Bristol keeping the NRA in title sponsorship of August night race

The base of the trophy for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Getty)
The base of the trophy for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Getty)

As many corporations have moved to distance themselves from the NRA in the wake of the school shooting that left 17 dead at a Parkland, Florida, high school, the NRA will continue to be a part of the official name of the 2018 night race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The August race at the track has been titled the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race since 2016 and the track said it planned to keep the partnership.

“This has been a good long-standing partnership and we plan to continue,” the speedway said in a statement to Yahoo Sports.

On Feb. 14, former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students at the school. Students at the school, many of whom who weren’t even born when the 12 students and a teacher were shot at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, have become outspoken advocates for gun reforms in the United States in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Companies like Best Western, Delta Airlines, Hertz and United Airlines have recently ended their discount programs with the NRA. Wednesday, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it would no longer sell assault-style rifles or sell guns to anyone under the age of 21.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., the parent company of Bristol Motor Speedway, has a discounted ticket program for NRA members. That discount program will continue in 2018.

The NRA previously sponsored a Cup race before it became a sponsor at Bristol. And its sponsorship then was controversial.

In 2013, two weeks after the sport rallied around a tribute car for grade schoolers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Texas Motor Speedway announced that the NRA would sponsor its April race. At the time, TMS president Eddie Gossage said he didn’t see any correlation between what happened at Sandy Hook and the NRA. Texas is also owned by SMI.

However, the sponsorship put NASCAR squarely into the gun control debate that was happening at the time, much like it is currently. Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (D), even wrote a letter asking for the NRA 500 to have a different sponsor.

NASCAR said then that Texas’ agreement with the NRA had been approved by the sport, though the sanctioning body would take a closer look at sponsor agreements going forward. That closer look obviously didn’t prevent the NRA from returning in a co-sponsor capacity at Bristol three years later. NASCAR officially declined comment to Yahoo Sports, and referred to the track regarding the race sponsorship.

The announcement of the Bristol sponsorship in the fall of 2015 included a statement from Richard Childress Racing team owner Richard Childress, who is a high-ranking member of the NRA. The announcement highlighted the outdoor sports and conservation aspect of the sponsorship, and noted that the NRA and NASCAR have large overlapping demographics.

“The iconic nature of The Night Race and the natural beauty of our region create the perfect opportunity to highlight conservation on a national stage,” Bristol general manager Jerry Caldwell said in statement announcing the sponsorship. “Hunters and sporting enthusiasts attend NASCAR races in droves. We share the same customers and that makes this a well-suited partnership.”

The NRA has served as an associate sponsor for Childress’ race teams previously. The sport has separate approval processes for race and team sponsorships.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.