Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Was Bubba Wallace’s Penalty Harsh Enough?

Unless you’ve been buried under a rock this week, you’ve heard about the NASCAR Cup Series incident that took place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday (Oct. 16) between Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace.

On Tuesday, officials announced they have suspended Wallace one race due to his actions in the South Point 400. No additional fines or points deductions were imposed for what appeared to be intentional contact with Larson’s No. 5 followed by a physical altercation.

You can take one more look at what sparked the crash below.

Wallace will not file an appeal, serving the suspension during Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In his absence, John Hunter Nemechek will drive the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing.

Now that the dust has settled, was Wallace’s penalty too harsh or was it not tough enough? Michael Nebbia and Anthony Damcott debate the most infamous penalty of the 2022 season to date.

It Needed to Be Stiffer For Both Drivers Involved

What Bubba Wallace did to Kyle Larson at Las Vegas was egregious. It crossed the line, a level of aggression that left NASCAR officials no choice but to levy major consequences.

But the penalty enforced against Wallace by the sanctioning body wasn’t harsh enough. A one-race suspension? That’s it? That’s a slap on the wrist. You have to unilaterally send a message to not just drivers but teams that reactionary, retaliatory behavior like Wallace’s move should not, can not and will not be tolerated going forward, either on the track or off it.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: NASCAR Suspends No One, Except Bubba Wallace

First off, a fine should have been imposed along with the suspension itself. Almost every major off-track altercation we’ve seen through the past decade has resulted in monetary penalties.

As far as the crash? The way Wallace went after Larson reminded me of one of the more serious on-track incidents in recent years.

That took place in 2011, when Kyle Busch wrecked Ron Hornaday in the middle of a Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. In that event, Busch wrecked Hornaday under yellow for a full half-lap before spinning him out at nearly full speed. NASCAR’s reaction was harsh, parking Busch for the night before suspending him for the Cup race later that weekend.

Busch was also fined $50,000 for his actions. At bare minimum, Wallace should have been penalized just as much.

NASCAR could’ve also made an example of not just Wallace, but 23XI Racing. They should have hit the organization with a 50-point penalty for his transgressions along with a fine as large as $250,000 for both to prove a point.

As NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Steve O’Donnell said, “[We] want to draw that line [on what’s improper behavior] and be as clear as we can for our competitors on where we stand.”

There’s no better way to do that than with record financial penalties for Wallace. It would also affect 23XI’s standing in their battle for fifth in owner points, a hit which would impose additional financial penalties at the end of the year.

NASCAR could’ve hit Larson with some sort of consequence as well. The Hendrick Motorsports driver admitted after the race he made an aggressive move that forced Wallace into the wall and his rival “had a reason to be mad.”

I’d have docked Larson 50 points for the instigation, his team 50 owner points and fined him $25,000.

NASCAR had the chance to set a new and dangerous precedent and they failed by simply parking Wallace. Not only that, but they also failed to follow their own historical precedent by not calling both teams to the NASCAR hauler after the race. Officials mishandled the situation in the moment and the penalty as it stands sure doesn’t help their cause.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR… do better. – Michael Nebbia

Not Too Harsh, Not Too Little… Just Right

NASCAR had a delicate situation to deal with here. A driver just blatantly wrecked another one and took out a playoff driver in the process (and technically, the driver he took out is still competing for an owner’s championship).

NASCAR got this call right. Regardless of public opinion, their decision to suspend Bubba Wallace for a singular race is the right one.

As Kyle Larson told NBC Sports, with the rise in safety concerns, and more and more drivers speaking out about said safety concerns, his on-track punishment from Wallace did not fit the crime. A fitting retaliation would have been for Wallace to either pull the same move on Larson in turns 1 and 2, or simply just push him too hard into turn 1.

Not to mention, the minute an incident between two drivers takes out another innocent bystander, as this accident did with Christopher Bell, NASCAR has to step in and do something.

See also
Did You Notice?: NASCAR Bubba Wallace Suspension Sets New Precedent It Must Uphold

A lot of people are crying out William Byron didn’t get the same penalty, but I disagree. Byron’s expression of displeasure toward Denny Hamlin at Texas Motor Speedway involved simply spinning the No. 11 (a wreck Byron has claimed was unintentional) as the caution flag came out. Both drivers were able to still finish the race.

