Photo by Larry Chen

Bearded Formula Drift underdog Danny George just became the first racer to be officially sponsored by the cannabis industry. Yes, pot. Reefer. The devil’s lettuce. Shango, a premium grower and distributer of medical marijuana in the United States, is sponsoring Danny’s return to drift.

Here’s the crazy part: this is not the first time a race car driver has funded a team with weed. It’s just the first time it’s been legit. None other than the 1986 Indy 500 rookie of the year was put in jail for nearly 30 years for the almost the same the thing. Randy Lanier funded his racing with marijuana. Lots of Marijuana. Like maybe all the marijuana on the east coast of the United States in the first half of the 1980's. Randy entered everything from GTP to Indy Car (CART) to off-shore power boat racing.

Naturally a Florida based, drug smuggler owned some the fastest off shore power boats in the world. I know how it works. I’ve seen Miami Vice.

Randy Lanier Facebook

Shortly after grabbing rookie of the year at the Indy 500, Randy was arrested for shipping marijuana into the U.S. and sentenced to “Life in prison without parole.” Some 26 years later, he was finally released from prison in 2014. Jalopnik actually caught up with him at his first race out:

Enter Danny George. He’s not from Florida and doesn’t own power boats. Miami Vice is long gone. Danny’s a crab dealer from Vegas that loves driving sideways. But now that marijuana is legal in 26 states and the District of Columbia (in some form or another), the same plant that put Randy in jail for life without parole is now funding Danny George’s return to Formula D.

Photo by Larry Chen

Danny’s a good friend of mine and ran one of my favorite Formula D programs a few years back in a crazy, LS-powered Miata. He raced in the top series of the sport and took the competition seriously, but he also managed to do it with his friends. In a series crowded by huge sponsors like Rockstar, Monster, and NOS, Danny competed with a car built in his home garage.

Photo by Jon Maudlin

Instead of an energy drink logo, Danny ran his own face on the hood. His front bumper might have said [WHOAGAIN?], but Danny had a massive following in Formula D and was voted the fan favorite driver in 2013. It sounds cliche, but meet Danny and you’ll immediately know why.

Photo by Jon Maudlin

If you’re new to Danny George, check out this video series, “Danny George and Friends,” from his last season in Formula D. It’s hysterical.

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I’m hoping for a similar video series as he returns to Pro2 in Formula D, but it’d need a good name. Maybe Weed Racer?

So back to the weed. I asked Danny George a few questions about his new program:

Why cannabis?

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“I am a very firm believer in marijuana’s medicinal qualities and would love to be able to maybe change a few votes out there. It really is the miracle cure for many ailments. Being a father and watching these videos of children who within SECONDS of treatment have insanely positive reactions should be enough reason for anyone to support the plant.”

Why Shango?

“Shango produces premium product and we believe in what they do. If we can change just one person’s mind to consider the possibilities of cannabis we will have won.”

No really, why cannabis?

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“I have always been one to think outside the box and this was something that really hasn’t been done before in professional motorsports. I wanted to be the first. I wanted to comeback with something so legendary that the fans who supported me the last years could get that smile that they helped push us into this position.”

Photo by Larry Chen

Why isn’t the car covered in pot leaves and smoke?

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“Formula D asked that we be tasteful. Shango is a premium medical marijuana brand and we wanted to reflect that in the livery. There are already enough negative stigmas around Cannabis, we want to focus on the positive attributes. Plus it looks really good!”

Will Shango hand out samples at races like other sponsors (Red Bull)? 

“No.”

I was pretty sure I knew the answer to the last one, but I had to ask. I guess there’s already enough smoke at a drift event.

Photo by Jon Maudlin

What happened to the Miata?

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“The Miata was a longtime love for me. The spirit of driving one is really second to none. We knew going in that it was the wrong car, but when you’re passionate about something it doesn’t matter. We wanted to be different, we wanted to be an underdog, we wanted to try something nobody had made work yet. Now we want to be more serious and have a real chance. Hopefully this platform allows us to stay in the game for some longterm success”

What are the specs on the BMW?

“It’s an E36 M3 Coupe powered by a 418 cubic inch LS-based engine with power ranging from 550-900 horsepower depending on how much nitrous you want to throw at it. We’re running Stance custom built coilovers, an SLR big angle kit and the wheels are insane GMR forged three-piece wheels built just for us and coated here locally. We wrapped in the amazing Nexen N-Fera Sur4.”

Photo by Larry Chen

The car looks great and it’s awesome to see Danny return to drifting, but Shango becoming the first cannabis company to sponsor motorsport could be genuinely significant of the times ahead. You could argue that the glory days of motorsport were lost when alcohol and tobacco got banned from sponsoring top-tier cars and took their piles of cash with them. The medical marijuana industry is already valued at $6 billion and expected to grow to $50 billion by 2026. Could this be the next wave of sponsorship in motorsport?

Photo by Larry Chen