In a truly odd series of circumstances, a professional NASCAR race rage-quit an emulated race, resulting in his sponsor dropping him. For the last few years, NASCAR Series partner Blue-Emu sponsored Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace. But now all of that appears to be in the air due to a rather unprofessional rage-quit due to an in-race accident.
About the sponsor
Up until 2015, Blu-Emu (which sells emu oil joint and muscle cream) sponsored the Richard Petty Motorsport (RPM) outfit. The deal ended when Richard Petty signed a non-compete with Goody’s Powder, a power-based pain-relief brand he’d acted as the face of since 1977. After this, Blue-Emu took to sponsoring individual cars, such as Darrell “Bubba” Wallace’s #43 Chevrolet Camaro.
iRacing as a new form of entertainment
Due to the Coronavirus epidemic, iRacing has filled the gap traditional sports used to occupy. Many professional racers have taken to the new medium as a way to continue engaging with fans. And Blue-Emu decided to carry its sponsorship over to the NASCAR Pro Invitational. Due to the lack of sporting programs being shown, the first race in the series became the most-watched sports broadcast in the USA for all of March. It was also the most-watched gaming event in US history.
Given the names and sponsors associated, it has something of a serious edge to it. Obviously this is something Wallace should have remembered. The driver, through purely accidental circumstances, tangled with “in-car” commentator Clint Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing during lap 11 of this weekend’s virtual Food City Showdown at Bristol Motor Speedway. Bowyer came off worse from the accident, but Bubba was not amused.
The last straw to rage-quitting
Viewers of the RPM driver’s own stream, prominently displaying Blue-Emu’s branding, witnessed a disappointing reaction. He parked the car, stated “Y’all have a good one. That’s it. This is why I don’t take this [****] serious. Peace out.” and quit. With 92% of the race still remaining, he left the event.
Blue-Emu did not let this incident pass. The company dropped a tweet to let Wallace know that the company didn’t find rage-quitting in front of a million viewers acceptable behavior. As a result, they terminated their sponsorship of the #43 driver. They went further to say they wanted “drivers, not quitters.”
He takes Mario Kart 8 seriously though
Wallace’s rage quit and subsequent comments are at odds with previous statements he’s made just last week regarding iRacing. The 81-race driver, currently in his fourth season, also happens to run a Mario Kart 8 tournament for his crew and fans.
When speaking to NASCAR.com, he said, “It’s almost unhealthy how much we’re taking a game like Mario Kart into consideration of how to be better at. But hey, I’m a competitor. I want to win at everything. I don’t care if it’s Mario Kart, iRacing or real life. It’s a racing game I have a huge passion for.”
Considering that Blue-Emu’s multi-year contract with NASCAR, this incident is likely far from over. We’ll have to see how this pans out once the real cars return to the raceway.