Wallace, on the other hand, deliberately crashed Larson at full speed on one of the fastest tracks on the NASCAR circuit, collecting an innocent bystander in Bell, who also happens to be a playoff contender. All three cars were destroyed and unable to continue.

It’s clear what makes the penalties for both drivers different are the safety implications involved.

In Byron’s case, he was fined $50,000 and docked 25 driver and owner points, but then that was overturned to only a $100,000 fine. Wallace’s one-race suspension comes without a fine or any points deduction. If NASCAR hadn’t suspended Wallace, he probably would have received the same points deduction and fine that Byron (originally) had. Conversely, if Byron had turned Hamlin into the wall and junked the No. 11, he would have been suspended and not given a fine or points deduction.

On top of that, Wallace’s one-race suspension should be just that – one race. Larson and Wallace have not had any noticeable bad blood at any point in their career, so the accident that occurred on Sunday was not a boiling over of emotions from previous races. Most multi-race suspensions come from these built-up tensions gone wild (like Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano’s feud in 2015 that resulted in Kenseth being suspended for two races).

Fans could argue Wallace should have been suspended more events (maybe even the rest of the season) or that he should have gotten a fine or points deduction on top of his suspension; after all, he is one of the most polarizing figures in NASCAR. But upon further reflection, people are going to realize that, in the long run, a simple one-race suspension was the right call for NASCAR to make. – Anthony Damcott

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing a master's degree. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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kb

Oh please, Kyle Larson did nothing wrong. Kyle knows it, he was being way too diplomatic, imo. That was a racing deal. That is it! No malice or intent. How in God’s name would you fine him for that? Really? So silly. The McDonalds Clown was in a situation he didn’t know how to handle, and then he crashed himself and Kyle with his insane antics.

And no, IN THE END I will not realize NASCAR made the right call. Too many chains of events of bad decisions happened because MDW seemingly has a huge attitude/entitlement problem…voids the brain of reasoning. Given the state of affairs with this current car, his entitlement from not getting in the ambulance, walking on a hot track, touching a NASCAR Official, not listening to anymore of authority, taking a leisurely Sunday stroll to Kyle, the infractions were adding up like our grocery store bill! And THEN he high fives with his crew when he decides to continue his Sunday stroll of carnage over to his pit stall. The guy is a hot mess and should have gotten much more than he got.

How old are the two guys who wrote this? LOL.

Jim Patterson

Larsen didn’t actually touch Wallace – Wallace lost the nose and wrecked. Why the racing world insists on propping this loser up is a mystery. As far as the severity of the penalty goes, NASCAR wants it both ways – intense drama on Sunday plus absolute safety record. Unfortunately they are failing at both objectives and have now created history of mind numbing inconsistency.

DoninAjax

Wouldn’t it be great if the replacement driver won the event?

TCinAZ

No, but I would like to see HJN drive around Gibbs

DoninAjax

I’d prefer to see Ryan Preece in the car.

azwatergeek

Four race suspension for the 18 team crew chief and two crew members for a wheel that came off. One race suspension for Wallace for using a stock car as a weapon, walking across a hot track, using Larson as a throw toy and pushing away a race official. Got it. Love the logic, NASCAR.

Bill B

Wow, if you penalize Larson for making that move then you are telling drivers not to push the limits. I guess Briscoe would have been penalized at Bristol for his failed attempt to pass Reddick for the win. This happens every couple of weeks and it is frustrating if your driver is the victim but if you start penalizing people for going for it, you will end up neutering the racing. Do you really want that?

johndawgchapman

If you want to see a prime example of how that would play out just watch F1.

TCinAZ

Apparently Front stretch has to be woke to keep their access.
penalize Larson for what? DWA? There should have been a fine and points loss.

Jeremy

Obviously, Larson (and every other driver) should be penalized severely for not pulling over and letting Bubba win.

johndawgchapman

In a word…NO! He was pretty much already out of the owner’s championship. So, his penalty actually cost the team only what they’ll pay John Hunter, (happy to see him get the call.)

