DALLAS — A year ago, billboards dotted North Texas with the image of Brad Keselowski with a bloody lip.
The slogan on the billboards, promoting the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, proclaimed fans could expect “Left turns and right crosses,” just like those seen after the fall 2014 race at the track.
They were the brainchild of Eddie Gossage, president and general manager of TMS.
Gossage had a simple reasoning to defend using the controversial moment in marketing material, despite not having seen any himself.
“Personally, it happened,” Gossage said at TMS’ Media Day. “Just like the Jeff (Gordon) and Brad (Keselowski) situation or the Jeff (Gordon) and Jeff (Burton) situation a few years back. It happened in the field of competition. It happened, to use a 2016 verb, it happened ‘organically.’ Nobody made it happen. It happened as part of the competition. To me, that’s fair game.”
Gossage is a promoter and drama is his carrot, used to entice all levels of fans to his 1.5-mile track in Fort Worth every year since it opened in 1997.
“There’s nothing wrong with that at all,” Gossage said. “That’s part of the emotion and the color of the sport. That’s exciting to me. That’s drama and drama is what we all go to see, whether it’s the Duck Commander 500 next Saturday night, a (Dallas Mavericks) or (Dallas) Stars game or Wrestlemania. It’s the drama. ”
The only circumstances that would give Gossage pause in using an accident as promotion? If a driver, fan or crew member was seriously hurt. Otherwise, “it’s all fair.”
It’s the sentiment shared by Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway. Campbell addressed the use of the wreck in ads for Sunday’s STP 500 on Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Campbell believes you “can’t ignore history” just because it’s controversial.
“The golden rule is if there is an injury or anything like that, no, certainly you don’t cross over that line,” Campbell said. “That was a different deal. What NASCAR did with the two drivers, that’s between them. It’s like people saying now that you look at a history book and people want to take certain chapters out of it like it didn’t happen. That did happen.”
No one was injured in the accident, but the additional layer was Matt Kenseth being suspended for the following two races of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Campbell pointed to NASCAR’s repeated use of the fight between Cale Yarborough and Bobby and Donnie Allison at the end of the 1979 Daytona 500 to promote the sport. That iconic incident also involved penalties.
“It stirred up controversy, but what do people want me to show, the pace lap?” Campbell asked.