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As a primetime show in a sports-starved world, IndyCar can expand its reach at TMS

Drew Davison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in Auto Racing

You can't say Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage is simply trying to sell tickets when he talks about next Saturday's IndyCar race. No fans are going to be allowed through the gates despite the state saying up to 25% capacity is allowed at outdoor sports venues.

Instead, Gossage truly believes that Saturday is "one of the most important events IndyCar racing has ever had."

The series will be kicking off its season after shutting down for 12 weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Genesys 300 will be on primetime TV with NBC airing the race to a captive audience hungry for live sports.

The race is scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m. The one-day event will also feature practice from noon to 2 p.m., including a 30-minute window dedicated solely for rookies and first-time participants at TMS, followed by qualifying from 4 to 5 p.m.

These are unprecedented times and an unprecedented situation in which IndyCar can re-establish itself as a must-see sport. Also, it's more than just the Indianapolis 500.

Just ask three-time Indy 500 champion and Fort Worth resident Johnny Rutherford, who agreed with Gossage that this is one of the most significant races in IndyCar history.

 

"It's going to be exciting, especially for those fans who are watching the IndyCars under the lights for the first time," said Rutherford, the 82-year-old who won the Indy 500 in 1974, 1976 and 1980. "It's a shame we can't be there in person, but it's going to be just as exciting on TV.

"Texas Motor Speedway has turned into a very fast racing spectacle. If you don't mind going fast, Texas is where you want to race. You can really flex your muscles on that high-banked track."

Gossage wouldn't argue that assessment. He feels TMS is one of the best tracks to showcase open-wheel racing at its finest with drivers reaching speeds of 220 mph and producing photo finishes through the years.

"We're infamous for being so close and so fast," Gossage said. "Occasionally an accident happens and it can look awful, but it's just amazing the precise skills and talents these drivers use to drive so close to each other.

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