While the gun control debate rages in Washington, the issue will also be on a prominent sporting stage this weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway.
The NRA is sponsoring its first NASCAR Sprint Cup event. The NRA 500 will take place on Saturday night. Race organizers say they hope people focus on the race and avoid any controversy surrounding the event's sponsors.
"No one is going to force any NRA literature in your hands," Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage told the Orlando Sentinel. "No one is going to be making political speeches or anything like that. It’s going to be a race. We are going to have a winner and have a lot of fun, and that’s going to be the extent of it."
But there has already been some uproar about the race, which will feature the winner firing blanks out of a pair of six-shooters from the winning circle. U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a vocal gun control advocate, has asked Fox boss Rupert Murdoch not to broadcast the race on his TV network.
Several petitions have circulated, asking drivers to boycott the race. One of the teams under heavy pressure by fans, Michael Waltrip Racing, will not boycott the race but has found a relevant sponsor for Clint Bowyer's No. 15 car. Gander Mountain is a chain of outdoors specialty stores that does sell guns, but it will display a gun-control message on Bowyer's hood:
"We know there's a lot of debate around firearms ownership and it's very significant right now in our country," Steve Uline, executive vice president of marketing for Gander Mountain, said. “But the one thing that we feel very strongly is that it's the personal responsibility of everyone that owns a firearm or is thinking about owning a firearm. That responsibility is paramount, and it's not something that's optional."
Waltrip supported the Sandy Hook Special Support Fund at the Daytona 500 this year by switching from his usual No. 30 to No. 26, representing the number of people killed in the Newtown massacre. All three cars from the Waltrip team at Daytona featured a decal that read "text NEWTOWN to 80888" for fans to donate to the fund.
The NRA 500, which will be aired on Fox, starts at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday.