NASCAR will be taking a closer look at its sponsorship deals in the wake of criticism over its partnership with the National Rifle Association, its spokesman said Friday.
Last month, NASCAR announced that the gun lobbying group was sponsoring Saturday's Sprint Cup -- named the NRA 500 -- at the Texas Motor Speedway. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) objected to the deal, saying "it would be imprudent for NASCAR to step into such a heated political debate and take sides in this debate by allowing the NRA the title role in the race."
On Thursday, Murphy asked Rupert Murdoch to stop Fox Sports from broadcasting the race on Saturday.
NASCAR spokesman David Higdon released a statement on Friday saying that while the NRA deal did "fit within existing parameters," the organization would be scrutinizing sponsors more closely going forward.
"[T]his situation has made it clear that we need to take a closer look at our approval process moving forward, as current circumstances need to be factored in when making decisions," he said.
He added that NASCAR has "no official position on the gun rights debate."
"Our fans, racing teams and industry partners come from all walks of life and thus have varying points of views and opinions," read his statement. "As a sport, we are in the business of bringing people together for entertainment, not political debate."
Texas Motor Speedway has said that the vast majority of the feedback it received about the NRA sponsorship was positive. But ESPN reported on Friday that "two [NASCAR] drivers were advised by their public relations directors not to do interviews in the TMS media center so they could avoid having the NRA logo behind them."
There's a tradition at Texas Motor Speedway of having the winning driver fire blanks from six-shooters. Eddie Gossage, the president of the track, considered canceling the display in light of the controversy, but he recently announced it would take place as usual. He also emphasized that Saturday's race would be free from politics and the NRA would not be handing out its literature.