As the NASCAR season remains suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, the company and its drivers are trying to keep fans engaged and entertained through virtual means. We're now three weeks into the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, which essentially features a bunch of NASCAR drivers racing one another in a video game simulation, and we found out Sunday that these races can still drum up drama and controversy.
Bubba Wallace was one of the 32 drivers competing in the Food City Showdown at a virtual Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday and he undoubtedly had the worst day of anyone in the field. Not only did Wallace wreck during the 11th lap of the 150-lap race but he was so peeved by it that he wound up "rage-quitting" -- a popular gamer term for a player who gets so angry that they prematurely bow out of the competition.
Wallace was involved in a messy sequence with Clint Bowyer early in the race when Bowyer cut in front of Wallace's car on a straightaway, then came up high and put Wallace into the wall.
While Bowyer ultimately spun out and seemed peeved about Wallace's actions, Bubba was clearly more annoyed. He quickly decided he'd had enough and quit the race in a fit of anger.
"Y'all have a good one. That's it. This is why I don't take this [expletive] serious," said Wallace on his Twitch stream immediately after the wreck. "Peace out!"
And then he disconnected.
You can see the sequence from Wallace's POV (as well as his reaction) below. (Warning: NSFW language in the clip.)
Wallace's short fuse not only gave him a DQ/DNF in the virtual event but they also proved to have real-life consequences from a business standpoint. Shortly after the incident, Wallace took to Twitter to mock the blowback from his decision to rage-quit and, if it wasn't clear already, he made it known he wasn't taking any of this too seriously.
Unfortunately, one of Wallace's sponsors -- joint/muscle cream Blue-Emu -- didn't take too kindly to his flippant attitude and decided to pull their sponsorship.
Blue Emu souring on Wallace and burning that bridge could have an impact beyond just the virtual world as well. The company has sponsored Wallace's real-life racing team and just recently signed a multi-year contract to become an official partner of NASCAR, so they'll be hanging around in the space even after the pandemic passes and drivers return to actual racetracks.
This might prove to be a learning moment for Wallace and all the other drivers competing in the e-series. The races may not actually be "real" but there's still going to be a certain level of professionalism expected from competitors in their approach and actions.