NASCAR Driver Bubba Wallace Loses Sponsor Over iRacing Ragequit
It's easy to get frustrated when racing in the virtual world, but this driver found out it can have real consquences.
With sports at a standstill along with the rest of the world, NASCAR has found a way to keep the action going through this essentially canceled season by pitting its field of drivers against one another digitally, in iRacing, and broadcasting the virtual races. Drivers, from rigs set up in their homes, duke it out every week just like they would have absent a pandemic, albeit virtually. Still, it's tough and very competitive racing, almost enough so to convince you it's real (NASCAR even has its normal announcers calling the races!). But driver Bubba Wallace reminded us all that isn't the case this past weekend.
After sparring with Clint Bowyer around a digitized Bristol circuit, Wallace (who in real life wheels the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Camaro) tried taking a high line up near the wall—just as Bowyer's car was moving for essentially the same position. The drivers' digital rides clipped, sending Wallace's lightly into the wall. Bowyer's car spins, resulting in an impact with another car that then sends Bowyer back into Wallace's ride, harder, and crashing him out.
Bubba wasn't having any of it, and proceeded to behave much like any of us have surely behaved when seemingly wronged in a video game: With an angry tantrum. After yelling, "C'mon, Clint! God!" he calmed down and said, "Y'all have a good one" and began packing up his rig. (It should be mentioned that it seems the crash was Bowyer's fault—and intentional—just watch the clip above.) By the time Bubba's race car rematerialized on pit lane—something, we should remind you, that doesn't happen in real life after a big wreck—Wallace declared, "That's it, that's why I don't take this shit serious," and promptly quit the game with a loud "peace!"
We've all been there. Controllers have been thrown or blamed outright for in-game performance issues. Faces redden. And sometimes, well, you gotta storm out of the room to cool your head. Trouble for Wallace is, while this was a digital race, he was being sponsored in a very real way by Blue-Emu, "America's Number One Emu Oil Formula," and the company didn't take kindly to his cop out. After Wallace responded, well, poorly to social-media criticism of his "rage-quitting" the race, Blue-Emu tweeted at him that it would drop his sponsorship.
We can't say we've ever lost financial backing for chucking a video-game controller across the room, but then again, this entire episode goes to show just how realistic NASCAR's clever iRacing digital racing setup is. With the crew chiefs in their drivers' ears, Jeff Gordon and Mike Joy on the headsets calling the races, and very real sponsorships all part of the experience, all that's missing are the racetracks' grandstands and throngs of heartland Americans guzzling cheap beer. Well, viewers can still do that last bit at home while watching NASCAR's live broadcasts of the virtual races or their favorite drivers' Twitch streams.
And if you're hungry for more NASCAR action, tune into the show NASCAR All In: Battle for Daytona via the MotorTrend On Demand app (which is currently being offered for the low, low price of $1 a month!) and look back at what actual NASCAR racing was like.