Jimmie Johnson fires blanks from a pair of revolvers as he celebrates his… (Tim Sharp / Associated Press )
The winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Texas Motor Speedway traditionally gets to fire a six-shooter in victory lane. And the pole winner gets a rifle as a prize.
So it only makes sense that the National Rifle Assn. has become the title sponsor of the April race in Fort Worth, which is now known as the NRA 500.
But just in case you needed more reasons, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has plenty.
“The NRA 500 is the latest announcement in the long history of a growing partnership between the NRA, Speedway Motorsports and the NASCAR community,” he said in a video shown at Texas Motor Speedway on Monday. “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.”
The NRA previously sponsored a second-tier Nationwide NASCAR race last September in Atlanta. Of course, this sponsorship comes at a time when the NRA is dealing with a renewed debate on gun control following the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
At the Daytona 500, Michael Waltrip's car featured a paint scheme supporting a relief fund for victims of the Sandy Hook shootings.
Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage said of the one-year agreement with the NRA, “It's not about politics. It's about sports marketing,” pointing out that the NRA has donated more than $500,000 to the Texas chapter of Speedway Children's Charities since 2000.
Sprint Cup rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won the Nationwide race in Atlanta last year, also has no issue with the NRA sponsoring NASCAR races.
“The NRA is our core fan base, and we all have guns, and all us racers love to go out and shoot. It's part of who we are,” said Stenhouse, the only Cup driver at Texas Motor Speedway media day. “Anytime you have a sponsor that embraces their market and who their core customers are, it's great for us."
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