Eddie Gossage

Bump and Run: Practice at Daytona road course, driver graduations

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NASCAR does not plan to have any practice before next month’s Cup race on the Daytona road course. Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer are lobbying for some practice time. Is it needed? (Note: NASCAR announced Tuesday afternoon there would be no qualifying or practice the rest of the season in any of its national series)

Dustin Long: This is a case of what’s best for the fans and what’s best for the teams. Denny Hamlin raises a valid point by questioning what the race might be like since it is a new course — and could possibly have an added chicane to slow the cars — and most drivers have not run on the configuration. However, the cost to prepare a second car for this event in case the primary car is wrecked in practice or qualifying is not something teams want. They voted against having a practice session. Still, this seems like a time when practice would be good. I like Hamlin’s idea of practice without a backup car and if you wreck in a short practice session, you finish last in the race. 

Daniel McFadin: I feel it’s needed. This is a course that no NASCAR vehicle, Cup, Xfinity or Truck has been on. Holding the Cup race without any sort of on-track prep makes the race more dangerous. This isn’t like lining up at Darlington or other tracks and dropping the green. NASCAR should want to send its top drivers into the safest possible scenario. You don’t want a historic race to be a fiasco because team owners didn’t want to spend the money on one-time costs. If anything, Hamlin’s idea about a team being scored as finishing last if they wreck in practice has merit to it. 

Dustin: For a different viewpoint, check out what Brian Murphy, a fabricator at Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted about building backup cars and the impact on teams and crews …  

 

 

Brad Keselowski advocates a system where drivers could graduate to Cup and be removed from Cup if they’re involved in too many on-track issues. What are your thoughts on this concept?

Dustin: Clint Bowyer had a good take on this. He said if a sanctioning body does well with preparing drivers up the series ladder, then it shouldn’t have to worry about removing them because of numerous on-track issues. Is that realistic when money can buy rides? Maybe not but it’s a goal for any top motorsports sanctioning body.

Daniel: I think a graduation/demotion system would be too complicated and unrealistic given the business structure of the sport. But NASCAR needs to take a hard look at how it approves drivers for the Cup Series. When testing is basically banned, the minimum needs to be bolstered. Should someone with 10 Xfinity starts and only two lead-lap finishes, like Quin Houff at the end of 2018, be given the OK to go Cup racing? I wouldn’t be in a rush to give my stamp of approval if I were NASCAR.

Dustin: If there ever was a graduation format, what track should host the “ceremony” and what would it be like?

Daniel: Texas Motor Speedway. Eddie Gossage already has a graduation outfit tucked away in his closet for the occasion from his many high school graduation ceremonies for young drivers. I’d expect plenty of pyro and an embarrassing montage on Big Hoss.

Dustin: Who would be the special guest? Got to have a special guest for this event, right?

Daniel: Actor Jim Rash, who portrayed the … eccentric Dean Craig Pelton on the cult classic NBC sitcom “Community,” about a wacky community college and the misfit students who attended it. 

 

The past two weeks have seen drivers who were outside a playoff spot win to secure a postseason position. If the streak continues Thursday at Kansas, who would you think is the best candidate to shake things up?

Daniel: Tyler Reddick is the easy pick for me here. He’s coming off a second-place finish at Texas which is his second career top five, tying him with Cole Custer. One of Reddick’s two Cup starts last year was at Kansas, where he placed ninth after benefitting from pit strategy.

Dustin: You took the easy pick Daniel. I’ll take the best pick. Erik Jones. Yes, this hasn’t been a memorable season for him but he has finished in the top 10 in each of the last four Kansas races. 

Daniel: Hopefully Jones’ sixth-place showing at Texas is a sign of things to come. It’s been his only top-10 finish on a 1.5-mile track this season.

Dustin: No better time than now to turn things around for Jones.

Texas Motor Speedway to admit fans for July 19 Cup race

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Texas Motor Speedway officials announced Friday that fans will be able to attend the July 19 NASCAR Cup race there.

Speedway president Eddie Gossage announced the news via both a media release and a YouTube video (see above).

The rescheduled O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will be the first major sports event in Texas open to fans since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the media release, “The grandstands and suites at No Limits, Texas will be open to race fans subject to social distancing requirements and additional protocols.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued guidelines that currently allow sports venues to hold up to 50% of seating capacity. Texas Motor Speedway’s current capacity is just under 130,000. The track is currently working on how many fans will be allowed into the track under state social distancing and other safety guidelines.

