Fueled by market-manipulating Twitter celebrities, cryptocurrency is back on pop culture’s radar, and this time, the auto industry is more prepared to ride the wave. Tesla plans to accept payments in Bitcoin, and among dealers, BTC’s alternatives (or “altcoins”) are gaining traction too—one Nissan dealer has started taking down payments in something called Dogecoin. Launched in 2013 as a semi-humorous, “more accessible” cryptocurrency, Dogecoin rode the popularity of its namesake meme to become one of the best-known altcoins, its profile further elevated via philanthropy surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics. And in organizing its sponsorship of the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team, Dogecoiners set the stage for the nascent currency’s biggest moment yet: A NASCAR Cup Series sponsorship.
The NASCAR sponsorship movement coalesced following a Reddit post by user unicorn_butt_sex, who proposed his community back the sponsorless number 98 Ford Fusion driven by Josh Wise. Users pitched the idea to Phil Parsons Racing, the car’s owner, and were told they needed to come up with $50,000 for a full-car Dogecoin livery. Mischievous Reddit users eagerly poured in the donations, and within a matter of days, Josh Wise announced on Twitter that Dogecoin would be his sponsor for the 2014 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Wise’s unusual, netizen-designed livery with its wary Shiba Inu bemused commentators and fans alike, many of whom struggled to wrap their heads around cryptocurrency, much less one with a meme for a mascot. For Wise, though, his sponsor wasn’t the only eventful part of the race; he ran as high as fourth and finished 20th, then his second-best result in the NASCAR Cup series. The best was yet to come, however, as the internet took delight in footage of his shibe staring down a drafting Dale Earnhardt Jr., and organized a voting campaign to get Wise into the year’s All-Star Race.
Grateful for his fans’ and odd sponsor’s support, Wise re-ran the Dogecoin livery at the All-Star Race, where he finished dead last but still brought home a purse for his cash-strapped team. Dogecoin made its way to Wise’s helmet for the Coca-Cola 600, and reappeared for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma, plus the Geico 500 again at Talladega. The Dogecoin stock car’s popularity subsequently caused it to cross the digital-physical line again, being recreated for stock cars in racing video games, and even being officially represented in the NASCAR ’14 video game, in which it was available as DLC. Dogecoin made one last appearance in NASCAR in 2015 on Wise’s Chevrolet SS stock car at the Toyota/Save Mart 350, where it climbed from 38th to finish 28th overall.
We couldn’t have known it at the time, but Dogecoin busting down NASCAR’s door was a forewarning of what happens when Reddit finance nerds act as a collective. Had Wall Street bothered to take notice, perhaps it could’ve avoided the $GME fiasco that revealed the stock market for the farce it is.
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