Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage had no complaints about the track’s closing race weekend in 2015.
I thought it was a great weekend in so many ways.
Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage
More fans showed up for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 than last year. More pre-race infield concert tickets were sold with Sammy Hagar headlining the show. And the race itself provided drama and entertainment with Jimmie Johnson finding his way to Victory Lane again.
“I thought it was a great weekend in so many ways,” Gossage said.
But the biggest takeaway and selling point all week had been Jeff Gordon running his final race at TMS. The track went all-out to commemorate the iconic driver for what they termed his “Final Rodeo.”
They produced a Gordon-themed ice cream treat; they had 24 skydivers drop in during pre-race ceremonies; and they had a tribute video for Gordon with congratulatory messages ranging from former President George W. Bush to local sports stars such as Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dirk Nowitzki and Mike Modano.
The highlight, though, had been Gossage’s parting gift for Gordon, two Shetland ponies for his children. Gordon had a priceless reaction when he saw the ponies for the first time Friday, and didn’t seem particularly thrilled at the moment.
By Sunday, Gordon had seemed to come around on the ponies. He had taken his two kids, Ella and Leo, to see them at a ranch in Pilot Point.
“I saw him just before the race and he grinned and said, ‘The ponies are growing on me,’ ” Gossage said. “He said his kids were beyond excited and thrilled, so he was just laughing that it didn’t take long for him to fall for them too.
“There was no escaping that we wanted to pay tribute to Jeff and his career this weekend, and I think he appreciated it. He really liked the messages on Big Hoss TV. When he saw President Bush, he just kept saying, ‘Wow,’ to me. When you get somebody of that caliber and surprise them, then you have to be happy.”
The only disappointment, in Gossage’s mind, is how little the City of Fort Worth did in commemorating Gordon’s last race. The Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas lit up a “24” in the nights leading up to the race, but Fort Worth didn’t do anything of that nature.
We proposed some things to have Fort Worth consider, but they didn’t do it.
Gossage on the City of Fort Worth not honoring Jeff Gordon on his final race at TMS
And that left Gossage disappointed.
“We would have liked to have seen something in Fort Worth call attention to what Jeff was doing, his final race in Texas,” Gossage said. “We proposed some things to have Fort Worth consider, but they didn’t do it. … We’d sure like to see them get on board with our races, they’re the biggest two sporting events in the area.”
Outside of that, Gossage couldn’t have been more pleased with the weekend.
Johnson continued his dominance at Texas, and spoiled the Chase by winning without being in contention anymore. He took an automatic berth in the championship race away from runner-up Brad Keselowski, who set a track record by leading 312 laps.
It marked Johnson’s track-leading sixth win at Texas, and he has won the past four November races here. Only six other drivers have accomplished that feat — Gordon, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dan Gurney, Rusty Wallace and Kyle Busch.
“Jimmie’s got a win at Texas for all but one day of the week,” Gossage said. “You just have to always know that he’s the favorite, he’s the guy to beat here.”
Sunday’s victory at Texas Motor Speedway marked Jimmie Johnson’s track-leading sixth win at Texas, and he has won the past four November races here.