NASCAR Series partner Blue-Emu has terminated its sponsorship of Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace in a truly bizarre set of circumstances.
Up to 2015, Blue-Emu — an emu oil joint and muscle cream — sponsored the Richard Petty Motorsport (RPM) outfit. That deal had to end when Richard Petty signed a non-compete with Goody’s Powder, a powder-based pain-relief brand he’d been the face of since 1977.
Instead, Blue-Emu has taken to sponsoring the individual cars, primarily Darrell “Bubba” Wallace’s #43 Chevrolet Camaro. The brand is also the sponsor for the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500, the 500-lap race of Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia.
With iRacing filling in the gaping chasm in the motorsports calendar right now, Blue-Emu carried that sponsorship through to the NASCAR Pro Invitational. Absent other events to show, the first race in the series was the most-watched sports broadcast in the USA across all of March, and the most-watched gaming event in US history.
Given the circumstances, the series has something of a more serious edge to it, and that’s something Wallace could have done with remembering. The RPM driver, through no fault of his own, tangled with “in-car” commentator Clint Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing on lap 11 of this weekend’s virtual Food City Showdown at Bristol Motor Speedway:
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) April 5, 2020
Though Bowyer came off second-best in the accident, Wallace was not impressed. Viewers of the RPM driver’s own stream — with prominent Blue-Emu branding — saw him park the car, exclaim “Y’all have a good one. That’s it. This is why I don’t take this **** serious. Peace out.” and quit.
That decision, with 92% of the race remaining, caught Blue-Emu’s eye. The company took to Twitter to let Wallace know it didn’t find rage-quitting in front of a million viewers acceptable, and it would terminate its sponsorship of the #43 driver — adding that it wants “drivers, not quitters”:
— Blue-Emu (@BlueEmu1) April 5, 2020
Wallace’s rage quit and comments about gaming come at odds with his own statements just last week. The 81-race driver, now in his fourth season, runs a Mario Kart 8 tournament for his crew and fans, and when speaking to NASCAR.com noted:
“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.”
Given Blue-Emu’s multi-year contract with NASCAR, consisting of both the Virginia race entitlement and placement as official pain relief cream, spray, and patch of NASCAR, this incident is likely to rumble on once the cars return to action.