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Cain: Eddie Gossage was an Incredible Promoter, Even Better Human Being

Eddie Gossage passed away on Thursday at the age of 65. While Gossage was an outstanding promoter and track president, Holly Cain shares that the larger-than-life individual was an even better person.


hero image for Cain: Eddie Gossage was an Incredible Promoter, Even Better Human Being

Some will remember Eddie Gossage for his over-the-top ability to promote a race and to draw a crowd. The former – and original - Texas Motor Speedway president knew how to get publicity and generate massive interest in his events at the track.

It was no easy task competing with the Dallas Cowboys for a sporting audience, but over the years the track could – and did - boast of hosting several of the best-attended, single-day, sporting shows in Texas history. Gossage artfully taught the Dallas-Fort Worth area that there could be even more than football and baseball and hockey – engaging the diehard race enthusiasts and exponentially attracting new more conventional sports fans. His work helped not only the track, but the sport as it was cementing itself as a national pastime.

Gossage, 65, who passed away Thursday from cancer, had always loved a big show and was ready and willing to ensure his track put one on as advertised. He was careful – and just crass enough – to make sure his races promoted whatever the “driver feud of the day” may be. He had boxing rings at the track and provocative, catchy-slogans on billboards all around the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Victory lane was flames and fireworks. Even the national anthem performers were always performance royalty.

Texans absolutely loved all the over-the-top things that made the facility so grand, and they came in masses to the race track drawn by the publicity and intrigue that Gossage created. He was a Showman.

The first big event at TMS that I covered as The Dallas Morning-News auto racing beat reporter was the inaugural Indy Racing League race the week after the 1997 Indianapolis 500. It was in the midst of the infamous open-wheel racing “split” era and all those involved – from the race series to the track to the fans – had high expectations for the Fort Worth high banks. And Gossage delivered – both intentionally and unintentionally.

A scoring error situation left the race’s final outcome in question. On a Saturday night deadline (the tightest in the newspaper business) I stood in Victory Lane to decipher who had actually won the race and get immediate quotes from the winner for my story.

A couple feet way, the legendary A.J. Foyt and his team’s driver Billy Boat were on the podium after receiving the winner’s trophy when another competitor, the renowned veteran Arie Luyendyk approached them - certain that he had actually won the race, not Boat. Foyt didn’t take kindly (as they euphemistically say in Texas) to someone crashing his winner’s celebration and slapped Luyendyk, who tripped and fell to the ground.

The scuffle was all just unbelievable to witness. Sure enough, the IRL and Gossage called a news conference for early the next morning to settle the situation. Luyendyk was announced the winner. And Gossage closed out the day exiting the stage with an Academy Award-worthy door slam of disgust at the whole situation. It was essentially a mic drop – and it still made him a smile all these years later; knowing the attention – for the good or the bad - was ultimately a promoter’s dream.

It was pure Eddie with that “edge” – a talent he used to perfection.

And while I could appreciate his dedication to his promotional craft, it was never the race track that Gossage shown brightest to me. Ironically, it was his work and dedication away from the track, the bright lights and the television cameras that I learned to appreciate most.

He hosted school children at the track, donated generously to charitable organizations, raised money riding motorcycles with Kyle Petty’s annual Charity Ride Across America – if Gossage could help, he did.

I know this, first-hand. I had moved away from Dallas and eventually returned to my Florida home when I was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer in late 2014. Gossage heard the news and was among the first in the industry to reach out to me.

He had recently undergone cancer treatment himself – something that he didn’t like to share. And as so often happens with us cancer patients, we learned and fostered a new level of empathy and care. And I was the beneficiary of Gossage’s big heart.

He called my mom to check on me. He texted motivational messages. While on a business trip to Florida during this time, Gossage even made a two-hour drive to check on me and my family in person.

When I was finally done with all the harsh treatments and half dozen surgeries, Gossage was among the first to cheer me on and show what recovery and a new lease on life could look like. It was an uncommon bond that forever connected us. It inspired me.

He recovered. I recovered. And for most of the last decade we could share stories of our plights – what we learned about ourselves and others. How we answered the horrible situation by trying to become better people. And when occasionally weak or sad or uncertain, we knew the other would be a boost of positive energy.

I was diagnosed with cancer again in December, 2023 and sure enough, Gossage was the first to call and check on me - he and his wife Melinda always there with encouragement. Little did I realize that while I was so sick again, he had also begun cancer treatment again. He kept it to himself and inspirationally battled through the harsh times, Melinda at his side.

Melinda called this Thursday evening after his passing – insisting that Eddie would want me to hear the news from her. I was shocked and gutted. And I know he was not ready to go – he adored his post-Texas Motor Speedway life and the time spent with Melinda, his children and the grandchildren he so adored.

Gossage is being remembered for his many contributions to the sport – as a promoter, publicist, and executive over the years. The flashy billboards, clever television spots and witty interviews he always generously provided in his career certainly will help define his professional legacy.

But it’s heart - compassion and kindness – behind the scenes that serve as a person’s true and most enduring legacy. And for that, Eddie, I am forever grateful to you.

Photo Credit: Will Bellamy, Racing America

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