Texas Motor Speedway is sticking to its guns.
After considering a change to the Texas victory lane celebration, track President Eddie Gossage has decided to keep the tradition of having the winning driver fire six-shooters. Gossage had been concerned that a sponsor would be uncomfortable with a driver firing guns after winning the NRA 500 on April 13.
But the guns, along with the victory lane cowboy hats, are the track's "green jacket," Gossage told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. Firing the guns is no different than when muskets are fired after the New England Patriots score a touchdown, he said.
"The more I thought about it, the more I realized it's a celebration," said Gossage, whose track has had the guns as part of its festivities since 2005. "Nobody in their right mind uses it as anything more than a celebration."
The NRA sponsorship is a particularly sensitive issue because it was announced just after NASCAR backed a Sandy Hook School Support Fund car in the Daytona 500. But Gossage said the NRA 500 was a sports marketing opportunity, not a political statement.
Michael Waltrip, who drove the Sandy Hook car in the Daytona 500, signed Gander Mountain to sponsor Clint Bowyer's car at Texas. The outdoors store announced Wednesday that it would launch a gun-safety awareness campaign using the No. 15 car.
The campaign focuses on the importance of keeping guns out of the hands of underaged, untrained and unauthorized people.
Bowyer said he kept his guns locked in a safe at home, in part to make sure his young nephew wouldn't be able to get to them.
"I love hunting. I love being in the outdoors and enjoying with my friends," he said. "But a great deal of responsibility goes with that. They're doing it the right way, and this responsibility pledge where we're going to be raising awareness for safety with firearms is very important."
Though his team owner drove a Sandy Hook School Support fund car for Swan Racing in the Daytona 500, Bowyer said he didn't think the messages presented a conflict.
"We have to promote more responsibility, more safety of your firearms and what you do with them," he said. "It's something I'm passionate about."
Bowyer said he didn't think firing guns in victory lane would present a conflict for his sponsor if he won the Texas race.
"That's the history and tradition that's been behind the race for many years," Bowyer said.
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