Early on, Bubba Wallace was the class of the field, winning stage one of the South Point 400 Sunday (Oct. 16) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. What was an excellent day came to a screeching halt at the end of lap 94.
Wallace had dropped back a little after the restart and was racing for position with Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick. Larson appeared to squeeze Wallace into the wall exiting turn 4. After the wall contact, Wallace came down the track, apparently due to the steering being broken on his Toyota, and hit Larson in the right rear corner. The resulting incident put both drivers hard into the outside wall. Christopher Bell, who was an innocent bystander, was also clipped by Larson and went into the wall. All three drivers were ok afterwards, but out of the race.
Kyle Larson hits Bubba Wallace.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 16, 2022
Wallace was not happy with Larson afterwards. Wallace exited his McDonald’s Toyota and walked down the frontstretch to confront Larson. After an exchange of words, Wallace shoved Larson multiple times, expressing his anger over a crash he believed that Larson was responsible for.
“Cliff [Daniels’] smart enough to know how easily these cars break,” Wallace told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider outside of the infield care center. “When you get shoved into the fence deliberately like [Larson] did, trying to force me to lift, the steering was gone [after that]. [Larson] just so happened to be there.”
When asked if the crash was direct retaliation for Larson putting him in the wall, Wallace sternly told Snider to “stop fishing.” That means that Wallace believed that Snider was trying to create a story out of nothing.
Larson saw things differently after the crash.
“No, [Wallace’s] reaction didn’t surprise me,” Larson said afterwards. “I obviously made an aggressive move into [turn] 3. I got into [the turn] low, got loose and chased [the car up the track] a bit. [Wallace] got to my right front, got tight and got into the wall.
“I knew [Wallace] was going to retaliate; he had a reason to be mad. [However], his race wasn’t over until he decided to retaliate.”
Bell was the only one of the three drivers involved that was able to drive away on his own. However, Bell’s Rheem Toyota suffered suspension damage after his wall contact. The Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 pit crew was unable to repair the car within the 10-minute time limit, resulting in a DNF.
With Bell still being involved in the playoffs (Larson was eliminated in Charlotte, while Wallace didn’t qualify himself, but the No. 45 was eliminated last weekend as well), there are championship implications to the incident. Bell ended up with a 34th-place finish after the race. Bell entered the race fourth in the playoff standings, but will not leave Las Vegas in such a nice position.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.