New president race fan

FORT WORTH-DALLAS (Dec. 14, 2000) - The election of President George W. Bush means the television at the White House will likely be tuned to some NASCAR Winston Cup races in the future. President-elect Bush's personal introduction to the sport...

FORT WORTH-DALLAS (Dec. 14, 2000) - The election of President George W. Bush means the television at the White House will likely be tuned to some NASCAR Winston Cup races in the future.

President-elect Bush's personal introduction to the sport came when he threw the green flag to start the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway. Bush also served as the honorary starter for the July 2000 race in Daytona Beach, Fla.

"President-elect Bush is a good friend of Texas Motor Speedway and the sport," said speedway general manager Eddie Gossage. "I think the basic values of our fans and competitors are appealing to him. And then when he stood on the flag stand and waved the green flag over those 43 cars, he had a real adrenaline rush. He stayed up there for several laps to soak up that experience.

"I understand that he waved the green flag in Daytona this year in part because Florida was obviously an important state in the election and in part to re-live the experience he enjoyed here at Texas Motor Speedway," said Gossage.

During his visit to Texas Motor Speedway, the next resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue spent some time visiting with Gossage and Bruton Smith, the speedway's chairman. He also toured the garage, talking with fans and drivers alike, including Texas' own Bobby and Terry Labonte. Bush attended church in the garage area prior to the race with Gossage and the NASCAR Winston Cup drivers and crew members.

"He really enjoyed meeting the drivers here at Texas -- seeing their cars and the big 18-wheel haulers they use to carry their cars," said Gossage. "He spoke to the drivers at the drivers meeting and later said he was particularly impressed that before going out to do battle at 185 miles per hour, everyone stopped to attend church. He sat on the front row at church that morning.

"We then had him stand at the start/finish line and had a man wearing a jet pack land right in front of him to deliver the green flag to start the race," said Gossage. "He climbed up into the flag stand and then kind of hammed it up for the crowd. He really had them cheering and excited before the race started."

Bush visited with many at the speedway that day, including a few staff members that formerly worked for the Texas Rangers major league baseball team the President-elect once owned.

"I was surprised when he called some of our staff members by their first name," Gossage said. "He clearly had a connection with these people that once were his employees and he was pleased to see them be a part of Texas Motor Speedway."

So how should auto racing look at the new Commander-in-Chief?

"In my opinion, President-elect Bush is a regular guy who has high standards and surrounds himself with good people," said Gossage. "Before we opened Texas Motor Speedway in 1997, Bruton Smith and I met privately with him in his office at the State Capitol in Austin. He was very enthusiastic about our plans to bring major league auto racing to Texas. I think we have a good friend in President-elect Bush."

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Series NASCAR-CUP