“(There is) no set number but many factors are involved,” a track spokesman told NBC Sports. “Still to be finalized (include) a safe social distancing seating chart for the grandstands, fans who’ve purchased tickets for the March weekend now have to figure out if they can come in July, state guidelines, the Texas heat in July, etc.”

Gossage said all tickets will be mobile tickets. Previously printed tickets for the originally scheduled race weekend back on March 27-29 are ineligible to be used. Fans holding tickets for that event are asked to reach out to the Speedway to have new tickets issued.

“We hope everybody comes to the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on July 19,” Gossage said. “But if they’re not comfortable, we’ll gladly give them a credit, even a refund, to make sure we do right by them. Not a problem at all.”

Also, fans will not be admitted to other events slated for the rescheduled race weekend, namely Xfinity and Truck Series races both scheduled for Saturday, July 18. Each race will be run without practice or qualifying sessions and the starting lineups will be based on a draw system.

The state of Texas reported 3,516 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, exceeding the previous record of new cases set just one day earlier, 3,129 on June 17.

Gossage appeared on a media teleconference Friday afternoon and was asked if the governor’s office has told him that the Speedway may have to reverse course if positive test results continue to climb.

“No sir,” Gossage said. “Obviously, if something happens, we’re going to follow the directions from the state.

Earlier, Gossage said, “Safety remains the primary focus for everyone who takes part in the weekend events, from fans to competitors, officials and track staff, so we continue to work with federal and state officials to comply with both Texas and CDC recommendations and requirements.”

NBC Sports asked Gossage if he has compared notes about hosting fans with entities like the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, who are working on their own social distancing and accommodation plans for fans to attend their games in the near future.

“I’m sure they’re really happy it’s us because I think you always want the other guy to go first and you can learn from them,” Gossage quipped. “No, I haven’t heard from them or talked to them. The big thing is we’re outdoors. The Cowboys play basically indoors … they go basically playing the whole season without ever opening the roof.

“We’re just a completely different animal because we’re completely outdoors.”

Also, per the track release:

“Fans will be allowed to bring food and unopened beverages in a soft-sided clear bag no larger than 14x14x14 inches. Standard coolers will be prohibited to limit interpersonal contact at security checkpoints. Speedway Motorsports and NASCAR will continue to adapt and improve procedures to ensure they are effective and can be scaled to support increasing the number of fans in the future.”

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Texas won’t host NASCAR, IndyCar doubleheader in June

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Texas Motor Speedway will not host a NASCAR/IndyCar doubleheader next month, track president Eddie Gossage confirmed to NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan on Thursday.

The confirmation comes as the track announced it will host an IndyCar race without fans on June 6.

NASCAR is scheduled to return to competition May 17 at Darlington Raceway, hosting a total of seven races through May 27 at either Darlington and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

No NASCAR schedule changes have been announced beyond the Darlington and Charlotte races. Series officials said earlier this month it plans to announce additional changes before May 17. NASCAR officials have stated a desire to hold as many as three additional Cup races after May 27 within a reasonable driving distance of the team shops in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area.

Gossage said his assumption is Texas, which was supposed to host NASCAR at the end of March before its postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will instead host its first Cup race “later this summer. Since we’re virtually in the summer now.”

As late as April 21, Gossage was open to the idea of hosting a doubleheader.

The Truck Series race scheduled for June 5 at Texas also has been postponed.

“That will be postponed to one of our two Cup weekends later this season,” Gossage told NBC Sports. “We will get all of our 2020 races in, the only one that we can talk about specifics now is (the IndyCar race).”

Gossage said he hopes to have fans attend both of Texas’ Cup weekends in 2020 and said that once NASCAR teams are comfortable with flying to races, it will be easier to schedule races outside the Carolinas.

“Hopefully, those kinds of things for all of us change as we get more comfortable with travel,” Gossage said. “I get that. But there’s no doubt that they’re going to make that race up in March, and we’ll run (the playoff race weekend in October). So I don’t have any doubt about that, barring some change to everything in this country. (The pandemic) getting worse, that kind of thing.”

While a Texas doubleheader is off the table, NASCAR and IndyCar are both scheduled to compete at Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the July 4 weekend.

Texas, Daytona among tracks hosting high school graduation ceremonies

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The school lives of many American students were put on hold over the last two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic as learning went from the classroom to the living room.

