Nate Ryan

NASCAR’s New Kids are in the spotlight (without knowing the songs)

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Call it NASCAR’s hottest boy brand.

Never one to shy from stoking the embers of a controversy, Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage unfurled his 10-foot-high take on the generational divide in the Cup Series that has become one of the defining stories of the season.

“The New Kids On The Track” were introduced Friday via a banner hanging from the broadcast tower adjacent to victory lane at Texas. Per Gossage (who had told NBC Sports in a February story that he was kicking around such a branding idea), NASCAR’s new Magnificent Seven of the Under 30 set are Daniel Suarez, Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman and William Byron.

A much smaller sign alongside highlighted a recent tweet by Kevin Harvick on the advanced age of race winners in 2018.

Harvick also took note of the fact that the combined career win total in Cup for the New Kids on the Track … is one.

“It’s a cool promotion if you like good marketing,” Harvick said. “But if you like winners, you go for the old guys.”

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was smiling, but it was another reminder of the undercurrent of tension running through a storyline that dates to January when Kyle Busch expressed his annoyance of a NASCAR marketing push for youth.

This week on the NASCAR on NBC Podcast, Brad Keselowski said it was natural for veterans to be jealous of their younger peers because many (such as Busch and Keselowski) lacked the exposure and visibility at the same age despite producing much better results than the new wave of Millennials.

“I love every one of those kids on that poster,” Harvick said. “I think they’re all great for our sport, and I’m not taking personal digs at them. I’m trying to have as much fun with it as I told them they should have fun with it, too.

“That’s really what it’s about. It’s the dad and kid sitting in the grandstands from two different generations. Mom and daughter sitting in the grandstands from two different generations. They root for the young guys, you root for the old guys, and that’s great for our sport, it really is. It makes it fun to be able to have that banter back and forth. So yeah, most of those guys probably don’t even know who New Kids on the Block are. I would venture to say that.”

Uh oh, oh oh oh.

Harvick, a 42-year-old who was on the cusp of high school when the New Kids on the Block became America’s breakthrough boy band of the late 1980s, was right.

In an informal and incomplete poll, only Ryan Blaney was able to lay claim to knowledge of the New Kids, though he didn’t know any songs and sometimes is confused about the lineup.

    “I get them and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch mixed up ((Mark Wahlberg’s brother, Donnie, was in NKOTB),” Blaney said. “I thought (the banner) was pretty funny. I saw a picture of it last night. I thought that was pretty neat. Eddie has always done really well at making things fun and light. It’s just cool to be a part of that group.”

Erik Jones, who will turn 22 next month, was at least savvy enough to learn that he was born after the group went defunct in 1995 (at least before the inevitable cash-grab reunion tour a few years ago).

“They asked me what New Kids on the Block I was and I was like ‘Man, I’ve got to be honest with you, I have no idea,’ “ he said. “I saw that (banner) though. It’s cool. It made me laugh. I liked the (Harvick) sign they put next to it better. At first I thought Harvick actually put it there. I was like that, that’s pretty funny, but then I realized the track did it.”

No hard feelings, though, many of the younger drivers say.

“We haven’t had a young crop of guys all enter the sport at once in probably 15 years now,” Jones said. “When you see this many young guys coming at once, obviously I think NASCAR’s done a good job trying to promote us and give us an advantage early on to get our names out there and get some more fans and get some more exposure and you know we all appreciate it.

“We’re willing to take advantage of those events and I think Blaney said it well. I think we’re just more willing to take some of these opportunities that they’re not willing to. You know a lot of them have families and want to spend as much time at home as they can and for us to take a trip to wherever or spend some extra time somewhere isn’t as big of a deal. I think we’re just more willing right now to take advantage of some of those opportunities.”

Texas will be taking advantage of the promotion this weekend as Gossage said a mashup of the young drivers and the New Kids song “Hangin’ Tough” will air often on Big Hoss, the track’s enormous backstretch videoboard.

