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Texas’ Gossage Fighting Cancer

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 22 2009
Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage shakes hand with Dale Earnhardt Jr. before the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. (Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Fort Worth, Texas – Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage, widely acknowledged as the premier promoter in domestic motorsports, is being treated for cancer.

Gossage’s condition – which dates to last fall – was made public Wednesday afternoon via email from Mike Zizzo, TMS’ vice president of media relations. The email did not identify the type of cancer Gossage continues to battle at home.

Gossage’s last public appearance at TMS was for the Bombardier Learjet 550k IndyCar Series night race on June 6, when his promotional duties included hosting a pre-event news conference with grand marshal and NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal. Gossage also conducted traditional TMS Victory Lane ceremonies with race-winner Helio Castroneves and Team Penske.

TMS since has launched a six-week Drag-n-Brag racing program on Friday nights, a series designed to give would-be street racers in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex a safe competitive environment. Despite the historic nature of the program, Gossage did not attend the inaugural race on July 3. Kenton Nelson, TMS’ assistant GM/vice president of events, ran the show and said Gossage was on vacation.

“Following the Bombardier Learjet 550k in June, many of you (media) have noticed Eddie has been absent from some of our media events or unavailable for media interviews in the ensuing weeks,” Zizzo said in his email. “The reason for his absence was that he was being treated for cancer.

“Fortunately, the cancer was caught very early last fall and he did a great deal of homework about treatment options to determine the course of action. In February, the doctors informed Eddie that treatment needed to begin and he laid out a treatment schedule around the Samsung 500 in April and the Bombardier Learjet 550k in June. The most intense treatments have been over the past month and they have proven to be a success. He is recuperating well at home and plans to return to the office sometime in August.  I’ve talked to him regularly over the last few weeks and can tell you he is doing great.”

The email said Gossage now is well enough to conduct print and radio interviews by phone, but he would not be doing on-camera TV requests until he returns to his office.

“He definitely has missed visiting with all of you and ‘beating the TMS drum’ for our upcoming events,” Zizzo said. “He is looking forward to doing that again real soon and catching up with everyone. I hope you will keep him in your prayers as he completes his recovery.”

TMS’ FanFest III – a free event for Metroplex families – is scheduled for Thursday. The event will feature NASCAR Sprint Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger and autograph sessions with various local sports stars, ride-alongs and giveaways.

Gossage was handpicked by O. Bruton Smith, CEO and chairman of the board of Speedway Motorsports Inc., to oversee development of TMS beginning with its groundbreaking in April 1995. TMS now boasts an overall seating capacity in excess of 190,000. Under Gossage’s watch, TMS annually has attracted some of the largest in-season crowds for NASCAR and IndyCar events competing on the 1.5-mile layout in far north Fort Worth.

TMS’ landscape also features the Lone Star Tower, which houses condominiums and office space, and the members-only Speedway Club. TMS _ dubbed “The Great American Speedway” _ is home to the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame, another Gossage initiative. Gossage also is active in Speedway Children’s Charities as a member of its board of directors.

A native of Nashville, Tenn., Gossage has been involved in motorsports since 1980, when he was appointed public relations director at Nashville International Raceway. He later served as manager of Bristol International Raceway, now part of Smith’s SMI empire as Bristol Motor Speedway.

In 1983, the Miller Brewing Co. hired Gossage to manage its extensive motorsports public relations program, which included NASCAR, Indy-car, drag racing, sports car and hydroplane racing. Gossage joined SMI in 1989, when he was named vice president of PR for Charlotte Motor Speedway, now known as Lowe’s Motor Speedway. While in Charlotte, the center of Smith’s empire, Gossage collaborated with mentor H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler on a series of over-the-top promotions that have become the signature of SMI events.

Gossage and his wife, Melinda, reside on Eagle Mountain Lake in Fort Worth.

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

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 22 2009
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