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US gun lobby to sponsor NASCAR race
March 05, 2013 , 10 : 44 am
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The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 3, 2013 in Avondale, Arizona. Photo - Jonathan Ferrey/AFP
The National Rifle Association (NRA), the largest American gun lobbyist group, will sponsor the top-flight US stock car series race in Texas on April 13, event organizers announced on Monday. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) NRA 500 will be staged at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval in Fort Worth, said Eddie Gossage, president of the track that boasts more than 190,000 seats.
NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre, who has led opposition of US President Barack Obama's call for tighter gun ownership regulations in the wake of last December's killings of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, spoke in a video message about the deal. "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.
"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." The NRA sponsored a secondary NASCAR series race last September at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
NASCAR chairman Brian France and his wife donated $50,000 to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, one that NASCAR's foundation matched, in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting tragedy. France said last month that he was touched by a visit to Newtown.
"Delivering a moment of happiness to that community was unlike anything I've ever experienced," France said. "Looking out at a room of smiling faces amidst the aftermath of a horrible tragedy was very powerful. "It hit me that the NASCAR industry and our passionate fan base have an unbelievable opportunity to rally around this cause and make a huge difference for a community in need."
But NASCAR also backed the NRA sponsorship move. Tracks make sponsorship deals, but NASCAR has final approval of such contracts as a sanctioning body. "The NRA has been involved in the sport for several years and a partner of Speedway Motorsports for many years," Gossage said in a statement.
"This race entitlement is just another extension of that business relationship. We look forward to another successful partnership with the NRA."
The NRA charm offensive announcement came eight days after Michael Waltrip drove in NASCAR's biggest race, the season-opening Daytona 500, in a Toyota painted to support a Sandy Hook victims relief fund. Swan Racing's car will have a new sponsor on the car for the Texas event after the one-race Daytona deal.
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