Saying the death of Dan Wheldon was "an incredible tragedy," Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said Thursday he wasn't entirely surprised by the findings of IndyCar's investigation into the driver's fatal crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
But he remains convinced that the current fencing system at Speedway Motorsports Inc. tracks such as Texas and Las Vegas is still the best available setup. And while IndyCar has decided not to return to Las Vegas in 2012, Gossage said he has had talks with IndyCar as recently as Wednesday night and is hopeful he will sign a race contract with the series in the near future.
The holdup in finalizing a deal for a June race at Texas' high-speed, 1.5-mile oval, which is similar to that of Las Vegas, was not tied to any findings included in the Wheldon crash investigation, he said.
"What I take from the investigative report is that it was a racing incident," Gossage said. "No one wants to trivialize something so significant and say, 'It was one of those racing deals,' and sometimes, sadly, it does come down to that."
He believes that the placement of the fence support poles that made contact with Wheldon's head during the Oct. 16 race would not have changed the outcome of this accident because there were so many variables. IndyCar's report said the impact with the fence resulted in Wheldon's non-survivable injuries but also that the fence system "functioned as designed.''
The support poles are inside the wire fence - trackside - at SMI tracks such as Las Vegas and Texas and on the outside of the fencing (grandstand side) at many of the other facilities.
After Wheldon's accident, driver Davey Hamilton suggested that putting the poles on the outside of the track could make a difference. Hamilton, a former championship contender, was involved in a horrible accident at Texas Motor Speedway in 2001 that nearly cost him both legs and kept him out of the series for six years.
"Does everything need to be evaluated? Absolutely," Hamilton told FOXSports.com in the days after Wheldon's crash. "When someone loses their life, you need to look at everything.
"The biggest thing for me personally, is that the fencing is backwards,'' Hamilton said. "We have the SAFER Barrier walls and that's worked great for us. The next thing for our sport is to look at suspended fencing. There is a way to do that.
"It's not the fence that's the problem, it's the poles, and it doesn't matter if you're in a fendered-car or a non-fendered car."
"The difference (between his accident and Wheldon's) was I hit it at an angle that took my legs, not my head."
Gossage said he understands the drivers' reactions - especially during an emotional time after losing a competitor and friend. But he is convinced the fencing at his track and other SMI facilities is suitable and safe.
"All of that discussion about fencing is a moot point," Gossage said. "Chain link fencing, no matter where it's placed will not do anything to help when you're talking about a race car going 165 mph into it. Whether the poles are on this side or the other side is irrelevant - it wasn't going to keep Dan's head from hitting the pole, and it's just an incredible tragedy.
"We've done studies on it and if there's a better technology out there, I know everyone would be thrilled to know about it."
As for signing a deal to stage an IndyCar race at Texas in 2012, Gossage said he's encouraged by recent discussions.
Traditionally Texas was the next race after the Indianapolis 500 - a huge promotional opportunity for the event -- and until this past July, Gossage thought he had a "telephone handshake" deal to keep his race on the schedule after Indy. Instead, two weeks later he received a call saying that Detroit would be holding a street race in the week between Indy and Gossage's date.
"That is absolutely an issue," Gossage said adding that after he was informed of the Detroit date, negotiations were back to square one as far as he was concerned.
"No sponsor, no anybody has written a bigger check to IndyCar than our company (Speedway Motorsports Inc.) over the years," Gossage said. "We are the one longtime consistent in IndyCar. Here at Texas Motor Speedway we're the fourth-largest market and I'm confused why we're the ones constantly having to defend ourselves while everybody else gets better sanctioning fees and positioning (on the schedule).
"We feel like we're due a lot of consideration. We are the major market success story in racing.''
He disputed any speculation that findings in the Wheldon accident at Las Vegas played a role in the negotiations, pointing out that in two IndyCar races at Texas this year there was only one caution period. No other track has hosted more IndyCar races since 1997.
Gossage said he spoke with IndyCar officials Wednesday night and "we haven't reached a deal, but both sides are very open and creative.
"I'm pleased to see they are engaged," Gossage said.
"We have a race track and we want to run races and they want to run races so I feel like we'll find a common goal, we'll come to some conclusion soon.''