TMS Eyes Early June Doubleheader

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 22 2020

Texas Motor Speedway has set a hopeful race date for NASCAR/IndyCar double. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

FORT WORTH, Texas – A rescheduled NASCAR spring weekend at Texas Motor Speedway is a key talking point in Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s controversial initiative to “re-open” the Lone Star State for business amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abbott has given TMS President/General Manager Eddie Gossage the “green light” to pursue rescheduling of its postponed March NASCAR Cup Series race _ without fans _ an event Gossage now would prefer to stage as a shared weekend with INDYCAR on June 5-6.

“To me that one (date) stands out,” Gossage said Monday afternoon from his home office.  “It may not mean anything to NASCAR because they’ve got eight (postponed) races to replace. Just because it makes sense to me doesn’t mean it makes sense to them because they got more to deal with.”

Abbott has begun “re-opening” Texas for business in stages this week. Along with Gossage the Republican governor participated in a conference call Monday morning with Marcus Smith, president/CEO of TMS owner Speedway Motorsports, Inc., NASCAR President Steve Phelps and North Texas politicians.

At 1:31 p.m. Monday, Abbott tweeted: “Just spoke to @NASCAR leaders. They’re working to return to Texas Motor Speedway very soon. I hope to announce the exciting details in the near future. To prevent the spread of #COVID19 it will be without fans. But they will put on a great show for TV.”

Gossage reiterated he is not enthusiastic about staging any event at TMS without fans. “It’s not a good alternative for NASCAR or INDYCAR,” Gossage said.”But it may be the only option we have and that’s important for the teams and the sport.”

 Gossage said the teleconference included “a protocol we had written _ several pages on how we would do this to insure safety of the competitors and participants in the community. If the governor had said ‘no,’ there’s no reason to pursue those points until he changed his position. But he’s incredibly enthusiastic about it and wants the world to know Texas is pro-business and ‘what can I do to help?’ He was just great.

“What this does is gives us the green light to proceed with planning for a race. There’s a lot of details to work out _ such as a (hard) date and is it just Cup; Cup and Xfinity or Cup, Xfinity and Truck.”

All three of NASCAR’s national touring series were scheduled to compete on TMS’ 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth from March 27-29. The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Cup race at TMS is among eight events that were postponed by NASCAR, including the sanctioning body’s previously announced return to racing at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway May 8-9. That date was postponed last Friday and has not been rescheduled.

NASCAR ran four Cup races, the most recent on March 8, before closing down in compliance with recommendations from the CDC. Phelps said in mid-March the sanctioning body intended to complete its entire point-paying, 36-race Cup schedule this season once the pandemic is under control.

In addition to Martinsville, these seven venues have been put in a holding pattern _ Atlanta Motor Speedway (March 15), Homestead-Miami Speedway (March 22), TMS (March 29), Bristol Motor Speedway (April 5), Richmond Raceway (April 19), Talladega Superspeedway (April 26) and Dover International Speedway (May 3).

Gossage said he believes NASCAR’s intention is to return to racing Memorial Day weekend with the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. “The governor of North Carolina (Democrat Roy Cooper) has not allowed the shops to reopen so unless and until he does, there’s nothing for us to do,” Gossage said. “That’s Step 1 _ none of this matters until that happens. They’ll likely need a couple weeks to get cars prepped and ready.

“Let’s say the Coke 600 goes off on-time; that leaves two weeks after (to race at TMS). I can see that making some sense to us. Not doing it in front of a crowd, you can do Cup and INDYCAR, or even four races. It can be done.”

INDYCAR’s Genesys 600 night race is scheduled at TMS for Saturday, June 6, as the revised/current 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season-opener.  The open-wheel series is sharing the weekend with the NASCAR Grander RV & Outdoors Truck Series SpeedyCash.com 400 on Friday night, June 5. NASCAR’s Cup Series currently is scheduled to compete at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, June 7.

Gossage said he spoke Sunday night with Roger Penske, new owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR, as well as a team-owner in NASCAR and the NTT IndyCar Series. IMS’ road-course will play host to an historic shared INDYCAR and NASCAR Xfinity Series doubleheader on the Fourth of July weekend. Gossage said Penske would support a shared weekend at TMS “because he’s doing it at Indy. We hadn’t talked about it until last night and he said, ‘Love the Idea. I think of things on a global scale and you’ve got my support.’^”

Gossage added the shared weekend at TMS makes sense from a track-operator’s business model.  “If you’re running the NASCAR races and got essential personnel on-site _ EMTs, firemen, wreckers,  hospital staff, etc. _ there’s an economy there that you might be willing to do it. If INDYCAR gets moved and doesn’t happen June 6 and they came back with a date later in the season, it probably doesn’t make sense. There’s an economy of scale in the budget.”

Gossage said the TV networks _ NASCAR on FOX and INDYCAR on NBC _are ready to go. “They want live programming,” Gossage said. “There’s only a few sports that can do this right now _ auto racing because you’re inside a car, the crewmen are along pit road but you don’t have body-on-body contact like in basketball, hockey or even baseball.

“That was Governor Abbott’s point _ this gives the American public a live sporting event, to turn it around for the country and the globe. It’s a great statement for the state of Texas that we’re doing business and that things are returning to normal. And it’s a good thing for our country’s morale. We put the races on TV, I’m sure we’ll have people who typically don’t tune in and that’s good for the sport _ it’ll help the teams get some money flowing through their doors. It’s been tough for a while and it’s getting worse by the day.” 

A return to racing at TMS, however, will not result in the re-hiring of employees laid off last week by Speedway Motorsports.  The company laid off 180 fulltime employees and furloughed another 100. Gossage declined to confirm how many employees were let go at TMS, and questioned reports of the 30 to 35 disclosed in some local media.

“It was significant,” Gossage said of the employee reduction program. “This will be the new normal for us, because we’re not going to be making any money on these races.” 


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 22 2020
No Comment

Comments are closed.