As the Hendrick Motorsports driver extracted himself from his No. 5 Chevrolet and removed his safety equipment, Wallace marched toward him on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway frontstretch. Larson ran through the likely scenarios he was about to face.
On Lap 94 of Sunday’s (Oct. 16) NASCAR Cup playoff race, Larson had made an admitted “aggressive move into (turn) 3” as Larson tried to pass both Wallace and Kevin Harvick at the same time.
When Larson and Wallace cleared Harvick, Larson “chased it up (the track) a bit.”
Larson “was trying to leave (Wallace) room, but ultimately ran him out of room and got him in the wall.”
After their contact, Wallace’s No. 45 Toyota moved down the track and into Larson’s car in what Larson interprted to be an intentional attempt to retaliate.
“I knew he was going to retaliate,” Larson said. “He had a reason to be mad, but his race wasn’t over until he retaliated. It is what it is. Just aggression turned into frustration and he retaliated.”
When it was over, both cars were junked and Wallace began his long walk to confront Larson.
“I could see him walking over, so I figured we were gonna have some sort of chit chat,” said Larson.
Larson figured there were three options for what was about to happen:
“I think he’s gonna talk, be mad; I think he’s gonna shove like he did or he’s gonna punch me,” Larson said. “So I’m glad it wasn’t a punch.”
Upon arriving on the scene Wallace shoved Larson fives times while yelling at him, before walking away.
Bubba Wallace is NOT HAPPY with Kyle Larson.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 16, 2022
At the track medical center, Wallace told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider to “stop fishing” when asked if he had retaliated against Larson.
“He (Kyle Larson) knows,” Wallace said. “He knows what he did was wrong. He wanted to question what I was doing, and he never cleared me. I just hate it for our team. Our McDonalds Toyota Camry was super solid – just needed to find a little bit on the short run and get the balance where we needed it. It would have been like (winning at) Kansas and now the car is junk.”
Larson was asked if he thought the alleged retaliation at speed was appropriate.
“I think with everything that’s been going on here lately, with head injuries, fractured ligaments and all that, I don’t think it’s probably the right thing to do.
“We’ve all done it – maybe not all of us – but I have. I’ve let the emotions get the best of me before, too. I know he’s probably still upset. I’m sure with everything going, he’ll know that he made a mistake in the retaliation part and I’m sure he’ll think twice about that next time.”
When Larson was asked if he thought Wallace should be penalized in any way, he hedged.
“No, I mean, I don’t want to be the one to judge that,” Larson said. “I don’t think he’ll do that again. Whether he’s penalized or not.”
In the end, Larson said “I would rather him (shove me) than tear up our cars in a dangerous manner. It is what it is.”
About the author
Daniel McFadin is a 7-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He's currently a freelancer and lead reporter and editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR show "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" on YouTube and in podcast form.
You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.