Fort Worth, TX — A NASCAR fan committed suicide during Saturday night’s NRA 500 Sprint Cup Race at Texas Motor Speedway.
The incident happened on the racetrack infield as the stock car race was coming to a close. Details of the death were not initially reported, though police later said the injury was self-inflicted.
The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office released a statement on Sunday about the fan’s death. They confirmed the suicide, saying that the man died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Fort Worth police stated that the man, Kirk Franklin, 42, was camping in the infield for the race. He allegedly shot himself after getting into an argument with other campers. It is believed that alcohol may have played a role in his death. Corporal Tracey Knight, a police spokeswoman, stated that several people witnessed the suicide, but that nobody was in danger.
Track spokesman Mike Zizzo also commented on the death, saying it happened “in or around a pickup truck” in the infield near the middle of the backstretch. Poliec blocked off the area around the incident and investigators were seen looking into a truck after the race.
There was no word on Franklin’s relationship with the people he was arguing with. He died around 10:30 pm local time. The suicide during the NRA 500 will likely spark a larger debate within NASCAR over the security at racetracks. Texas law prohibits firearms from being brought into the track by fans.
The sport was already criticized for having the NRA (National Rifle Association) sponsor the event. The same sport saw at least one driver remember the victims of Newtown, Connecticut during the Daytona 500. During his trips around the track, Michael Waltrip had six-year-old Charlotte Helen Bacon’s photograph tucked into his pocket.
But while NASCAR’s sponsors don’t typically spark a national, political debate, Saturday’s sponsorship did. The NRA title sponsorship of the Texas race was negotiated by the speedway, not by NASCAR. And in the weeks since it was announced, NASCAR officials have tried to distance themselves from the decision the speedway made. NASCAR spokesman David Higdon explained:
“Texas Motor Speedway ultimately secured this entitlement sponsor, not NASCAR. But certainly the way we’ve been reported and covered on a national scale has positioned NASCAR on one side of the debate. That’s not fair to our sport and our brand.”
In addition to a possible change in sponsorship, it is possible that the NASCAR fan’s suicide will cause increased security at race tracks.
[Image via Billy Hathorn]