Bubba Wallace received a one-race suspension from NASCAR after an investigation found he deliberately spun Cup Champion Kyle Larson in Las Vegas In a “dangerous act” of revenge before confronting him next.
Wallace had a stampede with Larson after Sunday’s incident in Las Vegas and also fired a NASCAR official. The suspension issued Tuesday falls under NASCAR’s Behavioral Policy, and could technically cover most of Wallace’s actions in Las Vegas.
But Steve O’Donnell, the executive director in charge of competition and racing operations, said the penalties were due to Wallace’s serious and premeditated retaliation against Larson, not the brawl a few moments later.
“When we look at how this incident happened, in our minds,[it was]a serious act that we thought was intentional and endangered other competitors,” O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
However, Wallace’s suspension for Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway is a rare move: Wallace is the first Cup Series driver to be suspended for a crash on the track since Matt Kenseth was suspended for two races in 2015 due to an accident in Martinsville.
23XI Racing, owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan, will not resume the penalty kick, and John Hunter Nemeczyk will replace Wallace this weekend.
“23XI is in line with NASCAR’s one-race suspension issued to Bubba and we understand the need for the series to take a clear stand on the incidents that occurred at Las Vegas Motor Speedway,” the team said in a statement. “Bubba’s actions are not in line with the values of our team and partners. We spoke to Bubba and expressed our disapproval of the way he handled the situation. Bubba has made impressive strides this season and this experience is an opportunity for him to further learn and grow as a competitor in NASCAR.”
Larson, who was knocked out by playoffs a week ago, and Wallace, who did not qualify for the title race, collided on lap 94 in Las Vegas. Larson attempted a wide three pass and Kevin Harvick was knocked out halfway from the set. Larson slid down the track towards Wallace, who didn’t lift the gas to give Larson anywhere. Then Larson Toyota pushed Wallace into the wall.
Wallace drove 29 laps in a car he thought could win and reacted by following Larson’s car down to the parking lot, where he appeared to intentionally tie him up in a back corner in retaliation. That prompted Larson to spin the way of Christopher Bell, a title contender who is part of the Toyota camp with Wallace.
The accident ended Bell’s race and dropped him to the bottom of the eight-driver qualifying list.
Meanwhile, Wallace got out of his car and walked down the track toward Larson. Wallace was screaming before he got to Larson and immediately started pushing the younger driver.
Larson tried to get away from him and raised his arms a few times to fend off Wallace’s gaskets, but Wallace got several shots before the NASCAR safety factor separated the two.
Wallace apologized Monday night “for my actions.” In a social media post titled “Reflection”. He specifically apologized to NASCAR and its fans, but also to Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota for “putting them in an undeserved position in the playoffs.”
His letter did not address Larson’s destruction – Wallace claimed his steering broke when he hit a wall – or specifically apologize to the hero.
“I compete with tremendous passion, and sometimes frustration comes with passion,” Wallace wrote. “In reflection, I should have represented our partners and core team values better than I did by letting my frustrations follow me out of the car. You live and learn, and I intend to learn from this.”
Wallace, the only black driver at the top level of NASCAR, has shown clear progress this season under heavy scrutiny. The accident was sharply criticized by some of his fellow drivers, who have called for safety improvements in NASCAR’s next-generation car after recent injuries.
“Wallace’s revenge is not good,” said Joey Logano, Sunday’s race winner and the first driver to enter the crucial final of the championship.
“If he (Larson) weaves on the field, he might be a little better,” Lugano said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “But the right back of tying someone up in a dogleg is no good. I don’t think anyone realizes how bad that could be. This could have been the end of Kyle Larson’s career. For me that was what was at stake. Or his life.”
Lugano said Larson was actually lucky to have bounced off Bale and not directly into the wall.
“(Larson) might have hit that thing in the side. Then it’s game over. There is no place for that,” Lugano said. “I don’t like using cars as a weapon. If you’re that crazy, just go out and fight him.”
NASCAR also announced that Kyle Bush’s chief of crew, Ben Bayshore, along with two pit crew members have been suspended for the next four races after a wheel went off during the Las Vegas race.
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