A car driven by race champion Michael Waltrip honoring the victims of the Newtown massacre qualified for this Sunday’s 55th running of the Daytona 500, a highly anticipated event watched by 13.5 million Americans every year. The car, fielded by the Swan Racing Company, is #26 in honor of the 26 victims of the Newtown, Conn., schoolhouse massacre.
However, a group of gun control advocates wants something more tangible from Waltrip and the NASCAR organization than mere showmanship on the track.
“This could be just the occasion for Waltrip, along with his fellow drivers, to stand with their millions of devoted fans and demand real substantive policy reform. On the Swan Racing website, it says explicitly that Waltrip racing the #26 car is intended to ‘raise awareness.’ What could be more important than raising awareness about the crucial legislation working its way through backrooms of the U.S. Congress?” says a statement from a spokeswoman for an organization called the Agenda Project.
“So far both Waltrip and his sponsors have been silent on the issue of gun control reform, as well as specific legislation that could help prevent mass shootings like Newtown: universal background checks, closing the gun show loop hole, and a ban on assault weapons,” the statement adds. “We want Waltrip – and NASCAR executives – to end that silence.”
The spokeswoman says the Agenda Project applauds Waltrip’s sponsor, Swan Racing Company, for donating $50,000 to a fund to help the victims of Newtown, but the survivors of that tragedy “would be much better served by tough legislation that could help prevent massacres like this in the future.”
“NASCAR is the country’s second biggest sport, and Sunday’s Daytona 500 is a decidedly American affair. It could be one of the most important moments for gun control reform too,” the spokeswoman says.
“And as someone who lives with a NASCAR fan, I can tell you they know EVERYTHING about their favorite drivers. If the drivers of NASCAR came out in support of background checks, a ban on assault weapons, or an end to the gun show loophole — and IF they told NASCAR fans to call their congressmen and women and demand legislation — we just might get to the checkered flag on gun control; rather than continuing the Washington tradition of ‘start and park’ that has characterized the gun control debate for too long,” she adds.