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Eddie Gossage set to step down, after 25 years of memories

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage steps down after this weekend's NASCAR All-Star race.

FORT WORTH, Texas — It's race week at Texas Motor Speedway which means track president Eddie Gossage is in his element.

"We're ready to go," Gossage said, doing a radio interview early on a Tuesday morning. "I'm just chomping at the bit. Let's do it."

Gossage is, and has been for decades, the ultimate promoter. Catchy lines, wild ideas -- nothing is too big. So it's no surprise to learn of his two major influences.

"Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel."

Ali, perhaps the most prodigious mouth in the history of sports. And Knievel, the ultimate showman.

"Those kinds of lessons, to me," Gossage said. "I love that about sports."

There's just one thing...

"He's not the outgoing person," his VP Kenton Nelson said. "He's not the flamboyant [person], he's not the guy who wants to be on TV all the time."

"That's an act," Eddie admitted. "But I can do it."

Oh, he most certainly can. He's done it for 25 years, always pushing his sport and his speedway to the masses, in a saturated sports market.

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"Jerry [Jones] and Mark Cuban are not small personalities," Gossage said of the Cowboys and Mavs owners. "And, not that we're competition, but we're competition. We're all competing for the spotlight. We're all competing for your dollar. We're all competing for your attention."

And that's not all they're competing over.

"You can only fit four and a half AT&T Stadiums in our infield," Gossage said with a smile.

It's true what they say... size matters.

"He doesn't like to know that it's 4.5 times bigger than his," Gossage said of Jones, laughing along the whole time. "So I try not to say it often....... Jerry.... not very often at all."

Eddie steps down at TMS after this weekend's NASCAR All-Star Race. It's a fitting way to end, because one of his biggest moments came in the lead-up to another All-Star race, almost 30 years ago.

"In '92, we put in lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the first time," he explained.

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Gossage was the PR man, working for Bruton Smith, the owner of the speedway. And Gossage had hatched a plan to show off the new lights.

"I had this giant box built," he said, "that looked like something out of Frankenstein's lab."

And then something went wrong.

"Bruton threw the switches," he said. "And when he did, pyro shoots up out of the top of the box... and Bruton's on fire.

"He wears really nice clothes, too. And his jackets on fire, and he's dancing around putting his head out."

Gossage re-tells the story any chance he gets. And always with the same vigor.

"Um... I would've fired me," he said, dead-panning.

Instead, "four, five, six months later," Eddie says Bruton told him, "'hey let's go build a speedway.'"

Bruton put Eddie in charge, and they build Texas Motor Speedway together.

And it has been a show in Texas ever since. And nothing was ever too outrageous.

"This is a good one," Nelson said, building up the moment. "Monkey knife fighting. He wanted to see monkey knife fighting. Can you imagine, a kid out of college, like 'where have I gone. Who am I working for?!?'"

The knife fighting part was never really going to happen. But the monkeys did.

"We'll have monkeys sell souvenir programs," Gossage said. "It's all part of trying to make it a day where they go home and say 'I cannot believe what all I saw today.'"

And Eddie was never afraid to mix it up with the fans.

RELATED: Texas Motor Speedway's Eddie Gossage is a Texas Legend

"There was a time where the infield at Texas Motor Speedway was a pretty rowdy place," Nelson explained. "People were having fun in the infield. Nothing illegal, you know.  And I'll be danged, if him and his buddies didn't dress up.  I mean, they had wigs on, they had makeup on. 

"And I can't tell you who he sat down next to at one of these parties that was going on in the infield. I'll just tell you that it was a very influential person within the industry, that was in the infield, partaking in those festivities as well.  And he never knew that that was Eddie sitting there next to him. He never knew."

It's been a wild 25 years for Eddie Gossage at Texas Motor Speedway.

"Man, my life has exceeded my dreams," Gossage said. "You know, as a kid, you couldn't think that you would grow up and build a grand stadium.  Who does?  Who builds a stadium? And I got the privilege of doing that, and running it, then, for 25 years.

"So, you know, how can you ask for more in life?  I'm the luckiest guy going."

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