Texas Motor Speedway boss wants IndyCar back, as well as return after Indy 500

Eddie Gossage hopes Santa Claus brings him an early Christmas gift. Photo: Getty Images
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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.”

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Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”