Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage understands a handful of fans are never thrilled whenever the track announces a change from what’s been the norm.
“If we started giving away $20 bills, I bet I’d hear someone complain,” Gossage said, chuckling.
So Gossage knows he’ll get some backlash for TMS’ latest change: banning smoking of all forms in the grandstands, starting this season.
TMS banned smoking in the grandstands in 2013 and the updated policy has been extended to include e-cigarettes and vapes. The track opted to make the changes as a result of feedback from fan surveys and the track’s fan council.
“You never want to make a rule, but you just listen to the majority of fans, and they clearly wanted this to happen,” Gossage said. “I honestly think we’re way behind in having made this decision. I don’t think any other sports venue in Dallas-Fort Worth allows e-cigs in their stands.”
Smoking areas will still be available throughout the lower concourse area.
It’s another step forward for a sport that used to have its top racing circuit, the NASCAR Cup Series, sponsored by cigarette giant Winston.
“One of the reasons Winston went away is because it was no longer acceptable,” Gossage said. “When we did away with smoking in the stands, we didn’t do that lightly. But changing opinions of the public brings you to do things.”
Gossage said the track received fewer than 10 complaints when they did away with smoking in the stands in 2013, and expects to have a similar percentage of fans voice complaints about the updated policy.
For TMS, it’s another step in trying to make races a more enjoyable experience for all, Gossage said. The track announced the addition of an oversized indoor/outdoor suite area last month.
TMS’ 2018 racing season gets underway with the April 6-8 O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 doubleheader featuring NASCAR Xfinity and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series races.
The IndyCar summer race weekend is set for June 8-9, and the NASCAR fall races on Nov. 2-4.