Sports

Texas 500–More like NRA 500

NRA will sponsor the April 13 Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth

NRA will sponsor the April 13 Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth

The National Rifle Association will sponsor the April 13 Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, track president Eddie Gossage announced Monday, March 4.

The contract with Texas Motor Speedway comes at a time when the NRA is involved in a converted debate in Washington D.C. on gun violence in the wake of the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and just two months after Michael Waltrip drove a Toyota in the Daytona 500 with a paint scheme supporting a victims’ relief fund.

“It’s not about politics. It’s about sports marketing,” Gossage said, according to the Associated Press. The deal is for one year with a renewal option.

“The response on social media has been 99 percent; I’m not exaggerating, favorable. Most of those enthusiastically favorable,” Gossage told USA Today. “It’s met with good response. That’s based on Twitter and Facebook pages for the track.”

It’s the second time in a year that the NRA will be the title sponsor of a NASCAR event. Last September, the organization backed the NRA American Warriors 300, a Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

NASCAR said in a statement Monday that “race entitlement partnerships” are agreements directly between the track and the sponsor, though NASCAR reserves the right to approve or disapprove those sponsorships.

Bruton Smith, the chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc. that owns TMS, has no fears about partnering with the NRA.

“It’s not a touchy issue at all,” Smith told ESPN.com. “We’re at Texas. I guess if you want to find any state in the United States that is pro guns, Texas would be it. You have more hunters per capita in Texas than any place I know.”

This statement is incorrect. Montana has the highest amount of hunters per capita. Texas is in a group of states where only 1 percent to 5 percent of the residents buy a hunting license, according to Dr. Dave Samuel, who studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University.

Texas Motor Speedway’s post-race celebration already features guns, Sporting News points out. Winners traditionally fire blank-filled six-shooters in the air, and the pole winner wins a rifle, AP added.

Fewer than half the public, 46 percent, say passing gun legislation this year is essential, according to Pew Research. About a fifth, 21 percent, say passing gun legislation is something that can be done in the next few years while 29 percent say there should be no new gun laws.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) wants NASCAR to pass on NRA’s race sponsorship.

“By giving the NRA sponsorship of a major NASCAR race, NASCAR has crossed a line – you have decided to put yourself in the middle of a political debate, and you have taken a side that stands in opposition to the wishes of so many Newtown families who support common sense gun reform,” Murphy wrote according to Politico.

“Whether or not this was your intention, your fans will infer from this sponsorship that NASCAR and the NRA are allies in the current legislative debate over gun violence. By announcing this new partnership at the very height of Congress’s deliberations over gun reform, NASCAR has inserted itself into a political debate that has nothing to [do] with the business of NASCAR.”

The NRA sponsored a lower-profile NASCAR race last year, and NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre was enthusiastic about this sponsorship in a press release.

“The NRA 500 is the latest announcement in the long history of a growing partnership between the NRA, Speedway Motorsports and the NASCAR community,” LaPierre said in a statement.

“NRA members and NASCAR fans love their country and everything that is good and right about America. We salute our flag … volunteer in our churches and communities … cherish our families … and WE LOVE RACING! On April 13, we’ll all come together at Texas Motor Speedway.”

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