There may not be any real track competitions at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the world of sim racing is booming. NASCAR is one of many championships that have implemented virtual races to replace canceled events, and last Sunday’s iRacing Pro Invitational event did not go too well for Richard Petty Motorsports driver Bubba Wallace.
On lap 11 of the 150-lap race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Wallace was pushed into the wall by Clint Bowyer who, shortly after, tipped into Wallace’s virtual Chevy Camaro # 43, causing a messy wreckage:
Bowyer ended up in the wrong direction on the virtual track, but eventually merged into the peloton. Wallace, fed up with contact, leaves the race in a fit of anger. Here is the clip of his departure (warning, explicit language inside):
Wallace went to Twitter shortly afterwards to think about how fans would react to his anger, but one of his actual sponsors, Blue-Emu, did not have one. The company’s official Twitter account responded by severing ties with the driver:
“We no longer sponsor Bubba,” said Ben Blessing, executive vice president of Blue-Emu. Action Network. “Can you imagine if he did it in real life on a track? “
“Before, I worked at NASCAR and you won’t find the dollar-for-dollar ROI we get on this,” added Blessing. “We thought it was a disguised blessing for us. But then you find out that you are not sponsoring a NASCAR driver, you are sponsoring someone like my 13 year old son who broke his controller while playing a game where he builds houses. ”
Blessing told Action Network he sponsors races on a weekly basis, confirming that Richard Petty Motorsports would not bill his company for virtual sponsorship last Sunday, in light of the events that unfolded. Blessing says his company will continue to sponsor Shepherd Racing Ventures driver Landon Cassill.
This shows that even if the race is not real, there are still consequences for your actions.