We’re ducking serious: April Texas NASCAR race is the Duck Commander 500

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Last year, the spring NASCAR weekend at Texas Motor Speedway was known as the NRA 500, and all that that entailed only four months after the Newtown tragedy at Sandy Hook.

In 2014, that controversial title sponsor is now gone.

So naturally, the replacement is Duck Commander, the brand of the best-selling duck calls and name of the thriving family-owned company led by the Robertson clan of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” fame.

Seriously.

So yes, this April 6 at TMS, get your duck whistles and duck faces ready for the Duck Commander 500. And do it for multiple years, since that’s the length of the contract. Or get the duck out of Texas.

TMS president Eddie Gossage, who’s never been short of a quote and is sometimes as outspoken as the cast of “Duck Dynasty,” had this to say of the new title sponsor:

“This is perhaps the most unique sponsorship in professional sports because not only does this come with special branding, it comes with celebrity spokespeople that are followed by tens of millions of people every week,” Gossage said. “Fans will see members of the Robertson Family and cast of Duck Dynasty and all the rest during Duck Commander 500 week here at Texas Motor Speedway and we have produced some awesome merchandise that both race fans and Duck Commander fans will love. This marriage is perfection.”

And the merchandise that this will spawn. Oh, the merchandise.

An extensive line of Duck Commander 500 merchandise will be sold at track and in the Speedway World souvenir store year-round. Meanwhile, Uncle Si’s Tea™ will be introduced and sold at track in single-serve options in both the sweet and unsweetened varieties. Texas Motor Speedway also will look to integrate products such as Duck Commander Family Foods’ BBQ sauce, salsa and beef jerky with the speedway signature concession items.

Here’s how Willie Robertson, the CEO of the company, introduced the announcement on Twitter:

Meanwhile, here’s how Indy Lights driver Kyle O’Gara responded, with a dig at NASCAR’s lack of speed at TMS in comparison to the IndyCar weekend there in June.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”