NRA to co-sponsor 2016 Bristol Night Race with Bass Pro Shops

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FORT WORTH, Texas – The National Rifle Association will return next year as sponsor of a NASCAR Sprint Cup race for the first time since 2013.

Bristol Motor Speedway announced that its Aug. 20 Sprint Cup race will be the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.

“This isn’t a political statement,’’ Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manger of Bristol Motor Speedway, said of the NRA’s involvement.

“It’s a partnership to celebrate the outdoors and conservation and saving this great country that we all have to live in and enjoy and everything that means so much to NASCAR fans. That’s our core. That’s who we are.’’

Caldwell said Bass Pro and NRA were a natural fit and both have been involved in various ways with the track previously. Caldwell said the sponsorship agreement is for multiple years.

The NRA was the sole sponsor for a Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in April 2013. That sponsorship raised political questions and came at a time of national debate on gun control. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), wrote to News Corp. Rupert Murdoch asking the Fox network not to broadcast that race because of the NRA’s sponsorship. Fox broadcast the race.

NASCAR later created guidelines for tracks to seek approval from NASCAR for race sponsors beginning in 2014. The NRA did not return as sponsor in 2014 but is will be back next year and received approval from NASCAR, according to Caldwell.

“They were very easy to work with on it,” Caldwell said of NASCAR. “We laid out the partnership to them and told them how it was going to work and what it was going to be about. They reviewed it and came back and said they were OK with it.’

Car owner Richard Childress was a part of the sponsorship announcement Friday. He was elected second vice president of the National Rifle Association in April. He has served as Chairman of the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Committee since 2010 for the NRA.