Eddie Gossage’s IndyCar strong-arm attempt nothing new

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Eric Mauk

If nothing else, Eddie Gossage lives the age-old adage that you enter combat only when you are in a position of strength.

The problem IndyCar has had in the last 12 years is that Gossage enters combat with open-wheel racing generally every time he has a position of strength – and unfortunately for IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard , this is one of those times.

Coming off a debacle weekend in Belle Isle that obliterated every bit of momentum that a strong Indy 500 gave the series, Texas provided a booster shot with an interesting race that yielded good action and a popular surprise winner in Justin Wilson.

So of course, Mr. Gossage realizes that his track aided the Indy Car cause – never mind that it was IndyCar that made the aero changes that provided some of that close racing – and he is striking while the iron is hot.

Story Highlights

  • Gossage asks for 2013 decision within two weeks
  • Xingdao needs attention before 2013 does
  • Gossage wants Indy Car drivers to be more respectful to his track

He took to the Internet with ESPN.com’s Terry Blount Monday after the race to declare that he wants a decision within two weeks as to whether the series will return to Texas Motor Speedway for the 2013 season. Never mind that Bernard and his brain trust would have been pleased as punch to tip out of Texas two years ago and never have to deal with Gossage again, Gossage has the momentum and he is going to push it to his advantage.

"If they want to race here, let's race," Gossage said Monday on ESPN.com. "If they don't, that's fine. We'll announce it tomorrow. No hard feelings. But I want to make a deal within a couple of weeks. I'm not going to let this linger like we did last year. My desire is for IndyCar to stay, but we have a plan in place either way."

Now IndyCar has plenty of other things to worry about without the spectre of losing one of its keystone events for next year. The Xingdao event is shakier than a two-legged milk stool, the Baltimore GP needed the Andretti group to come in and save it at the last minute, and no one is really sure if the season finale at Fontana will draw any crowd at all. But now instead of dealing with that, Bernard gets a public call-out for a decision in two weeks.

Indy Cars have raced at TMS since the track opened in 1997, and the series has always gotten a great effort from Gossage. His shows are routinely the highest-attended in Indy Car outside of Indy but Gossage himself has always subscribed to the adage attributed to the legendary George M. Cohan, who said “I don't care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right.”

There is no doubt that Gossage can be a friend to IndyCar racing, but don’t think for a second that he won’t turn on Bernard in a heartbeat to suit his track’s needs. This is the same man that had the Cowards Aren’t Racing Today shirts made up in 2001 when the CART series ended up cancelling their race due to high g-loads on the drivers.

Gossage was stung a bit by the comments of some drivers before the race questioning the track’s safety, or more specifically the wisdom of having the fence poles facing the track like they were in Las Vegas. Gossage likely saw the attack as something that could hurt his gate, and aside from his family, I would guess that the last thing in the world that you want to affect is Eddie Gossage’s gate receipts. Interestingly enough, he told ESPN that he wanted the next contract to address the conduct of the drivers toward the track – although he claimed not to know how you do that.

“I just don't know why they were beating on us. I don't know how you do this in a contract, but we want to be treated with respect, courtesy and dignity," Gossage said. “I'm not going to have happen what happened last year with all the negative talk. All that carrying on isn't right.”

Now I respect the man’s ability as a promoter and he learned at the feet of some of the greatest promotional minds that the sport of racing has ever known such as Humpy Wheeler. But if you don’t think he knows how to get what he wants in a contract – you think wrong. As a final point, let me share with you this little anecdote that I was told by the man himself more than a decade ago.

“We had a guy that did a stunt where he put himself in a box with dynamite, blew the box up and emerged unscathed. Smoke, fire, noise, all the prerequisites for a good stunt,” Gossage recalled. “Now he wanted to be paid up front, and he wanted to be paid rain or shine, whether we had an event on his scheduled day or not. So I told him it was fine, but if it rained and the event was cancelled, I was bringing my family out, we were going to sit in the stands and he was going to blow himself up for our enjoyment.”

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Series INDYCAR
Tags bernard, commentary, featured, gossage, indy car, mauk, texas