IRL to lose Texas race

UPDATE John Griffin, the IRL's vice president of public relations, said the IRL wants to keep a TMS event next year. "But as I understand it, the ball is in Eddie's court," Griffin said. "We've given TMS two options." The IRL wants a TMS race the Sunday afternoon after the Indianapolis 500. The other TMS option is the traditional Saturday night race the following weekend, but another speedway would have the IRL event immediately after the Indy 500.

Gossage finds both options hard to accept. "Our IRL event is built on a Saturday night as the first race after the Indy 500," Gossage said. "It's a shame that a tradition which has been incredibly beneficial to the IRL suddenly is not important to them."

Since 1997, TMS has hosted the IRL race on the Saturday night two weeks after the Indy 500. Crowds for IRL events at TMS have been in the 80,000-100,000 range – more than any IRL race other than the Indy 500 draws. TMS had two IRL events a year in 1998-2004 but had only the June race this year after finally gaining a second Nextel Cup race for November. Griffin said the IRL wants a more compact timeline in 2006. The goal is to capitalize on the interest of the Indy 500 by running on three straight weekends after the Memorial Day weekend event.

Kansas Speedway is expected to take the June weekend TMS doesn't choose, but Gossage said he isn't sure about either weekend. He listed several reasons for not wanting to race the weekend after the Indy 500.

The June IRL event at TMS is paired with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Gossage said NASCAR officials have told him the trucks are not available to race on the first weekend in June next year. Gossage doesn't want to run the IRL weekend without the truck race, which is a profitable event for the speedway. "And some of our sponsors and hospitality clients won't even talk to us until after the Indy 500," Gossage said. "Since you lose Memorial Day, that doesn't give you enough time to put everything in place. It has a financial impact."

Gossage also fears fewer cars would compete. Some of the lesser-funded teams could wreck cars at Indy and not have time to make repairs. Weather is another concern. Gossage said the early June heat could be a problem for fans and drivers in an afternoon event. That leaves the second June weekend. What about keeping the Saturday night race? "We're considering whether we want to do that or not," Gossage said. "Some problems would have to be negotiated."

TMS contracts with the IRL have stated that TMS would get the event immediately after the Indy 500. That would no longer be true if TMS keeps the same date.

Gossage said he must reach a contract agreement with the IRL within the next 10 days to include an IRL event in the 2006 package for TMS season ticket holders. Order forms usually are mailed Aug. 1. "We are doing everything we can to work this out," Gossage said. "I'm hopeful we can get something done. But we are way past our normal deadline. We need to do something quickly." Terry Blount/Dallas Morning News

07/06/05 TMS President Eddie Gossage said yesterday that the IRL may not race at the track in ’06 due to “schedule changes the IRL plans to make next year." Gossage said that a contract agreement must be reached with the IRL in the next ten days that includes “an IRL event in the [‘06] package for TMS season ticket holders" DALLAS MORNING NEWS

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