Guns and Gear

NASCAR Turns Left On Guns

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

Guns and Gear Contributor

By Larry Keane

NASCAR is waving a caution flag on guns. In fact, it looks like it’s a pit stop when it comes to firearms advertising.

The sport borne of bootleggers and popularized by drivers running just on the inside edge of being out of control is now cautioning team owners that the ads on their cars can no longer feature modern sporting rifles or sniper rifles. Internet firearms retail site K-Var was informed by the National Event Publications, which also sells advertising space for NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, NASCAR, PGA, NHRA, & USA Today Lifestyle, their advertising was no longer welcome.

We just heard from NASCAR on a number of gun related ads and unfortunately, due [to] a gradual shift in NASCAR’s position on guns, these ads must be edited/changed—especially those that are depicted as assault-style rifles/sniper rifles. NASCAR is still open to some of the less controversial gun accessories, concealed carry, or classes.

                                                            –David Dolbee, The Armory (K-Var.com)

Imagine our shock. This is a sport that’s been steeped in a tradition of lawful firearms ownership, recreational shooting and hunting. It’s attracted firearms manufacturers and retailers for decades. CZ-USA, BerettaDaniel Defense all advertise. Henry Rifles is sponsoring a race. Magpul has been a race sponsor. Remington had a long run on NASCAR. Bass Pro Shops sponsors a team. NRA sponsors a night race.

Exhaust Fumes

Now, though, NASCAR might be turning a corner. If the lead presented by their advertising buyers is true, they might also be leaving their heritage and some of their biggest names in the rear-view mirror. NASCAR’s Vice Chairman Mike Helton is also on the board for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, of which NSSF is also on the board. He’s joined by famed NASCAR Team own Richard Childress, who until recently, also served on NRA’s board. He’s got a racing company there with Gary Bechtel, who owned a NASCAR team and two Busch teams. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Jr., Clint Bowyer are all hunters, celebrated by Realtree. Austin races in Realtree’s brand has even held the rifle awarded for taking the pole at Texas Motor Speedway and Ty Dillon ran the Daniel Defense-branded car.

Shared Roots

NASCAR roots run deep. They’re headquartered in North Carolina, which is also home to firearms manufacturers Remington Outdoors Company, Sturm, Ruger & Co., and Carolina Arms Group.

NASCAR, so far, hasn’t offered public comment. Right now, we’re all left with what their third-party advertiser tells us. It’s not that different, though, from the sad saga Daniel Defense endured in 2014 when they attempted to advertise during SuperBowl XLVIII. Their ad was rejected then because the silhouette of the company’s DDM4, which it agreed to move, only to be told later it was rejected because of a ban by the NFL on firearms advertising. Officials for the NFL later said they didn’t reject it, that it never made it to their level, but would have rejected it if it did.

NASCAR’s supposed “gradual shift” is sounding more like grinding gears.

Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.