Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage wants an early Christmas present: a new agreement that keeps the Verizon IndyCar Series racing at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth track for many more years to come.
This past Saturday night’s race marked the end of the most recent agreement between the racing series and TMS, which has hosted IndyCar for the last 22 years (since 1997).
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, both IndyCar and TMS officials are expected to begin negotiations on a new multi-year agreement in the next month or so.
Gossage hopes to get his early Christmas present signed, sealed and delivered by the end of August, when the track traditionally begins selling tickets for the following year’s race.
“I would certainly hope we could reach a business deal,” Gossage told the S-T. “They’ve been here for 22 years, so I don’t know why that’s going to change.”
IndyCar has been on an upswing in terms of popularity and attention over the last few years, something that’s not lost on Gossage. There’s no question he wants the open-wheel series to keep returning to TMS year after year.
But Gossage would like to see one significant change in a new agreement, to return the annual race to its former place on the IndyCar schedule: the week after the Indianapolis 500.
It had been that way from 1997 through 2005, before the former IndyCar administration chose to insert another venue into the schedule the weekend after the 500.
In 2006, Watkins Glen followed the 500, while Texas was next.
The Milwaukee Mile followed the 500 from 2007 through 2009.
TMS returned to its former spot on the IndyCar schedule the weekend after the Indy 500 in 2010 and 2011, before the temporary road course at Belle Isle in downtown Detroit, Michigan, took over that spot and has continued in that slot ever since.
Although IndyCar officials are still working on race slots for the 2019 schedule, Gossage told the Star-Telegram he had a gentleman’s agreement with a prior IndyCar administration that TMS would always be the first race after the Indy 500.
“Hopefully that’ll happen again,” Gossage told the S-T. “This race should be the race after Indy. If you’re trying to capture fans who enjoy the Indy 500 and want to watch the next race, do you want them to see Detroit’s temporary street course?
“Or do you want them to see racing on one of the grand ovals for IndyCar? I would certainly fix that. It’d be good for IndyCar; it’d be good for Texas Motor Speedway.”
IndyCar has been a welcome guest to TMS, not to mention being one of the more popular races on the series’ schedule. That included two races per year at TMS from 1998 through 2004, as well as in the 2011 season, for a total of 30 visits by the series over the years.
While returning a second race to the schedule doesn’t seem to be in the cards, at least for the near future, if TMS can get IndyCar to return its race date to the weekend after the Indy 500, Gossage would be a happy man.
Scott Dixon, who won Saturday night’s race, says racing at TMS is one of his favorite – not to mention successful (three wins, 8 podium finishes in 19 starts) – venues.
“It’s always been a special place,” Dixon told the Star-Telegram. “I think Eddie and his whole team just do a fantastic job. I love coming here.”
Like many of his contemporaries such as Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Kenny Bernstein, NHRA Funny Car legend John Force is also devastated by the death of Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen, who passed away Sunday at the age of 81.
Force issued a lengthy and emotional statement Wednesday morning recalling his close relationship with McEwen, one that lasted over the last 40-plus years.
Force last spoke with McEwen nearly a month ago after McEwen left a message on Force’s cell phone voicemail, wondering why Force had three big motor explosions, as well as three crashes related to those explosions.
“Force,” McEwen said, “are you trying to kill yourself? Let’s talk, call me.”
When McEwen talked, Force always stopped to listen.
“He could do that,” Force said. “I know I don’t listen like I should because I’m always too busy talking about my kids or my sponsors or something else, but I would always listen to Mongoose.
“He’d be honest. If he thought I was screwing up, he’d tell me. Sometimes it would piss me off, but when I thought about it, he was usually right. He didn’t pull any punches. He knew the life.”
McEwen not only was a formidable opponent to Force early in the latter’s racing career, he also was also a mentor to Force, particularly when it came to attracting sponsorship for Force’s Funny Car.
“He was a hustler,” Force said of McEwen. “He was the first marketer (in drag racing). Kenny Bernstein and Raymond Beadle, they sold the sport to corporate America, but Mongoose in my opinion was the first. He was the one who showed the way.
“He was one of the guys who taught me how to chase money and that the sponsors always had to be taken care of.
“Back in the early days he taught me how to talk to the racetrack promoters and what they really expected of me as a race car driver. Tracks like Irwindale, Orange County, Seattle, Bakersfield, Fremont and Phoenix, they wanted a showman, a fast talker, tire smoking, hot cars, and story teller, and he was the king.
“(McEwen) would always tell me like it was and I’m telling you, he was the PT Barnum of drag racing. When I won my first round at an NHRA event in Baton Rouge, all he said was ‘Johnny boy, I’m proud of you.’”
Force then launched into his own personal eulogy of McEwen.
“Drag racing never would be where it is right now without the Mongoose,” Force said. “My kids would never have the kind of opportunities they have, or the lives they live.
“It’s very emotional for me because I’m losing all my heroes Gene Beaver (Force’s uncle), Keith Black, Joe Pisano, Raymond Beadle, (Dale) Armstrong, (Steve) Plueger, and now Mongoose.
“I know (death is) going to happen to all of us; we ain’t getting out of this alive. But this one is really hard because, to me, the Mongoose was invincible. He loved drag racing, he loved the fans and he loved life.
“He would come to my shows for hours and sign (autographs) for the fans. When I was 16 at Lions Dragstrip (in Long Beach, California), I knew that all I wanted was to race but I knew it was impossible.
“But when I saw Hot Wheels with Snake and the Mongoose years later, I saw that you really could make a living in this sport. Mongoose put us on the map.
People who never heard of John Force know about the Snake and the Mongoose. That’s how big they were.
“We all learned from him and right to the end he was still so big in the sport. People who never heard of John Force know about the Snake and the Mongoose. That’s how big they were.
“I was emotional after hearing of his passing while at Richmond (this past weekend’s most recent NHRA national event), because the Mongoose was a racer that took care of so many, including me. He loved the sport, he loved his family, he loved his friends, he loved his fans and NHRA drag racing.”
Force admits he has one regret over McEwen’s passing: “I realized something that I had missed. I never said I loved him, but I always did.”
But Force also takes consolation in knowing McEwen’s legacy and impact upon the sport will continue to be felt for a long time still to come: “Heroes live on, but legends never die.”