Sketchy energy drink companies notwithstanding, race sponsorship is a simple business. Get your benefactor’s name on the screen as much as possible, and they’ll be happy. Dip out mid-race like NASCAR driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace did this Sunday during a virtual race broadcasted nationally on Fox Sports, and they’ll dip out too.
Wallace was fighting for position with Clint Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing during Sunday’s NASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series when the two made contact along the front stretch of Bristol Motor Speedway. Bowyer closed the door on Wallace a hair too late, causing him to dart into the outer wall and crash, but the Stewart-Haas driver blamed the incident on Wallace and rejoined the track only to deliberately wreck him in the next corner. And that went exactly as you’d expect.
“That’s it, that’s why I don’t take this shit serious,” quipped Wallace as he reset to the pits, only to proclaim “Peace out!” as he closed down his stream and left the race.
Emu oil balm manufacturer Blue-Emu, an occasional sponsor of Richard Petty Racing since 2015, was similarly displeased and withdrew its sponsorship following the race. Its executive vice president Ben Blessing recalled to The Action Network that he stormed around his living room after Wallace’s early departure, shouting “I ain’t paying him a cent!”
“We aren’t sponsoring Bubba anymore,” Blessing told the publication. “Can you imagine if he did that in real life on a track?”
“I used to work in NASCAR and you aren’t going to find the dollar-for-dollar return on investment we were getting on this,” continued Blessing. “We thought this was a blessing in disguise for us. But then you find out that you aren’t sponsoring a NASCAR driver, you are sponsoring someone like my 13-year-old son who broke his controller playing some game where he builds houses.”
Blessing praised the other driver sponsored by his company, Landon Cassill of Shepherd Racing Ventures, whom he described as “a real pro.”
“He’s practicing six to eight hours a day with our brand in the background,” said Blessing.
Wallace later responded to critics on social media by antagonizing their distaste for “quitting a video game.”
While nobody who races competitively can blame Wallace for being fed up with the kind of childish behavior shown by some of his competitors, Wallace should remember that he’s still a professional racing driver. He may be racing in a “video game,” but making a buck at the helm of an iRacing setup is still his job, and it’s one that plenty of people would kill to have any day of the week—especially in this economy.
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