Though he wasn’t keen on the idea of an IndyCar race without fans, Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said he’d be OK with it on the weekend of June 6 if there are NASCAR races in tow.
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.
Just a week ago, Gossage said he was not interested in hosting an IndyCar race without spectators.
But the “economy of scale” of a NASCAR weekend of Cup, Xfinity and trucks could help Gossage justify an IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader because much of the infrastructure and personnel already would be in place.
— Texas Motor Speedway (@TXMotorSpeedway) April 20, 2020
Gossage said Texas Motor Speedway’s share of NASCAR’s television package would make it easy to add on IndyCar (whose TV package does not include such a share for the promoter).
Otherwise the support staff (which Gossage indicated in a tweet Monday would be tested for COVID-19 amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic) already would be in place for all races that weekend.
“That is in the economy of things,” Gossage said. “There is a scale of economics in place. You already have the key staff in place – EMT’s, firemen, ambulance, doctors and nurses in the infield care center. TV networks have cable and fiber installed. On and on, there is an economy of that, that would perhaps allow us to do an IndyCar race without fans in the stands.”
Though he prefers to race in front of fans, Gossage is willing to do what is necessary under unusual circumstances.
“The perfect situation is as things open up, and we are holding out hope that is the case by June 6, we could have a race with fans in the stands and do the IndyCar thing here,” Gossage told NBCSports.com. in an interview Monday evening “There is nothing quite like having Indy cars live and in person at Texas Motor Speedway. But I said it last week, we couldn’t do it without a gate.
“If, and this is an if, we don’t know that NASCAR will even pick that weekend to put their races on. If NASCAR says, that is a good weekend, we could run all four races in the weekend.”
Indianapolis Motor Speedway currently is first in line for an IndyCar-NASCAR companion weekend.
The GMR IndyCar Grand Prix and the Pennzoil 150 NASCAR Xfinity Series are scheduled for July 4, followed by the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Cup Series race July 5.
Gossage said if an IndyCar/NASCAR weekend on June 6 doesn’t happen, the chance to have IndyCar contest at TMS would be dim.
“If the IndyCar race doesn’t happen that weekend, it would be unlikely to find another date where we could afford to do it,” Gossage said. “I have my fingers crossed we could get it done that weekend and have a great race, which is the norm for the first weekend in June and two weekends after Indy to do it here.
“We have our fingers crossed. NASCAR has eight or nine races they have to reschedule somewhere. It is their intent, as I understand it from my conversations with them, to run the Coca-Cola 600 and then run every week thereafter. It may not suit them to run the weekend of June 5-6 to pair up with an IndyCar race because it works best for us. Time will tell on that one.
“If you are looking at a standalone, later in the summer, I don’t see that happening.”
If IndyCar is unable to compete at Texas in 2020, Gossage confirmed the series would be back on the track’s schedule in 2021. The 1.5-mile oval has been playing host to IndyCar races since June 1997, two months after its grand opening.
“Oh yeah. We love IndyCar, it’s been good for us,” Gossage said. “We think it’s good for the sport and want to be a good partner.
“It’s always been an interesting event because it’s hard to beat a race that never fails to deliver a photo finish. It’s frustrating it hasn’t grown. You would hope Roger Penske’s business sense and the skills he brings to IndyCar racing will help us all market it bigger and stronger and be more successful with it. He makes it a time where you want to be involved in IndyCar racing.
“There have been times where you look at the reasons you want to be part of it, but right now, it’s easy to find the reason to be part of it. It starts with Roger and his success.
“We’ve been there for a long time. We don’t want to go anywhere any time soon.”
Gossage told NBCSports.com that he spoke with IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske about a variety of ideas Sunday night.
“Roger Penske called me last night, and we talked for 20 to 30 minutes about details,” Gossage said. “‘We could do this, or we could do that.’ He makes it exciting and expects it to succeed in a big way.
“You want to be a part of it.”
Gossage’s current schedule includes the NASCAR race at the end of October. Because of the fickle weather in Texas in November and December, it could be ideal, or it could be snowing.
“It’s always a little dicey by then,” Gossage said. “There was a Thanksgiving Day Dallas Cowboys game in 1993 when Leon Lett fumbled in the snow. People thing we live in this hot, hot, hot climate, but it’s not always that hot here. You are playing with Mother Nature and that is a tough one.”
Once spectators are allowed to return to sporting events, Gossage believes each fan will be seated 6 feet apart. That is the current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guideline for social distancing until a COVID-19 vaccine can be formulated.
“We’re going to have to,” Gossage said. “Our new normal is going to be different. We’re all going to have to find ways to make it work. It’s just the way things are.
“It’s counterintuitive to me to promote a race where you aren’t selling a ticket to — not one. It’s a strange way of thinking, but it’s our new normal.
“This, too, shall pass. We’ll get beyond this and down the road, but it’s quite different right now.”
Gossage has stopped selling tickets to any of his events. He never dreamed he would have to do that.
“It’s tough times financially for so many people,” Gossage said. “I got an invoice last week for my season tickets for the Dallas Cowboys. Seriously?
“Finances being what they are, they sent me a bill? I’m sensitive to that and sensitive to the fact we shouldn’t be doing that either. You can’t sell tickets.
“There will come a time, but that’s not now.”
In the meantime, he views Texas Motor Speedway as a great studio backdrop for an IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader weekend, provided all the signs agree.
“It would be great. It’s something I’ve been pushing for,” Gossage said. “Hopefully, I can make the case after is all done, whether it’s us or Indianapolis or whoever, that we should be doing this every year in Texas.
“The good news is during this time when we are all stuck at home, hopefully those TV ratings for races will be way up and that will be a good thing for all of us.”