NEW: Sponsorship comes during gun control debate in Washington
For the first time, the NRA will sponsor a top-level NASCAR event
Track official says it is an extension of the relationship with the NRA
More than 190,000 fans expected to attend the race planned for prime time
The National Rifle Association will sponsor the NASCAR Sprint Cup event in Texas on April 13, Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage announced Monday.
The race will be called the NRA 500 and will be run during prime time.
“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.” NRA Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre said a video statement played for reporters at a news conference announcing the event.
The sponsorship comes as the gun rights advocacy group has been ramping up its campaign against gun control initiatives in Washington.
Just a few weeks ago, the NRA bought newspaper ads in five states and regional ads and online commercials on websites in 15 states.
The NRA spent about $350,000 on that campaign, a source familiar with it told CNN.
It’s the first time the NRA has sponsored a race in NASCAR’s top series. Last year, the organization sponsored a Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The race had been promoted as the Texas 500 after the track’s deal with Samsung ended last year.
“The title sponsorship costs for a Sprint Cup series race vary greatly from track to track, with variables ranging from market size to attendance, TV ratings and inventory included in the sponsorship package,” Mike Zizzo, spokesman for Texas Motor Speedway, said in an e-mail.
The Sports Business Journal reported that Sprint Cup sponsorships typically sell for about $1 million per race.
“The NRA has been involved in the sport for several years and a partner of (track owner) Speedway Motorsports, Inc. for many years in various aspects, and this race entitlement is just another extension of that business relationship,” Gossage said.
The winners of races at the track are often given two revolvers and a cowboy hat while taking photographs in victory lane. The fastest qualifier is awarded a shotgun.
Richard Childress, who owns several NASCAR teams, is a member of the NRA’s board of directors.
The Texas Motor Speedway has more than 190,000 seats. There will be another Sprint Cup event at the track in November, sponsored by AAA.
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CNN’s Joseph Miller contributed to this report.