FORT WORTH, Texas – Texas Motor Speedway announced Monday that the National Rifle Association would serve as title sponsor for the April 13 Sprint Cup race at TMS.
The agreement between the NRA and TMS for the NRA 500, as the race will be called, is for one year with a renewal option.
“This isn’t a political platform,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “This is a sports marketing opportunity. They (the NRA) saw it was obviously a very attractive sports marketing opportunity and seized it. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about putting on one of the great sporting events in America.”
Samsung Mobile had been the title sponsor of the spring event at TMS. Gossage said the NRA approached the track last fall about the possibility but the contract wasn’t signed until last week. Gossage said the track typically signs three-year deals with sponsors but the NRA wanted a one-year deal with options. Gossage said the track had other sponsorship options but didn’t want to give away the deal with a discount.
The NRA, which has come under fire recently because of the rash of gun violence including the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, has had a relationship with NASCAR for more than a decade. The organization contributes money to Speedway Children’s Charities and has contributed more than $500,000 to the Texas Chapter of the SCC.
Gossage said he didn’t feel any pressure not to accept the deal with the NRA. He doesn’t think there will be any backlash. If anything, he thinks the deal could help the bottom line at a track where the winner of the Sprint Cup pole receives a rifle and winners fire six-shooters in Victory Lane.
“I suspect we’ll sell a lot of tickets to their members and folks who support their position on America’s rights and freedoms and the Second Amendment,” he said. “We know what we’re doing. We wouldn’t enter into a partnership with someone who doesn’t fit us demographically. We both are reaching a similar audience.”
The NRA sponsored the Nationwide Series last September in Atlanta. That race was the NRA American Warrior 300.
NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre did not attend the media day events at TMS Monday but did provide a video message.
“NRA members and NASCAR fans love their country and everything that’s good and right about America,” LaPierre said in the message. “We salute our flag, volunteer at our churches and communities, cherish our families. And we love racing.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won the NRA-sponsored event in Atlanta last season, has no problem with the organization being the title sponsor of a Cup event.
“They were great to work with,” he said. “They take their stuff seriously. They’re concerned with the tragedies we’ve had throughout the nation. They do a great job of working from their side to help things as well. I think it’s a great partnership here at Texas.”