Payback on track has been front & center lately. I’ve watched & been involved in racing for over 60 years. So, I’ve seen a lot of it. In the early days when most drivers built & owned their cars, it was pretty much understood if you wrecked someone that even looked suspicious you could expect a visit to your pit when you pulled in. And it was man to man, no pit crews involved.
At the Cup level, if payback is prohibited then that gives a huge advantage to drivers who find it easier to knock someone out of the way than to pass them clean.
Let drivers settle their own scores, but take it to the short tracks, & you don’t have to take someone completely out, to make your point. Plus, & you can do this anywhere, just race them like Ryan Neuman raced everyone. Afterall, that’s what they’re paid to do.

Jeremy

These rich, entitled crybabies in NA$CAR today can’t handle being raced by someone like Newman.

1911_Bandit

If you are to penalize Larson for “being aggressive” then you MUST penalize every A-hole driver who throws a block on a superspeedway at 190 mph. The majority of our “Big Ones” come from just such an aggressive move by the leader.

JT

Here’s my take. Wallace’s antics could start to break down the trust that drivers need to race each other properly. From here forward other drivers will be less likely to race him hard, fearing his hot temper. This is not good, especially now that he has a fast car.

As for punishment, NASCAR should have parked Wallace for the remainder of the season. They need to stop this sort of behavior now before it repeats itself. He doesn’t need to be out on the track taking his frustrations out at Martinsville, or Phoenix & influencing the championship.

Jeremy

The opposite could apply as well – he now has a “prior conviction and record” with NASCAR. They might race him harder knowing if he retaliates he could land himself more suspension time.

Bill B

LOL Nobody is going to back down to him. There have been other bully a-holes through the years and no one backed down to them.

Christopher

Kyle Petty is right, Wallace should have been suspended for the rest of the year and Daytona next year. NASCAR ‘leadership’ is weak. Larson did nothing wrong in this situation and should not even be in the conversation about penalties.

DANNY

NASCAR HAD TO MAKE IT LOOK GOOD TO THE BOOT LICKERS OF NASCAR SO THEY WILL QUIT WHINING ONLY BUBBA WARRANTS A RAISE DON’T LIFT BUBBA HAMMER DOWN ALL THE WAY

John

Larson did nothing wrong; he was racing. Wallace should have been fined at least $100,000, lost points, and been suspended for the rest of the year.

NASCAR has no guts when it comes to their boy Wallace.

DoninAjax

Larson did what Hamlin does multiple times in each event. But to him, that’s different! Acting entitled seems to be part of the job description for Reverend Joe drivers. Of all ages.

Steve R

A crew chief will get a 4-race suspension if the team loses a tire on pit road, Bubba gets 1 race suspension for destroying 3 cars and almost hurting a driver in a car that everyone understands is not safe, Yup sounds like nascar logic

DANNY

STEVE DID YOU EXPECT ANYTHING DIFFERENT FROM THE TOP DRIVER OF DAYTONA

DANNY

LOOKS LIKE I’M NOT IN LINE WITH THE CCP GUIDLINES (waiting for approval)

racerx

Has Wubba apologized to Kyle Larson yet?

How ’bout Rick Hendrick?

Ron

Your article made sense until you got to the part about penalizing Larson. His actions were nothing more than hard racing. He didn’t even make contact with Wallace. If Bubba hadn’t decide to wreck Kyle, he could have driven away with his wall contact with nothing more than a pit stop to check for damage and a change of tires.

Kurt Smith

I know I’m probably going against the grain here, but I’ve seen Jeff Gordon do almost exactly what Bubba did to a couple of drivers and he didn’t get penalized at all. I’ve also seen Tony Stewart just flat wreck other drivers just for being in his way, and he got no penalties for it either.

In my mind the one race suspension for the deliberate wreck is about right. Could a case have been made for a stronger punishment? Possibly. But I’ve seen drivers do worse and not get penalized at all for it.

