The fight over NASCAR sponsorships from the United States' armed forces heated up in the House of Representatives today, as Republican Rep. Jack Kingston and Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum put forth an amendment to a defense spending bill that would axe about $72.3 million from a more than $600 billion budget.
With the U.S. Army pulling out of Stewart-Haas Racing in NASCAR,'s Sprint Cup Series, this duo set its sights on money spent by the National Guard to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr's No. 88 Chevrolet.
The amendment also targets money spent by the Marine Corps on Ultimate Fighting Championship and other military sponsorships that range from bass fishing (Marines) to Indy car racing (National Guard) to drag racing (NHRA Army-sponsored Top Fuel dragsters for Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown).
The debate went on through the afternoon with a night vote expected on the amendment as well as the entire $600 billion-plus defense bill. Kingston, from Georgia pointed out that he didn't believe there was any effectiveness to the sponsorships, as the Army shrinks from its peak of nearly 600,000 recruits to less than 500,000, even as he backs a defense budget that's doubled over the past ten years.
McCollum, from Minnesota showed her ire by stating, "Bass fishing is not national security." That may be so, but plenty of fishermen/women reside in her state and might take issue with her views.
As expected, the issue met with strong opposition from North Carolina's congressional representatives, as well as those from Mississippi and Florida. The House also received a statement from NASCAR, INDYCAR, MLB, the NFL and the NBA that said in part, "Sports marketing has long been an important element in the U.S. Armed Forces' efforts to reach young adults and active duty personnel, regarding the military's missions and objectives that serve our country."
U.S. Army presence at NHRA drag racing events is very well positioned and customarily draws a large number of recruits; on Armed Forces Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway each May, recruits are represented by a large number of attendees and booths are set up to offer recruitment benefits. NASCAR races have also had recruitment centers for those who wish to voluntarily join the U.S. Army and/or the National Guard. "The benefits from these types of sponsorships," the letter said, "offset the minimal costs to taxpayers."
In a rather close vote on Wednesday night, the amendment to ban military sponsorships was defeated 216-202. The earlier decision to remove U.S. Army sponsorship from the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Chevrolet has no bearing on this decision.