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Sturbin: Innovative Gossage Is Getting Back To Work

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 12 2009
Texas Motor Speedway president and promoter's promoter Eddie Gossage is on the mend. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Texas Motor Speedway president and promoter's promoter Eddie Gossage is on the mend. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Fort Worth, Texas – Consider the IndyCar Series’ decision to return Texas Motor Speedway to its “traditional” spot as first race after the Indianapolis 500 in 2010 as an extra round of therapy for track president Eddie Gossage.

Widely acknowledged as the country’s premier motorsports promoter, Gossage continues to recover at home after undergoing a series of chemotherapy treatments for an undisclosed form of cancer.

“I still don’t have hair after chemo, which is a little scary,” Gossage said during a recent phone interview. “I’d be standing next to you and you wouldn’t notice me. I shine now. Part of the deal. I wish it’d come back, but I’ve been in chemo since March.

“All I’ve been doing is working out and working from home. I feel 100 percent. I know I’m not because treatment takes a lot out of you, but I’ve responded well. The last three or four weeks, I just feel great – I really do. I walk a couple miles after breakfast and come downstairs and lift weights. I’m trying to stay toned-up and in-shape. Rest of the time I’m on the phone and the computer and feel just as busy as I do at the office.”  Gossage, 50, plans to return to his office at The Speedway Club tower later this month.

Meanwhile, TMS’ return to its coveted post-Indy slot was among several changes to the 2010 schedule announced last week. First-time events in Brazil and Birmingham, Ala., highlight an international tour featuring eight oval races, four permanent road courses, five temporary circuits and the Bombardier Learjet 550k – “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race” _ on June 12.

Gossage introduced the concept of nighttime open-wheel racing with the series’ first visit to TMS’ 1.5-mile quadoval for the True Value 500k on June 7, 1997. Gossage used the two-week period between the Indianapolis 500 and the race at TMS to promote the newly crowned Indy 500 champion to the max – a strategy that immediately stamped TMS as the series’ second-most popular draw.

But the emergence of Danica Patrick as a potential winner prompted Indy Racing League officials to rethink the schedule format after the 2005 Indy 500. Patrick started and finished fourth in the 89th edition of the prestigious event as a rookie, then the highest starting/finishing positions by a female driver at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Looking to capitalize upon “Danicamania,” league officials decided all parties would be better served by racing the week after Indy.

Gossage wanted to keep the two-week window for promotional purposes open, as well as accommodate companion scheduling with NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series.

The IRL went road-racing at Watkins Glen International in 2006 before heading to TMS. And for the last three years, The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis., has hosted the series before it moved onto Fort Worth. But financial uncertainty of The Milwaukee Mile, including unpaid sanctioning fees to the IRL and NASCAR, prompted IndyCar officials to drop the 106-year-old venue from the 2010 schedule after a six-year run. Also, Richmond International Raceway’s 0.75-mile oval was dropped after a nine-year run.

“Obviously, a part of this is a function of the issues they’ve (IRL) got at Milwaukee,” Gossage said. “But I’m really glad we’re back on the same page with the IRL. We’re pleased that they promised the first race after Indy this year and I would expect that’s how it remains for years to come. We’re the most successful major market race they’ve got. “

Gossage lobbied loud for the return most recently in 2007, but backed off considerably beginning last year. “They made it clear they didn’t appreciate it,” Gossage said of IRL officials. “Regardless. To me, it’s the IRL tradition of following up Indy two weeks later, first race being Texas. It was CART’s tradition, and before that AAA’s, to go to Milwaukee.  It was never the IRL’s tradition. Folks at Milwaukee didn’t jump in with the IRL (in 1996), they stayed with CART. I was brought up you should reward that (loyalty). It’s the way it ought to be. “

In his absence this summer, Gossage said Kenton Nelson, TMS’ assistant GM and vice president of events, negotiated a one-year contract with John Lewis, the IRL’s vice president, marketing and league development. “Kenton  worked closely with them. Kenton did a great job,” Gossage said. “I don’t like being at odds with anybody and I’m pleased were back on the same page, and you’ll see a positive relationship.”

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

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 12 2009
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