NASCAR rejected advertising for souvenir programs from several firearms companies earlier this summer as part of what is seen as a "gradual shift" in its position on guns.
The move may be another example of how large companies are adapting as the nation struggles with guns in America.
While the speed did not receive widespread notice, NASCAR's apparent shift in gun enthusiasts said that there is a large overlap between NASCAR fans and gun owners, leaving some in the firearms industry asking why NASCAR's point of view has shifted and where the racing organization now stands on other changing issues .
"They've got the drivers shooting distance in the subject circuit. It makes no sense," David Dolbee, general manager of K-Var Corp., a major firearms distributor, submitted an ad that was rejected by AK- 47 and various accessories.
After a third-party advertising vendor requested ads for an official NASCAR program earlier this year, the supplier followed up with gun companies in August to inform them that NASCAR had rejected ads depicting "assault style rifles / sniper rifles."
The advertising provider, National Event Publications, emailed some gun companies saying, "We only heard from NASCAR on a number of gun-related ads, and unfortunately, due to a gradual change in NASCAR's position on guns, these the ads are being edited / modified – especially those depicted as assault rifles / sniper rifles. NASCAR is still open to some of the less controversial weapon accessories, concealed carry or classes. "
The news of these refusals was first reported by Washington Free Beacon.
NASCAR's response via a vendor came as a shock to those in the firearms industry.
"This is a huge mistake. Don't they understand their own base?" Said Dolbee. "They are a sporting organization trying to take sides in a political case. It never works for any company."
NASCARs The position "seems like a pretty quick and dramatic shift for me," said Ed Newman, one of the founders of the New York firearms manufacturer, Dark Storm Industries LLC.
Newman said the company submitted an ad that was also rejected by NASCAR. The company posted about the rejection on their Instagram account. "We've seen a significant response on social media, with the majority of NASCAR fans stating that they are not rejecting this political shift," Newman said via email.
So far, NASCAR has been unwilling to explain its changing view of the weapons industry. It still works with companies such as Gander Outdoors and Bass Pro Shops, which sells guns, as well as Henry Repeating Arms, a gun manufacturer.
NASCAR did not respond to multiple comment requests for this story.
NASCAR's apparent shift comes as other US companies have begun to reassess their relationship with the gun industry.
Walmart anno Unced earlier this month will cut its weapons and ammunition sales, a month after more than 20 people were killed in a mass shooting in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart. Dick's Sporting Goods stopped selling semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines after a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Earlier this year, it announced that it had stopped selling weapons and ammunition in 125 of the stores where sales have been lagging.
In a power show on Thursday, 145 business executives wrote a letter to Congress demanding action against firearms.
Lawrence Keane, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the National Shooting Sports Foundation, first expressed frustration at NASCAR's apparent shift.
"I don't know what they hope to achieve by refusing advertising for a legitimate product that their fans are interested in buying," Keane said. "If this is an attempt at virtue signaling, they didn't blink."
But on Friday, he said the trade group has started a "respectful and productive" dialogue with NASCAR to find out what's going on.
The National Rifle Association lobbyist, meanwhile, made his discontent clear in an online post.
"It is not clear whether NASCAR is now taking an official position in opposition to semi-automatic rifles – with AR-15 variants often referred to as America's Rifle – and bolt action rifles," according to the NRA post. "What seems clear, however, is that NASCAR does not want to see such things announced in its official release in the future: a decision that can easily alienate many of the most avid fans."