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Woody: The News Is Good On Good-Guy Gossage

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 27 2009
exas 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)

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)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

In a year woefully short of good news, I got some last week.

Eddie Gossage, Texas Motor Speedway president and a good friend for some 30 years, said he’s making progress in his battle with cancer.

I’d sent Eddie (“Goose” as he’s been called by friends since he worked in The Tennessean sports department as a college kid decades ago) a note telling him to hang in, and I received this reply:

“I’m fine. I’ve been outside doing yard work all day. The doc probably won’t like that, but I felt fine and I thought the exercise was good for me. Let everybody know that I’ll go back to work as soon as the doc says it’s Ok.”

And a touch of the famous Gossage wit:

“I just wanted everybody to understand why my hair and beard has fallen out. I hadn’t seen my face since my sophomore year at MTSU.”

Most folks who follow NASCAR know what a tremendous job Gossage, 50, has done over the years as a track executive. Gary Baker gave him his start as PR director at Fairgrounds Speedway in the early 1980’s and eventually promoted him to Bristol Raceway. There he was discovered by Bruton Smith who lured him off to Charlotte Motor Speedway – and more responsibilities – and finally assigned him to the massive Texas Speedway project.

Amid that climb, Eddie did a stint with Miller Brewing’s racing program. Among the drivers he worked with was Bobby Allison, and one of my favorite memories is going to supper with Gossage and Allison and watching Bobby attack a stack of fried catfish. Eddie and I had an over/under bet on how many catfish Allison could go through. I took the under – I think it was a dozen – and lost.

Gossage worked with Humpy Wheeler at Charlotte and absorbed Humpy’s promotional genius. That influence is reflected in Gossage’s wide array of creative, sometimes zany, promotions at Texas Speedway. Since Wheeler left Charlotte, Gossage has assumed the mantle as King of Promoters.

(The story of his giant fireworks display at Charlotte is priceless – a falling cinder caught his boss’s hair on fire.)

Most NASCAR insiders know all of this, and fans – even if they don’t know Gossage personally – benefit from his vision and innovation. The story of his track-lighting project at Charlotte is a book onto itself.

What a lot of people don’t know is how hard Gossage worked to get where he is, from working his way through college to starting at the bottom at the old Nashville Fairgrounds track.

Gossage, a product of a working-class family, was never given anything. He rose through smarts, will-power and plain hard work.

He finally made it to the top as one of the most successful and efficient administrators in the sport, but is unaffected by his success. Goose remains one of the good guys, just as he’s always been.

It’s been a long, hard climb. He deserves a chance to enjoy the view.

Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 27 2009
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  • KindWord says:

    I send my best wishes for a full recovery for old friend and fellow MTSU alum Eddie Gossage.
    The world of racing needs his type of personality and insight.