- Connecticut Senator Christopher Murphy wants NASCAR to drop the National Rifle Association's sponsorship of an April race at the Texas Motor Speedway.
- The race in question is the NRA 500.
- Murphy wrote to NASCAR chairman Brian France to protest the NRA sponsorship as "imprudent."
WASHINGTON — Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy called on NASCAR to reject the National Rifle Association's sponsorship of a Sprint Cup Series race scheduled for April 13 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be the NRA 500.
Murphy, a Democrat, cited the December shooting of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, and said "it would be imprudent for NASCAR to step into such a heated political debate and take sides in this debate by allowing the NRA the title role in the race."
The comment was part of a letter to NASCAR Chairman Brian France, dated March 7, three days after the sponsorship agreement was announced. Murphy represented Newtown in the House before moving to the Senate and Politico.com describes Murphy as being "outspoken in his desire for tougher gun control laws, including universal background checks and an assault weapons ban."
"By giving the NRA sponsorship of a major NASCAR race, NASCAR has crossed a line — you have decided to put yourself in the middle of a political debate, and you have taken a side that stands in opposition to the wishes of so many Newtown families who support common sense gun reform," Murphy's letter stated.
The letter was posted on Murphy's Web site.
There was no reaction from NASCAR, but one of the sport's most popular drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr., commented when asked about the sponsorship during an interview on the NBC Sports Network.
"I thought the timing was strange," Earnhardt said. "But it is Texas. The racetrack in Texas has always been a bit cutting-edge. They've always been in that realm of being edgy and taking a lot of risks. I'm not gonna tell them how to run their business."
Since it opened in 1997, the Texas track has emphasized the Lone Star State's Wild West heritage. As part of the victory-lane celebration, winning drivers don cowboy hats and fire blanks from six-shooters.
Track President Eddie Gossage told the Associated Press: "It's not about politics. It's about sports marketing."
The NRA sponsored a race in NASCAR's less-prominent Nationwide Series last year at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Alluding to that race, Gossage said, "I know in Atlanta last year they saluted a lot of the people that make America free. They are going to salute American freedoms and American families with this race. That's their plan, so it seemed to be a good fit."
Edmunds says: Should NASCAR stay out of the political fight over gun violence or is it the senator who's barking up the wrong tree?