A U.S. senator from Connecticut has sent a letter to media mogul Rupert Murdoch asking that Fox network not broadcast Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race sponsored by the National Rifle Association.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy wrote to the News Corp. chief that the race is taking place during Senate consideration of legislation to reduce gun violence in the wake of the elementary school shootings last December in Newtown, Conn. Murphy said the race will give national attention "to an organization that has been the face of one side of this heated debate."
Fox officials declined comment Thursday. The NRA 500 from Texas Motor Speedway will be broadcast as scheduled.
Murphy also questioned the Victory Lane tradition at Texas, where the winner gets a cowboy hat and can fire six-shooters loaded with blanks into the air.
"I think the fact that they're not loaded is a fairly safe thing," said Eddie Gossage, the president of Texas Motor Speedway.
Gossage has repeatedly said that the NRA's sponsorship is "not about politics. It's about sports marketing." He said he has received fewer than a dozen cards, letters or emails about the deal since it was announced last month.
This is not the NRA's first title sponsorship in NASCAR. The group sponsored a second-tier Nationwide race last September at Atlanta, which like Texas is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc.
Asked about ticket sales for Saturday night's race, Gossage said he expects a similar crowd to last spring when the crowd of 159,200 was the largest for a NASCAR race last season.
"I can't speak for everybody but I can speak for myself in saying that I would really rather stay out of politics and just race," said NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski, the defending Sprint Cup champion, who owns rifles. "That is certainly not the situation though. Sometimes we get thrown into it whether we want to or not. I think the best thing is just to acknowledge it and try to move on with it."