Stealing a page out of the Aaron Rodgers playbook, Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage has a message for all those Verizon INDYCAR fans speculating that his track might soon disappear from the INDYCAR calendar.
“Indy Cars have been here since we opened our doors, and I suspect they’ll be here long after I’m gone,” Gossage said in a phone conversation Thursday with IndyStar. “Whatever I’ve been reading and hearing about, people telling me about on social media, it’s just kind of funny. Everybody just needs to relax. No big thing.”
Gossage assures that INDYCAR and Texas Motor Speedway are amid a normal phase of negotiations following the conclusion of a sanctioning-fee agreement. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Texas Motor Speedway wants INDYCAR to return in 2019 and beyond, Gossage said, and INDYCAR wants to race at Texas Motor Speedway.
“All we’re working on is the details of a deal,” said Gossage, who admits that while he loathes the process of negotiating sanction fees for all series, he enjoys doing business with INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles. “In my opinion, they want too much money. In their opinion, they’re not asking enough (laughs). That’s what a negotiation is. That’s the extent of it. At the end of the day, I feel like we’ll come to a conclusion that will benefit both of us.”
Gossage added later though, that he expects TMS deserves some special consideration in negotiations, in light of the track’s recent history.
“Speedway Motorsports Inc., (which owns TMS) has paid the Hulman-George family just shy of $100 million,” Gossage said. “I would wager everything I own that nobody, with the exception perhaps of ABC, has paid the Hulman-George family that much money. That’s more than any other promoter, more than any other sponsors. More than anybody, anybody. So you feel like you’ve paid for consideration. I think from the company standpoint, it was disappointing that wasn’t considered (more with Sonoma, another SMI track).
“People always say to me, ‘Why do you get to say this or do that?’ Oh, because we paid for it. We just out and out paid for it. We paid our way. For many years, Texas has been by far the highest paying sanction fee in the sport. I know because I have the sanction agreements from other promoters. We know we’ve paid many times more, so we think we deserve to get special consideration.”
Earlier in the week, Miles told IndyStar there was no news to report in the series’ talks with Gossage and Texas Motor Speedway but added that the early-June race is a “an important part of our talks for filling out the rest of our calendar.”
Over the past few weeks, rumors have surfaced that INDYCAR has considered replacing the race at Fort Worth’s TMS with a race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, about 200 miles away from TMS.
Gossage is unconcerned. Maybe INDYCAR is indeed having conversations with COTA, famed for its annual Formula One event. Then again, maybe they aren’t talking at all. Gossage wouldn’t be surprised if there have been discussions between the two, though. INDYCAR will want to muster as much leverage as it can in negotiations with TMS.
As for the idea of two races in Texas, Gossage said INDYCAR knows how he feels about another race in his “backyard.” He’s adamantly against INDYCAR racing at both TMS and another track in the vicinity of his market.
“You don’t want to buy a franchise from McDonald’s and put in on the corner, then have them turnaround a sell to somebody else who puts it on the opposite corner from you,” Gossage said, citing Sonoma’s exit from the series after Laguna Seca was added . “That’s common sense and common business practice.”
“I can tell you that Bobby Epstein, who runs COTA, said the other the day that having a Formula One race in Miami is hurtful to COTA. And he’s right. They’re the only F1 race in the U.S. and they also serve the Latin American population. If you have another event that serves those markets, that’s not good for your business.”
For the record, Gossage added, there is another myth out there that he wants to dispel. Despite some reports, Gossage has no desire for the INDYCAR race at TMS to take place on the weekend immediately after the Indianapolis 500. He does, however, want the race at TMS to be the first race after Indy, which was an agreement he reached with a previous INDYCAR regime.
As of now, the doubleheader in Detroit occupies that spot on the INDYCAR calendar, as it takes place the weekend after Indy. In an ideal world, Gossage said, the Detroit races would take another place on the calendar while the the paddock took a well-earned week off following a wild month of May before venturing down to Texas.
In fact, Gossage added, if things go south for the Detroit Grand Prix in its negotiations with the Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, he expects TMS would reclaim its former role as the Indy follow-up.