as well as temperatures at South Pole Station ranging from about minus-100 Fahrenheit to minus-20 Fahrenheit.”

Incredibly, those bone-chilling temps did not cut into Frye’s golf game. “I dubbed it Pebble Beach South,” Frye joked. “It was adorned with a large billboard leaving no doubt that golf was of utmost importance there. I had golf clubs and an assortment of golf balls that were hit out into the tundra, never to be found.”

Frye spent 21 years with the Federal Aviation Administration before retiring and now works as an ATC Technical Specialist with Flight Research Associates.

Dr. Tyree lived in Antarctica from December 1999 to February 2000, with the majority of time logged at McMurdo Station as well as spending 24 days camping in a tent at Elephant Moraine. Her team from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute ran tests to prove that the Nomad robot could autonomously locate and identify meteorites on the ice. Her primary role was developing and running the software for the robot’s path-planning, combining complete coverage algorithms with optimal solar power generation.

After her tour there, Dr. Tyree moved to Houston to work in the air-conditioned climate of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Shoen worked for the Scientific Research Corp. as an electronics technician servicing weather equipment at multiple remote sites for 11 summer seasons from 2000-2011. He also maintained navigational aid and communications for McMurdo Station and the South Pole. He spent approximately 60 months on what he calls “ice time” and has 11 certificates for his South Pole tenures.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Texas Motor Speedway is the only speedway in the world in the past five years to accomplish this feat, with Antarctica being the rare gem of the seven continents,” Gossage said. “That’s something we’re real proud of. That tells you an amazing story about NASCAR. That tells you a story about the popularity of Texas Motor Speedway, and when we tell you they come from all four corners of the earth for our races here we literally mean the four corners of the earth.

“We want everybody to come here. It really is gratifying to us to find out that people come from all around the globe to races here.”

From here, Gossage’s search can only go where no race fan has gone before…

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 7 2016
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