TMS president Eddie Gossage not shy about job

April, 4, 2009

FT. WORTH, Texas -- A race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway comes with a couple of guarantees:

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Eddie Gossage, and Sam Hornish Jr.
AP Photo/Matt SlocumEddie Gossage, left, and Sam Hornish Jr. spent some time Tuesday changing the oil in cars. It's just another example of what Gossage will do to promote an event.

The cars will be fast, and Eddie Gossage will say something surprising.

Gossage sees that as part of his job as the president of TMS. He sees himself as a promoter like no other in racing.

"I'm probably the only old-school promoter left," Gossage said. "We don't have promoters anymore. We have track operators. I think the sport became so successful that everyone got fat, happy and lazy."

Gossage held court with a few reporters Saturday morning for a breakfast in his sixth-floor office, which overlooks Turn 1.

Gossage sometimes goes over the top to try to garner publicity for TMS events. But he said there is a method to his madness.

"People think I have an ego, but really, I just want people to focus on the speedway," Gossage said. "This is the most successful major-market speedway ever. That didn't just happen."

Gossage's promotions have included the unusual, to say the least: a 40-foot mechanical dragon, "Robosaurus," that ate cars and breathed fire; an all-female pit crew for a truck race; and frontstretch jumps over race cars by motorcycle stuntman Robbie Knievel, to name a few.

Gossage said he needs a few wild things on the schedule because North Texas has more than its share of sports celebrities.

"We have some tough competition in this market," Gossage said. "We have [team owner] Jerry Jones, [quarterback] Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson [Romo's girlfriend] for the Cowboys. We have [Dallas Mavericks owner] Mark Cuban.

"But we only have [Sprint] Cup guys here six days a year. For the other 359 days, we have to find ways to bring media attention to the speedway. We realize the Cowboys are unique, but we're not going to play second fiddle to the Rangers, the [Dallas] Stars or the Mavs."

Gossage learned some of his promotional skills from former Lowe's Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler. Gossage worked at Lowe's before TMS opened in 1997.

But he said his love of flair and hype started when he was a kid.

"I grew up idolizing Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel," Gossage said. "Both those guys were great promoters."

When Gossage doesn't get the attention he wants, he lets people know it. He was angry earlier this week about the lack of attention TMS was receiving in the local newspapers. He called both sports editors on Wednesday to complain.

"I hadn't done that in a long time," he said. "I used to make myself a pain in the rear to those folks deliberately, but not anymore. They know me now. They know a lot of times I'm saying things that I don't always believe."

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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