Daniel Suarez, who was happy the banner made him feel young and had no knowledge of the New Kids, believes there is some latent jealousy among older drivers.

“I think a little bit,” he said. “What I think is all the veteran drivers are very strong and have a very strong fan base and obviously a lot of support. They have pretty much the path already made. I feel like for young drivers, sometimes we need that extra push to start making that path and building that fan base. There’s nothing wrong to have extra support.

“Kevin, Kyle, any of veteran drivers when they were young in middle 20s, am sure they had good exposure to build brand and fan base. That’s what I think, but maybe that’s part of racing, too. Everyone is competitive, not just on the racetrack but sometimes out of the racetrack.”

Said Blaney: “I’ve said it all along, it’s just really fortunate to be involved in not only in NASCAR but involved in this younger driver group with some of those guys. I don’t really look at age. I don’t care if you’re 18 years old or 50 years old, we’re just competitors. I think it was a pretty neat thing that Gossage did.”

Well, mostly.

“I like how (the banner portrays him) throwing up the peace sign, too,” Blaney said. “I’ve never done that in my life.”

Six-shooters will return to Texas Motor Speedway Victory Lane celebration

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After a one-race absence, the traditional six-shooters will again be part of Texas Motor Speedway’s Victory Lane celebrations this season, track president and general manager Eddie Gossage has announced.

The guns were absent from the last Cup race at the 1.5-mile track on Nov. 5 when Kevin Harvick won.

Gossage nixed the guns in the immediate aftermath of a church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that same day which killed 26 people.

“I just thought ‘this isn’t the thing to do today,’ ” Gossage told the Forth Worth Star-Telegram during a Goodyear tire test at the track. “It was too close to us. If it had happened in, fill in the blank, whatever state miles and miles and miles away, I wouldn’t have thought like that. But it happened in our own backyard, more or less, in San Antonio.

“The six-shooters are not any kind of political statement or anything like that. They’re just a silly stereotypical Texas cowboy celebration. That’s all they are. A lot of different colleges and universities shoot guns or cannons or things like that at the kickoff or when they score a touchdown. And that’s all that is.”

The six-shooters have been given out since the spring 2005 Cup race. TMS also awards a Henry repeating rifle to pole-winners.

NASCAR holds its first Texas race weekend April 6-8, culminating in the Cup Series’ O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.

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NASCAR America: Eddie Gossage using Martinsville fallout, Dale Jr. to promote Texas race

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Eddie Gossage hit the jackpot this week.

The president and general manager of Texas Motor Speedway has quite a bit on his plate to promote this weekend’s Cup playoff race at the 1.5-mile track.

Not only does he have Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s last race at the track to entice fans, he now has the controversy between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin that erupted last weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

After Hamlin wrecked Elliott from the lead two laps from the scheduled distance, the fans at the track showed their displeasure as the two drivers had a heated discussion on the backstretch. Their uproar continued on social media and the radio waves throughout the week.

The lights at Martinsville were still hot when Gossage, who has operated Texas Motor Speedway since it opened in 1997, went to work to use the mayhem to his advantage.

Soon, an advertisement declaring Elliott as “The People’s Champion” was debuted by the track.

Gossage called into NASCAR America to discuss this weekend’s race and how he’s promoting it.

“You want to come after Martinsville and Talladega, because after both of those races everybody’s mad at everybody,” Gossage said. “Certainly from Martinsville last weekend there’s some stories coming out of that one that we didn’t quite see happening and it does make it more interesting.”

Gossage added that his track isn’t the best place for someone to seek payback for an accident that happened on a short track.

“Let’s be honest, at 195 m.ph. I’m not sure they’re going to be getting retribution this weekend or anything like that, ” Gossage said.

But that won’t keep Gossage from milking the feud for all it’s worth.

Watch the above video for the full interview.

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage to receive distinguished alumni award

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Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage is going back to college.

The veteran motorsports promoter is heading back to his alma mater, Middle Tennessee State, this weekend to receive the school’s highest alumni honor.

Gossage will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, which according to a media release, “is presented to an alumnus representing excellence and distinction through their professional career, loyal support and service to the broader community.”

Gossage will accept the award during MTSU’s homecoming celebration Friday at 4 p.m. ET. He’ll also be honored at a variety of other activities on campus over the course of the weekend.

“It will be great to see the homecoming parade and the crowds along East Main and the pride the students have,” Gossage said. “It’s just really great to see that this was the place I picked when I was coming out of high school and look at how it has succeeded.

“It’s obviously doing something right. The university and Dr. McPhee (MTU president Dr. Sidney McPhee), they are doing things right. That’s why I’m proud to say I’m from Middle Tennessee.”

A Nashville native, Gossage earned a degree from the school’s former College of Mass Communications. He is in his 21st year of running Texas Motor Speedway.

“As I think back on Middle Tennessee State, it was a great place to learn and a great place to grow up,” Gossage said. “It’s one of the most fortunate decisions of my life.

“Thirty-eight seasons later, I’m still in the racing business and it has been very good to me. It’s exploded at a level and grown at a pace that I could have never foreseen.

“But I was fortunate to be at the right place, at the right time with the skills I had learned at Middle Tennessee. I was able to apply it and have success.”

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Legislation could help Texas Motor Speedway to lure All-Star Race, season finale

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Texas Motor Speedway could become a player for the NASCAR All-Star Race or Cup season finale with legislation making the track eligible for money to help bring those events there.

H.B. 3294 was filed Monday without Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature. It becomes effective Sept. 1.

The measure updates the law. It makes the track eligible for funding should it ever get the All-Star race or season-ending championship race. The money comes from the state’s Major Events Reimbursement Fund, which provided millions to help lure the 2017 Super Bowl.

An event has to be listed to be eligible for funding. Texas Motor Speedway previously had not been listed in the law.

“It’s just going to give us a tool, should we choose to use it, to give us an opportunity to pursue some events in a way that have probably never been pursued in NASCAR before,’’ Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, told NBC Sports. “Don’t know that we’re ever going to use it, but at least it’s something we’ve got in our tool kit that I don’t know anybody else in motorsports has.’’

NASCAR awards its races to tracks. There isn’t a bidding process as there is for a Super Bowl or NCAA Final Four. The 2018 Cup schedule has been set with Charlotte Motor Speedway scheduled to host the All-Star Race for the 33rd time in 34 years. The 2018 schedule has Homestead-Miami Speedway hosting the season finale for what would be the 17th consecutive year.

NASCAR has five-year sanctioning agreements with tracks that go through 2020.

Gossage said that it was his understanding that its two Cup race weekends were not eligible for such funding from the state, so the track sought to have the All-Star Race and championship finale added as part of the legislation.

Events the measure lists as eligible for funding include all-star games for the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer, a national championship college football game, a World Cup soccer game or tournament and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association National Finals Rodeo, among others.

The Major Events Reimbursement Fund is controlled by the governor’s office. There is a formula that determines what each event is eligible to receive. The fund is supported by state and local sales taxes, auto rental tax, hotel and alcohol state taxes.

The Associated Press reported that the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston was eligible for $25 million and the 2016 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One race in Austin, Texas, was eligible for $26 million.

Gossage said the track has not had any discussions with NASCAR seeking the All-Star Race or season finale.

Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway are both owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc., so moving the All-Star Race would have to be approved by Marcus Smith, president, chief executive officer of SMI.

“Ultimately, it’s Marcus’ decision as to whether to try to use it, and I honestly can’t tell you what he would say,’’ Gossage said. “He’s president of the company and that’s all eight speedways. He’s got to make decisions that are in the best interest for the company. That’s going to be tough particularly when the company is based in Charlotte and we’re talking that one of these events is a Charlotte event.’’

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