FORT WORTH, Texas — NASCAR might take a closer look at how it approves sponsors after the National Rifle Association became the title sponsor of this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Texas during a national debate over gun rights.
NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said NASCAR has no official position on gun rights.
“Our fans, racing teams and industry partners come from all walks of life and thus have varying points of views and opinions,” Higdon said Friday. “As a sport, we are in the business of bringing people together for entertainment, not political debate.”
Sponsorships are agreements directly between track and sponsor, but NASCAR reserves the right to approve or scuttle them.
“The NRA’s sponsorship of the event at Texas Motor Speedway fit within existing parameters that NASCAR affords tracks in securing partnerships,” Higdon said. “However, this situation has made it clear that we need to take a closer look at our approval process moving forward, as current circumstances need to be factored in when making decisions.”
Sprint Cup points leader and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson said it is “clearly a sensitive subject.” He said drivers are in Texas to do their job and put on a great race.
“The title sponsorship of an event is well outside of the driver’s focus or anything we have to do with,” Johnson said. “I do recognize that it is a very touchy topic right now.”
The NRA 500 on Saturday night comes as the U.S. Senate weighs legislation intended to reduce gun violence in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last December. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., recently called on the Fox network to not broadcast the race and questioned the Victory Lane tradition at Texas, where the winner gets a cowboy hat and can fire six-shooters loaded with blanks into the air.
The NRA also sponsored a second-tier Nationwide race last September at Atlanta, which like Texas Motor Speedway, is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc.