The First CBD Pro Sports Sponsorship Was A Huge Gamble

Eagle-eyed viewers of the Indy 500 saw history in the making

Eagle-eyed viewers of the recent Indy 500 saw the Defy logo on two of the lightning-fast cars, marking the first time a CBD-infused sports drink had made its way into one of racing’s most celebrated events.

But it wasn’t the first CBD product to hit the track at 200 mph. That distinction goes to Craft 1861, a wellness startup that took its own laps at Indy after breaking into professional racing months earlier in Austin, Texas.

The privately owned brand, with revenue this year estimated north of $25 million from products like its popular ingestible CBD strips, sponsors the up-and-coming drivers on the Carlin racing team, getting its first national exposure Memorial Day weekend on the well-watched Indy 500 live broadcast on NBC. 

That day was nine months in the making, according to Craft 1861’s co-founder and principal Eric Lujan, whose Indy alliance for his tinctures, creams and lotions could now be paving the way for other cannabis-adjacent brands.

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