NASCAR announced on Tuesday evening that it has suspended Bubba Wallace for his actions in last Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The penalty doesn’t include a fine or points deduction either.
Wallace will be suspended for one race after he intentionally crashed Kyle Larson at Lap 94 of the South Point 400 and proceeded to shove Larson, both violations of Sections 4.3.A and 4.4.C & E of the NASCAR Member Code of Conduct laid out in the NASCAR Rule Book. Rule 4.4.C lists “intentionally wrecking or spinning another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from Competition as a result” as one of five member actions that could result in a penalty.
Wallace felt wronged by Larson in the fact that he felt that Larson squeezed him into the Turn 4 wall at that moment.
Wallace said in an interview after existing the infield care center that he’s not used to racing up front but wanted to make it clear that he doesn’t lift for anyone. By not lifting, he scrapped the wall. If he had lifted like Kevin Harvick did in the same manner, he would have been fine. Instead, by scrapping the SAFER barrier, he got mad and wanted revenge.
Wallace also said that his power steering went out in wake of the crash, but to the outside, it looked fishy in the sense that he went from the high lane against the wall to shooting down the track to hit Larson’s right rear quarter panel and forcing the defending Cup Series champion into a crash.
“I want to apologize for my actions on Sunday following the on-track incident with Kyle Larson and the No. 5 car,” Wallace wrote in a statement on Monday night. “My behavior does not align with the core values that are shared by 23XI Racing and our partners, who have played a crucial role in my incredible journey to the top of this great sport.”
While this is for sure going to divide a fan base, I truly wonder why? Why is this a divisive moment? It’s pretty cut and dry here.
The asthetics of the situation didn’t look good from the get go. Here’s why.
In Wallace’s defense, Larson admitted that if he were in Wallace’s shoes, then he’d be mad too. It’s human nature after all. You can’t take the human element out of this. Most of us would have had that same thought that Wallace did and that thought being to get retaliation against Larson immediately. I mean we’ve all been there. We’ve all had that person cut us off on the road or drive erratic to make us going into defensive driving mode.
However, that’s where we all differ in some ways. We each have a choice to make in the heat of that moment. Some of us lift and let it go, some of us don’t lift and crash and some vow and actually go through with payback.
Wallace chose the immature latter two. It’s going to cost him as a result.
What about that has anything to do with race? What about that has a damn thing the same as Noah Gragson, Carson Hocevar, Ricky Bobby or any other name of this dangerous game of “whataboutism.”
You can’t say, “well back in…” or anything in that nature because all these instances should be taken differently. This is far beyond “boys have at it.” This isn’t that either. This was reckless and immature and meriting a penalty.
Well what? There’s no comeback. There’s no sides. There’s no “making an example” here.
You should never use your car as a weapon, especially at these speeds that these cars are turning. Especially with the safety scenario that we’re under being under a microscope too.
That’s where this is different. This can’t be compared to Noah Gragson’s Road America incident like some pain in the ass would try to say or any other moment in NASCAR history. If someone comes at you with that being their point then run. They’re not worth your time and don’t know right from wrong.
This action was wrong and is properly being enforced.
11 years ago on Sunday, to the date, the NTT INDYCAR Series lost Dan Wheldon in a frightening crash in Turn 2. With safety being on the forefront and focus of this Next Gen now, even seeing NASCAR conduct another 75 minute long meeting with the competitors on Saturday to go over the slides on how they’ll improve this car for 2023, then later seeing Wallace’s teammate Kurt Busch announce he’s stepping away from the sport on a full-time basis to get right which was also a few days after Larson’s teammate announced that he’d miss at least the next 3 weeks due to a concussion from Texas, he purposely spun a competitor in a dangerous area of the track.
Luckily Larson got out and walked away, or at least tried to. Wallace couldn’t let it go. If wrecking a driver with a family wasn’t bad enough, he went over to confront him and pushed him several times.
His peers took notice and have been against his moves. Joey Logano made his weekly appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday and took a strong stance against what Wallace did.
“Retaliation is not okay in the way it happened,” Logano said. “If he spun him to the infield, maybe it’s a little better, but right-rear hooking someone in the dogleg is not okay. I don’t know if everyone realizes how bad that could have been. That could have been the end of Kyle Larson’s career. That to me was what was on the line. Or his life. That is the worst spot to get right-rear hooked into a corner.
“He (Larson) might have flush-hit that thing in the side and game over. There’s no room for that. You can’t do that. If it’s under caution and you’re banging doors, I don’t know that that’s okay, but at least you’re not putting someone’s life at risk. I don’t like using cars for a weapon. Just get out and fight him. That’s fine if that’s what you really want to do and that’s how you want to handle it.
“You can make someone’s life hell if you want to racing them, but do i think just straight up splashing them into the wall is okay, no, because the consequences are way bigger than just a race. and you’ll live with regret the rest of your life. That’s the bottom line. If you seriously injure somebody in retaliation for something that wasn’t huge, I don’t think you can live with yourself after that. I don’t want to take that risk.”
Steve O’Donnell said that this punishment is strictly for the on track maneuver.
“We thought that was intentional and put other competitors at risk,” he said. “It’s an action that we don’t want to see moving forward. We’re confident in the decision we made and why we made it.”
This marks the first suspension of a driver since Matt Kenseth in 2015.
“It’s been very rare, if ever, that we suspend drivers. We don’t take that action lightly,” O’Donnell said.
In addition to Wallace’s suspension, NASCAR announced four other penalties following the Las Vegas weekend.
Ben Beshore, crew chief of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, will miss the next four races along with jackman Derrell Edwards and tire changer Michael Hicks after the left-front wheel detached from Busch’s car under caution at Las Vegas. The suspensions carry through the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.
In the Xfinity Series, the No. 51 Jeremy Clements Racing team was levied an L1-level penalty for violating Section 14.4.B.E, which pertains to the body. The penalty report notes “Flange Fit Composite Body must be used as supplied from the manufacturer without modification.” Crew chief Mark Setzer was fined $25,000 and suspended from this weekend’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway while the team was docked 40 driver and owner points.
Chris Gayle, crew chief of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the Xfinity Series, was also issued a $5,000 fine after the car was found with one loose lug nut following Saturday’s event.