NRA to sponsor NASCAR race in Texas

The National Rifle Association will sponsor the April 13 Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, track president Eddie Gossage said Monday during the 1.5-mile oval’s annual preseason media day.

The race will be renamed from the Texas 500 to the NRA 500. It will be the first Saturday prime-time event of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Texas Motor Speedway is among the largest sporting venues in the United States, with seating capacity in excess of 190,000.

The race will happen just two months after Michael Waltrip drove a Toyota in the Daytona 500 with a paint scheme supporting a victims’ relief fund for the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“It is a sports marketing event. It’s not a political platform,” Gossage said of the one-year deal with the NRA that includes a renewal option. “We’ve had a long relationship with NRA. They’ve been in the sport a long time. ...

“The response on social media has been 99 percent, I’m not exaggerating, favorable. Most of those enthusiastically favorable. 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.

Does Gossage worry about alienating NASCAR fans who don’t support the NRA?

“I use Sprint phones, and I went to a bowl game sponsored by one of their competitors. It never dawned on me that I shouldn’t go there because of that,” Gossage said.

“If anything, it will play to the core audience in NASCAR. Plus, there will be a lot of folks that appreciate the fact that something demographically consistent with the sport is involved to this degree. I think it’ll be a plus.”

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