Friday, May 27, 2011

A Chat with TMS President Eddie Gossage

Miss Sprint Cup, Ft.Worth Mayor, TMS President Eddie Gossage, and David Starr
Tom Pennington/Getty Images


Eddie Gossage is like most hard-working Americans; he works late sometimes, and on those occasions has been known to share a peanut butter sandwich with his wife before turning in, and lets exhaustion wash over him once he’s safely tucked into his bed. But no one else’s day clocked in at over 24 hours long, filled with NASCAR’s best of the best, ended after a spray of champagne in Victory Lane, is delayed by hours of traffic from departing fans, and disallows sleep because the man’s brain is frantically making notes on how to make things even better next time. Eddie Gossage is the President of Texas Motor Speedway. He oversaw every minute detail that led to the creation of his life’s project. Recently I was delighted to spend half an hour in Mr. Gossage’s presence and learned a lot about NASCAR’s most colorful track president.

Eddie Gossage was a self-described “silly young man” who didn’t tear it up in college with a strong grade point average, but he had an inner drive, perception, and intuition that led to the young Mr. Gossage capitalizing on his strengths and getting gainful employment. After spending time in Wisconsin with Miller Brewing as a publicist and then in Charlotte working for Howard Augustine “Humpy” Wheeler Jr. at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Eddie Gossage honed his skills, gleaned tons of information, and formulated a plan that led to the creation of The Great American Speedway. Thirty-five when the project began, he is still young and fit, showing no signs of slowing down, even after a cancer scare in 2009. Nowadays Mr. Gossage seems even more in command with a quiet calm that illuminates from the inside out.

The quiet calm, however, does not affect his philosophy at work. When I posed the question what makes Texas Motor Speedway an influential track in NASCAR, Mr. Gossage replied simply and eloquently, “You have to be the first, most creative, strive for the best. Why race for second place ever in anything that you do?” Eddie Gossage even relayed that, “The staff runs this place. I tell my staff, ‘Let’s do things better and do things first.’ I am a competitive person. I’m not sure the competitiveness serves me well all of the time. Hiring good people is the key. I’d rather hire the person who has the pride, desire, desire to succeed… if they have these things they can be taught the other things.”

When asked how he defends TMS on criticism that the “cookie cutter” track offers “lackluster racing” Gossage responded with the following assessment, "First of all, the best most newsworthy, most intriguing race of 2010 was the AAA Texas 500 during the Chase. It was a fascinating race with Kyle Busch showing who was number one, you had Jeff and Jeff, the two least likely, ‘discussing’ things out in Turn 2. It was an interesting winner in the end showing what he’d do in 2011. On the other hand, we didn’t have a great race in April. There is no racetrack that will produce barn burners every time.” Now, anybody who says cookie cutter racetrack clearly doesn’t know anything about racing. I will tell you, I’m a short track guy. My favorite short track on the planet is Slinger Super Speedway in Slinger, Wisconsin. It’s a ¼ mile high-banked oval; it’s literally fighter jets turned loose inside a gymnasium. It’s one of those amazing places you’ve got to see! I like dirt tracks, asphalt, road courses, and ovals. I like racing; I don’t know why you gotta be for one and not the rest?"

When questioned on why he and the team at TMS decided on night racing in April for the running of the Samsung Mobile 500 he explained, “First of all, you gotta know my history, I’m originally from Nashville, TN and the fairgrounds there used to run Cup races at night, two a year. They were the only two Cup races at night in the 70's until Bristol had a night race in 1979. My entire career has been night racing. When I was in Charlotte we put in the lights and went night racing in a Super Speedway. We had the first nighttime IndyCar race here at Texas when we opened here in 1997. Night racing is just what you do. Didn’t we all become race fans at some Saturday Night short track? I’m nostalgic on that kind of thing. Good racing doesn’t have anything to do with night or day, spring or fall."

Good racing is nearly irrelevant in Mr. Gossage’s line of work. His business is promotion and filling the seats of his enormous speedway, which he does quite nicely. From season ticket holders to the value tickets offered, TMS brings in loyal fans consistently. Publicity, ad campaigns, and the TMS “American Sweethearts” all are used to entice, seduce, and secure fans for the two events Texas Motor Speedway claims each Sprint Cup Season. The criticism is there, but setting foot in Mr. Gossage’s Great American Speedway for a Cup race would be the ultimate adventure. Mr. Gossage knows his business and, as he explained, does it first and does it best. Texas Motor Speedway just moved to the top of my list for where I want to go to see my next race.




Chief 187 is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187 Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.

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