Gun dealers setting sights on NASCAR
2 tell of assault-weapon ads getting rejected, claim fan base not being considered
DAYTONA BEACH — NASCAR is being accused by at least two firearms sellers of rejecting assault-style weapons advertising, leaving those companies, and the National Rifle Association, wondering if the stock-car racing league has turned its back on part of its fan base with a position shift on guns.
One outspoken gun dealer who said his advertisement was rejected has criticized NASCAR on his blog and says he believes fans won’t stand for policies that discriminate against certain weapons in their publications.
NASCAR declined to respond to inquiries and Daytona International Speedway officials had no comment for this story.
The story tracks back to April when a company, National Event Publications, was soliciting gun makers and distributors to run advertisements in media outlets licensed by NASCAR. One of those companies was K-Var Corp., an internet gun seller based in Las Vegas, which accepted the terms of an agreement and submitted an advertisement for a NASCAR publication in April. The answer he got back from the ad agency a few months later was unexpected.
According to K-Var general manager David Dolbee, NASCAR, via National Event Publications, rejected the company’s advertisement featuring an AK-47 rifle. Dolbee said any bias toward a legal weapon is a spark for Second Amendment advocates.
“I wanted to tell NASCAR that this situation will blow [up] and that this community will respond,” he said in a phone interview. “I wanted to tell them a lot of the Second Amendment community is your fan base. You can’t just flip a filter on. You can’t say ‘This gun is good and that gun is bad,’ ”
Dolbee hasn’t been able to talk to anyone at NASCAR.
The ad was going to be placed in a NASCAR-licensed souvenir program. The publications are given away at NASCAR racing events, distributed at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas and emailed to 5 million NASCAR fans at the end of racing season in November.
After hearing the pitch from National Event Publications, Dolbee said he agreed to pay $10,000 for a gun advertisement for the NASCAR-licensed souvenir program.
“We figured that would be great publicity for us with a NASCAR crossover audience, so I went ahead and took out an ad,” Dolbee said.
NASCAR is headquartered in Daytona Beach and its fan base leans heavily toward conservative values, including gun-ownership rights. Former NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France personally endorsed Donald Trump when Trump, an NRA supporter, was the Republican nominee for president in 2016.
NASCAR maintains close ties to with two retail chains that sell semiautomatic weapons. Gander Outdoors sponsors the NASCAR Truck Series, while Bass Pro Shops sponsors stock cars at Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing.
The NRA sponsored a Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 17, where the winning NASCAR drivers at Texas Motor Speedway celebrate by firing blanks into the air from two Western-style six shooters.
Dolbee said he posted the rejection language verbatim on his K-Var blog.
According to Dolbee the notice from the ad agency read: “We just heard from NASCAR on a number of gunrelated 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.”
National Event Publications did not return phone messages. The agency solicits various companies for advertising on behalf of professional sports leagues and larger college programs.
Dolbee said the agency told him K-Var could submit another advertisement in a 24-hour window, but it couldn’t “show any weapon they considered an assault-style knife or rifle.”
Dolbee included a copy of the rejected advertisement with his blog post. It has front and rear photos of a bearded man wearing a bulletproof vest. The rear photo has an AK-47 slung over the man’s shoulder. The front photo shows the same man holding a 9 mm handgun in one hand and a knife in the other.
Dolbee, 51, who said he served in the First Gulf War, is a Second Amendment advocate and promised “this story won’t go away.” He plans to use his blog as a bullhorn for gun rights and has contacted several NASCAR sponsors.
A company like Dolbee’s reported a similar advertising rejection. According to The Washington Free Beacon, Dark Storm Industries submitted an ad featuring an AR-15 and it was also declined at NASCAR’s direction.
“NASCARdecided to turn their back on their customer base,” Dark Storm wrote in an Instagram post. “We were approached by a NASCAR publication eager to earn our business, but after submitting our ad, it was immediately rejected, stating that we cannot depict ‘assault weapons.’ ”
The new philosophy apparently isn’t a blanket ”no gun“advertising policy by NASCAR. Several gun ads are featured in current NASCAR-licensed publications and websites such as ROAR! and Pole Position.
Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage said he was aware of the controversy. The track where guns are fired after the race is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. and hosts two Cup Series races each year.
“I can’t speak to what NASCAR would or would not allow, but I haven’t been notified by anyone at NASCAR about a change in their position,” Gossage said in a telephone interview.
“Our six shooters in Victory Lane? I equate that to the muskets at New England Patriots games; when New England scores, these Minutemen step out into the end zone and fire blanks into the air. Our six shooters put an Old West slant on our celebrations.”
The NRA has made its position clear on this matter. It weighed in with this online post:
“It is not clear if NASCAR is now taking an official position in opposition to semi-automatic rifles — with the AR-15 variants often referred to as America’s Rifle — and bolt action rifles. What does seem clear, however, is that NASCAR doesn’t want to see such things advertised in its official publication in the future: a decision that could easily alienate a great many of its most ardent fans.” 2019 The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla. Visit The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla. at www.news-journalonline.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
NASCAR is being accused by at least two firearms sellers of rejecting assaultstyle weapons advertising and perhaps turning its back on part of its fan base.