One morning during each race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, a group of reporters would file into a large conference room near track president Eddie Gossage’s sixth-floor office.

After loading plates of chef-prepared brunch food, media members would find a seat around the long table and sink into plush office chairs. Gossage, seated in the middle, would then begin to hold court.

This was “Breakfast With Eddie,” a way for Gossage to spend time with reporters in a mostly off-the-record manner — part explanation of his viewpoints, part attempt to shape narratives and part good-natured debate. Gossage loved to engage in back-and-forth discussions, but his breakfast sessions also served as graduate-level courses about various NASCAR topics.

There were conversations about everything from the business value of Friday practice sessions to why he was so adamant about retaining 500-mile race lengths to the challenges of certain race dates. And it was all fascinating, but none of it was as fascinating as Gossage himself.

Just like those unique breakfasts held by no other track president, there was no one quite like Gossage — and there may never be again. Gossage died at age 65 on Thursday, three years after he left Texas Motor Speedway following a 25-year run as the man in charge.

With each race since, the visits still felt like Texas was “Eddie’s track.” His fingerprints were all over the place, from garage signage to Big Hoss, the track’s giant TV screen, and there were so many memorable moments in the media center alone.

There was the time Gossage purchased a dead goat named “Lil’ Dale” (which had garnered fame in 2002 when it appeared to have a No. 3 in its fur), then had it stuffed and placed on permanent display. Don’t forget when Gossage gifted two Shetland ponies to the retiring Jeff Gordon, much to Gordon’s shock (and borderline dismay). And remember the countless times drivers either laughed or bristled at Gossage’s various stunts (like promoting a faux boxing match between Danica Patrick and Dan Wheldon) or controversial billboards (including one that made light of the feud between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and stepmother Teresa Earnhardt).

Eddie Gossage

On horseback, Eddie Gossage speaks with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his wife, Amy, at Texas Motor Speedway in 2017. An old-school promoter, Gossage was perhaps the last of his kind in NASCAR. (Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

Gossage was occasionally ahead of his time. Once, he had a banner made, featuring seven young drivers, that read “The New Kids on the Track.” It had caricatures of Daniel Suárez, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, William Byron and Alex Bowman.

The problem? Veteran drivers scoffed, because those seven young guns had a combined one career victory at the time (“If you like winners, you go for the old guys,” Kevin Harvick said then).

Except as it turned out, Gossage was right about the youth movement. A half-dozen years later, all seven of those drivers are still in the NASCAR Cup Series, all have won multiple races and two of them have won Cup Series championships.

No, Gossage wasn’t always correct. Sometimes, he was way off base — and perhaps even on purpose, just to attract attention. In 2008, he controversially fooled some major media outlets with an April Fools’ Day news release about Texas building a dome with a retractable roof to prevent rainouts.

That trickery extended into real life, too. During one of the “Breakfast with Eddie” sessions, I once asked Gossage about the line in his Twitter profile that read “Former member of the Starland Vocal Band” (singers of the 1976 hit “Afternoon Delight”). What was that experience like for him, I wondered?

Gossage stared at me with a mixture of amusement and surprise.

“I was never in the Starland Vocal Band,” he said.

“But your Twitter profile …”

“I know what it says. And the sentence after that says, ‘Fluent in sarcasm,’” he said, laughing.

Clearly, he was — and I was not.

It’s obvious Gossage will be most remembered for those creative, publicity-grabbing antics, which may have seemed like quick bursts of a spotlight. But his legacy will be much longer lasting.

He was a true old-school promoter, perhaps the last of his kind in NASCAR. He understood how to generate publicity, particularly in a crowded sports market. And he did it through a genuine love for racing, which drove everything he did — even as outlandish as it may have seemed at times.

“Everybody thinks I’m the promoter,” he once texted. “Truth is I’m the biggest race fan you ever met! Passion!!”

(Top photo of Eddie Gossage: Adrian Garcia / Getty Images)


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