1. Has on-track anger gotten over the top?
If you watched NASCAR from the 2000s and on, the chances are good that you associate Tony Stewart with the words “anger management.”
Should Bubba Wallace and those involved in other incidents be fast-tracked to do the same? This year, for instance, we have seen William Byron, Ty Gibbs and Noah Gragson blatantly and intentionally wreck or swerve toward another car on pit road, unnecessarily either causing an incident or injuring other crew members. None of those drivers, by the way, was suspended, just in case you want Wallace to sit out. The fact is this: If drivers’ idea of taking out aggression is to wreck another car at a high rate of speed, there’s a major issue.
Nobody other than Wallace himself knows what he was thinking when he hooked into Kyle Larson on Sunday. What we do know is that Sunday was not the first knee-jerk reaction by Wallace. There was the water thrown in the face of Alex Bowman. There was also the NSFW iRacing rage quit.
Being the sport’s only black driver and in the age of social media, I am not going to dispute that Wallace is under pressure to perform. He’s probably not the only driver in the garage who has others in lower divisions thinking, “man, I am so much more talented than driver XXX, but I don’t get the support he does.”
He’s under pressure and held to a standard that’ll never be met. I fully get that.
But people go to work every day in jobs that have stress involved, and in most cases, you don’t see them try to physically provoke someone or wreck into another vehicle.
It may be debatable what punishment Wallace should receive. But regardless, the way forward should be anger management in the offseason for he and others when similar on-track incidents happen. It’s best for Wallace, the sport and the drivers on the track around him.
2. Did Bubba Wallace just undo the past four months?
Before Sunday, it was a safe bet to assume that Wallace took a step forward in the second half of 2022. He had a win at Kansas Speedway, nearly won Michigan International Speedway and showed other gains, regularly running in or near the top 10. By all accounts, it was a performance that in most years, would have gotten him to the playoffs had the results not been so abysmal in the first half of the season.
Then came Sunday, when Wallace, who added to the strong second half and got a stage win, tarnished all of it by just not hooking his car into Larson’s, but also repeatedly appearing to try to provoke Larson afterward by shoving him multiple times after climbing from his car. Frankly, any goodwill that Wallace has earned in the past few months is gone.
Fair or not, Wallace is in a fishbowl, and the smallest thing now becomes glaring. With repeated concerns about driver safety, appearing to pay someone back going 170-plus mph is an awful look, and trying to provoke a driver physically might even be worse. It doesn’t help that collateral damage took out another Toyota, likely killing the postseason of Christopher Bell.
This isn’t a place to debate a suspension (odds are good that your mind is made up depending on how much you like or dislike Wallace) — don’t count on it based on the previous incidents of Gibbs, Byron, Carson Hocevar and Gragson. Wallace has been tremendous for the sport, bringing in new fans and interest. But that doesn’t excuse him from being held to the same standard as everyone else in the garage.
3. Is Kurt Busch a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
Without question, Kurt Busch‘s weekend announcement that he’d be stepping away from driving full-time marks the end of an era. When a driver who has raced in NASCAR’s top division since 2001 on a full-time basis steps away, it definitely reminds you that the 2000s are a bygone era. Not to mention the fact that many of us, as much as we want to deny it, are getting old.
But when a driver steps away, the other question also follows: Is said driver a Hall of Famer?
That’s an emphatic yes in the case of Busch. For starters, it’s hard to deny a champion of the sport a Hall of Fame spot. Factor in 34 wins with a who’s who of teams in the NASCAR Cup Series, and the argument is stronger. More so, however, is that no matter what team Busch raced for, he made it better as a whole, so it’s hard to discount his off-track impact at the same time.
As his career went on, Busch was a tremendous ambassador for the sport. Combine all that and Busch is in fact a Hall of Famer when his time comes.
4. Did Chase Briscoe save his title hopes?
Is Chase Briscoe in position to a make the Championship Four? If so, Sunday’s run was a day where you can point to where a driver did not win a title, but didn’t lose it either. At one point, it looked like it might be the latter. That, however, was before Briscoe rallied, having a chance to win before finishing in the top five. Sure, the No. 14 team would like the win, but even more key is that a day that could have torpedoed those chances instead handed Briscoe a lion’s share of momentum at the most important time.
Know what else doesn’t hurt? That this round goes from one intermediate track to another, and if a team can run well at one, it should do the same the next week.
If Briscoe lands in the Championship Four, this past Sunday may be why.
5. Did Joey Logano win the title at Vegas?
Thanks to Sunday’s win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Joey Logano will race for a championship. That means there is no stress at Homestead and Martinsville, giving the No. 22 time to work on and perfect things before Phoenix, where Logano hasn’t finished worse than third over the last two seasons. For a three-car team with two drivers still in the playoffs, that could be a very dangerous thing for the rest of the field. Logano doesn’t even need to run well at the next two races, to be honest. All the No. 22 needs to do is to make sure all the minute details are taken care of, a luxury it has due to Sunday’s win.
Team Penske has way too many resources not to have a chance to win a championship, and now, in a season dominated by Hendrick Motorsports, Trackhouse Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, Logano is primed to sneak in the back door and steal the show.
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