Texas closing in on crowd-free NASCAR race

Image by Miller/Motorsport Images

Texas closing in on crowd-free NASCAR race


Texas closing in on crowd-free NASCAR race


Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday that NASCAR racing at his facility could happen “very soon.”

A day after Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he spoke with NASCAR leaders about making that happen, Gossage was asked ‘how soon is soon’. NASCAR has not raced since March 8 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Texas is one of the tracks that had its event postponed, and NASCAR continues to work through a fluid situation with regard to when it can get restarted.

“It’s very soon,” said Gossage. “The circumstances being what they are, the first step was to make sure that we can go racing without a crowd, unfortunately, which, of course, to me as a promoter just seems completely counterintuitive. But to make sure that we could do that, we had to get the blessings of the Governor of our state, and he was really enthusiastic in our conversations. We had a call that included Marcus Smith, the president and CEO of our parent company, Speedway Motorsports, and Steve Phelps, President of NASCAR, and (Abbott) told them, ‘Let’s go racing guys. Let’s do this thing.’

“Just couldn’t have been more over the top with his enthusiasm, because he sees the benefit for the American people, he certainly sees the benefit for the state of Texas, to tell the world that we’re getting back closer and closer every day to a return to normal. And he wants to make sure that Texas is an example where you can turn to and say, you know, they’re doing things, getting further down the road every moment.”

If NASCAR were to get back on track in the reasonably near future, Gossage believes it would add color to what has become a black and white life for many Americans.

“The thought of a NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway, on national television, that’s good for the psyche of the American people,” said Gossage.

Most NASCAR teams are based in North Carolina, which is under stay-at-home orders through the end of April. Such orders would have to be lifted before teams would be able to get back in their shops and preparing cars, and NASCAR, as Gossage mentioned, would have to get the OK from each state government to allow a race to take place.

Asked how competitors and others at the track would be kept safe, Gossage said professional medical teams had developed protocols. Nasal swab tests that take 24 hours to receive results would not be an option, so instead, everyone who enters the track would have to have their temperature taken.

“And if someone is showing a fever, even a low grade, you separate them and get into what might be the cause of that because it could be any number of things — it doesn’t mean you’ve got that virus,” said Gossage.

“But every last person that would go into the racetrack would have their temperature taken first to make sure they’re not presenting any symptoms. Now, I understand that people can be asymptomatic … but this is what the medical folks are saying they would recommend, and think it really covers everything well.”

Personnel for each series would also be kept in their garages to eliminate mingling. Wide-ranging sanitation would also take place.

“So those are the kinds of things that the medical experts have recommended for us,” said Gossage, “and those continue to develop, but that’s realistic to do.”

NASCAR stated its intention during a statement about the Martinsville weekend being postponed to return in May. Unfortunately it will be without fans — a likelihood Gossage is still coming to terms with, although he says the track can still make money in that situation.

“The [NASCAR] TV money is a significant portion of a racetrack’s revenue, so the answer is yes,” said Gossage. “But just barely. Part of the intent here is for the good of the sport. A race team has to be in business, and it’s a machine — it’s got its own ecosystem that involves money coming in the front door, so you can push that race car out the back door and take it to the racetrack, and a variety of streams of revenue coming through that front door. Well, right now, there’s nothing at that front door.

“There’s no sponsorship money because they’re not racing. There’s no purse money because they’re not racing. There’s no television money because they’re not racing. So everything has ground to a halt overnight. By going back to racing, even without a crowd there, that starts the churn back up of bringing money through the front door, which makes everything inside work so you can push that race car out the back door onto a truck and head to a racetrack.

“It’s important for all those teams, it’s important for all those race team members and all the related services that they utilize that we start that process back up as soon as we can, because even the biggest teams are having a hard time paying their crew members, and their staff. So we’re trying to help get that rolling again for the good of the sport.”

As to whether Texas is the track that gets the first race, or Charlotte or Darlington — two others thought to be in consideration — Gossage doesn’t care. He just wants to see the sport back running.

“I do think it’s great for our sport to be first or at least among the first back on television,” said Gossage, “so from a higher level of who’s the first track, just as long as we have live sports back on television, boy, that’s a great thing.”