On top of that, many senior classes had their graduating classes canceled or modified in creative ways. Among those are students who attend high schools near Texas Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Phoenix Raceway.

The tracks have announced they will host graduation ceremonies for area high schools throughout this month and in June.

Texas Motor Speedway will host ceremonies for all school districts in Denton County: including Aubrey ISD; Argyle ISD; Denton ISD; Krum ISD; Lake Dallas ISD; Lewisville ISD; Little Elm ISD; Northwest ISD; Pilot Point ISD; Ponder ISD; Sanger ISD and Westlake Academy.

All graduates will accept their diploma in-person while wearing academic regalia in addition to masks. After walking across a staging area, they’ll receive their diplomas in Victory Lane. Families of graduates will socially distance as they watch from their cars in the infield. The ceremonies will be broadcast on the track’s “Big Hoss” video board on the backstretch as well as via live stream.

“A great deal of thanks and appreciation for this program must go to (Denton County) Judge Andy Eads and his staff for their significant efforts in making this idea come to fruition in what was really a very short amount of time,” Eddie Gossage, President and General Manager of Texas Motor Speedway, said in a press release. “A high school graduation ceremony is such an important achievement and lifelong memory for students as well as their families and friends. We are honored by the opportunity to support each and every Denton County high school graduate as best we can in these difficult times.”

TMS is no stranger to hosting high school graduations. Gossage has turned driver introduction ceremonies into make shift graduation ceremonies for NASCAR drivers, including Erik Jones and Cole Custer.

On May 31, Daytona will host graduation ceremonies for students of Flagler-Palm Coast and Matanzas High School in Flagler County, Florida.

While details on the logistics of the ceremony are still being discussed, graduates will walk across the stage of the Ocean Center to receive their diploma before getting in a car to ride across the historic track’s start-finish line.

Each ceremony will be simulcast via radio inside the facility and live-streamed on the FlaglerSchools.com website. Only one vehicle is permitted for each graduate and their family. Additionally, all in attendance must remain in their vehicles.

“The France family has been committed to supporting our local schools in any way they can,” Chip Wile, President of Daytona International Speedway, said in a press release. “We are unique in that we can comfortably accommodate these schools and provide an unforgettable experience for these graduates. We are honored to host these graduates and their families for this special occasion.”

Pocono will host North Pocono School District’s graduation ceremony on Friday, June 12.

Family and loved ones attending the event will watch from inside their personal vehicles on the racetrack. The ceremony will be broadcast via Pocono Raceway’s internal FM radio station and on the track’s double-sided video boards. As names will be read by Principal Ron Collins, graduates’ photos will be displayed on the video boards and students will be called to drive across the Pocono Raceway start/finish line. Graduating seniors and their loved ones will be encouraged to decorate their cars in celebration of all their high school accomplishments. Guests will be permitted to attend in their vehicles or to watch the streamed graduation live on North Pocono School District’s Facebook page.

Phoenix Raceway will host Buckeye Union High School District graduates May 16. More than 1,000 graduates, inside vehicles with family members, will take to the 1-mile oval. Led by Toyota Camry pace cars, graduates will hear their names aloud on the track’s public address system as they cross the start/finish line.

“During these unprecedented times with large gatherings such as traditional high school graduations in doubt, our facility has the unique ability to provide a fun twist while safely holding an event like this,” said Phoenix Raceway President Julie Giese. “I’m proud that we can utilize Phoenix Raceway to celebrate the accomplishments of the young men and women in our community and be part of such a memorable day.”

Eddie Gossage open to IndyCar-NASCAR Texas doubleheader

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A week after ruling out hosting an IndyCar race with no fans, Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage is open to the idea as long as it’s part of a joint weekend with NASCAR in early June.

That possibility presented itself Monday after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave approval for Texas to host NASCAR races without spectators. NASCAR has yet to release a revised schedule but still intends to run all 36 races in 2020.

NASCAR teams are unable to work on cars at their shops due to North Carolina’s stay-at-home order that ends April 29. The state’s governor is under pressure from a group of politicians to amend the order to allow for the running of the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24 without fans.

Click here to read the full story at Motorsports Talk.

IndyCar and NASCAR are scheduled to race on the same weekend in July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The IndyCar series and Xfinity Series are each scheduled to hold races on the track’s road course on July 4. The Cup series is scheduled to run on the IMS oval on July 5.