The National Rifle Association’s first sponsorship of a NASCAR Sprint Cup race was marred over the weekend when a fan died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at Texas Speedway.
The death of Kirk Franklin, a 42-year-old man from Saginaw, Texas, who was camping in the infield, was ruled a suicide Sunday by the Tarrant County medical examiner. Fort Worth police said via the Associated Press that the shooting, which stemmed from an argument, occurred near a pickup truck in the infield and may have been alcohol-related.
The NRA, the subject of increased controversy since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last December, announced that it would sponsor the race earlier this year; it previously had sponsored the Nationwide Series race in Atlanta last fall. It was a low-key sponsor of the former Texas 500, declining the opportunity to buy advertising time, sponsor mentions and graphics on the broadcast. Consequently, there was little mention of the race name on the broadcast.
NASCAR had announced last week that, in the wake of the controversy generated, it would become more involved in race-sponsorship decisions made by speedways.
“The NRA’s sponsorship of the event at Texas Motor Speedway fit within existing parameters that NASCAR affords tracks in securing partnerships,” NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said (via ESPN). “However, this 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.”