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    Friday, May 17, 2024

    Eddie Gossage, Longtime Head of Texas Motor Speedway, Dies at 65

    Eddie Gossage, shown here presenting Jeff Gordon with two Shetland ponies in 2015, served as president of Texas Motor Speedway for 25 years before retiring in 2021. He was "one of the best promoters ever," Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith said. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Eddie Gossage, the longtime head of Texas Motor Speedway and an old-school promoter mentored by stock car racing pioneers, has died at the age of 65, Speedway Motorsports announced Thursday night.

    "Today we have lost one of the world's biggest race fans," Speedway Motorsports president and CEO Marcus Smith said. "From his legendary promotions to the lasting relationships he developed throughout the sports and entertainment industries, Eddie Gossage meant so much to the world of motorsports."

    No further details were provided by Speedway Motorsports.

    Gossage had stepped down three years ago after 25 years as president of the Texas speedway. In all, he had spent 32 years working for SMI. He learned the art of selling tickets, packing grandstands and turning races into spectacles from company founder Bruton Smith and longtime executive Humpy Wheeler.

    He was a young public relations director at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1992 when, during a news conference to promote NASCAR's first nighttime All-Star race, one of his stunts literally set Smith's hair on fire. When Smith threw the giant light switch rigged by Gossage to highlight the Charlotte speedway's new lighting system, sparks flew.

    "I thought I was headed for the unemployment line for sure," Gossage once recalled. "But for some reason, Bruton kept me around, and it wasn't long after that he gave me an opportunity I could have only dreamed of."

    When Smith began buying land in North Texas, he sent Gossage from Charlotte to Fort Worth in 1995 to oversee the project as general manager. The speedway opened two years later for its first NASCAR race and became one of the premier entertainment facilities in the country and a centerpiece of the Speedway Motorsports portfolio.

    The 1,500-acre complex includes a 1.5-mile superspeedway, 194 luxury suites, 76 condominiums, a nine-story Speedway Club, office space and the 11,000-seat Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

    "Eddie Gossage was a consummate promoter whose outside-the-box ideas helped engage fans across the country," NASCAR said in a statement Thursday night. "He was truly passionate about motorsports and always looking for the next great idea to bring new fans to the sport and keep them entertained at the racetrack. Our deepest condolences go to Eddie's family and friends."

    When Gossage announced his retirement in 2021, he said his approach sometimes borrowed from boxing promoters Bob Arum and Don King -- and that his ideas were sometimes outrageous -- but his intentions were always for the best interest of the fans, the racing and the speedway.

    "Some people took the way I promote as ego, wanting to be part of the story. That's not it," Gossage said. "It has been my greatest thrill serving our fans all these years. Literally millions and millions of fans have come through the gates at Texas Motor Speedway."

    Gossage was also a fierce supporter of the IndyCar Series, which until this season was on the Texas schedule every year since the track opened in 1997. Texas hosted the season opener during the pandemic in 2020 and later a doubleheader as IndyCar has struggled to find ovals for its schedule.

    “Eddie Gossage was a giant in the motorsports industry,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said in a statement late Thursday. “His endless creativity, flair and dedication to the fan experience at Texas Motor Speedway raised the bar for racetracks across America. … Our races at TMS always were among the most highly anticipated weekends on the schedule, both for the incredible on-track action and the memorable promotions Eddie turned from ideas into reality. Eddie will be missed, and we extend our sympathies to his family and friends.”

    Gossage once joked he was “far too young and pretty to retire” and would find something else to do next. Smith called Gossage “one of the best promoters ever” and said one of Gossage’s mantra’s will forever ring true within the company.

    “Eddie has always said, ‘If we don’t make a big deal out of it, no one else will, either.’ And he’s right,” he said.

    Funeral arrangements were incomplete. Smith said survivors include Gossage’s wife, Melinda, a daughter, son and three grandchildren.

    “Eddie Gossage was a trailblazer, promoter and innovator at a time when attracting attention was critical as Speedway Motorsports expanded NASCAR into the Lone Star State,” said Texas Motor Speedway general manager Mark Faber. “Each day I come to work, I see the impact he had throughout our property. Eddie laid a foundation for success to build upon for generations to come and made Texas Motor Speedway a showplace of which Texans will always be proud. AP


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