Debbie

What if he had seriously hurt Kyle Larson these guys need to stop this the race is already dangerous enough without their attitudes and their bullyingness knock it off guys and I’m sorry but I think Bubba Wallace should have gotten a hefty fine to go with it he’s no better than anybody else so he should have paid the consequences too

Fred

You’re full of crap, another WOKE liberal!!!

Tim

Should be SUSPENDED for the rest of the year with a $100,000.00 fine. Maybe some driver points as well. He is supposed to be a “professional” not someone who could have caused serious or fatal injuries intentionally! LOOSE cannon with a sh***ty attitude. MJ needs to park him until he comes down off of his throne!

AJ

What a joke ….NASCAR is bowing to the WOKE people so they don’t appear to be racist. Fines and points should have been given and taken

bah

Jordon and Denny need to fire his smart butt! The guy is a complete loser!

bah

DEMAND NASCAR FIRE BUBBIE WALLACE GUY NEEDS A BUTT KICKING, COULD HAVE GOTTEN SOMEONE KILLED! LARSON’S TEAM SHOULD HAVE MORON WALLACE ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT AND CHARGED!

Mike

I agree with the majority of comments previously posted which pointed out so many hypocritical actions on the part of NASCAR. But the one thing I haven’t seen yet, is anyone really calling out the past crossed paths of these two drivers, and how unfair and hypocritical NASCAR’S  actions really were.

On a Sunday night back in April 2020, Kyle Larson used a racial slur during an iRacing stream while competing in a virtual race. The slur was used “in the heat of the race” while Larson thought he was in a private conversation.

Though Larson issued a sincere apology on that following Monday, he was “indefinitely” suspended by NASCAR, and ordered to take both anger management and sensitivity training before they would even consider reinstatement. His owner, Chip Ganassi Racing terminated their contract with Larson immediately, largely because of pressure from his two biggest sponsors: Credit One Bank and McDonalds..

Starting to see the parallels now? McDonald’s sponsored Kyle Larson then, and now sponsors Bubba Wallace.

I don’t condone the slur Larson used, but it’s easy to see NASCAR acted so quickly against Kyle because, among others, the slur offended their new “Poster Boy”, Bubba Wallace, the same driver that also went on to spur the now FBI debunked garage door Rope/noose controversy.

Bubba Wallace is also the driver that used his 3500 lb.car as a dangerous weapon in retaliation against Kyle last week, that eliminated Kyle, himself, and the chances of another play-off contender. He then got out of his car onto a ‘Hot” track before safety officials could reach him, walked down the Hot track and physically assaulted Kyle, and then physically pushed back a safety worker trying to get him to safety.

Did I mention that before Bubba became the diversity poster boy, Kyle, the only Japanese American driver in NASCAR history was also considered one of the biggest success stories of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Initiative.

Kyle was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR, required to take anger/diversity courses, was dropped by his owner CGR, and lost all of his sponsors for a racial slur he said while he thought he was on a private channel.

Bubba got a 1 week suspension, for using his car as a weapon on the track, then violating numerous safety policies with his continued retaliation. His owners have been deafeningly silent on any punitive actions they will take with him, and none of their sponsors, including MCDONALDS, have said a word.

Pathetic and impotent by NASCAR. Shame on 23XI Racing and Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin, AND SHAME ON MCDONALDS…..which I will never spend a dime at until they acknowledge this in some appropriate manner.

Jim Patterson

The two incidents are basically Apple/Orange but the point about the disparate levels of punishment couldn’t be more stark. I don’t know for fact but I suspect that the Larson indiscretion was more cultural appropriation than racism – God bless Rick Hendrick for stepping in – I hope Larson wins 36 races next year and Wallace is DNF 36 times.

TONY

AHOLE SHOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED !!!

Lauralee Wiltsie

I think the million dollar fine would have been a fair punishment because not only did he risk his own life but he put the the lives of 2 other drivers in danger, one of which had nothing to do with the situation. I get that racing is a competition but the track is no place for petty revenge and then to assault someone when you’re twice their size especially when they aren’t fighting back. That just makes you a bully. This is not a school playground. Wallace needs to grow up and get a handle on his temper. If the positions had been reversed, certain groups would have jumped all over it with both feet. So either control your driver or fire him.

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