Race Weekend Central

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

Let me get this out of the way up top.

In a vacuum, I believe Bubba Wallace should have been suspended for his on-track actions against Kyle Larson Sunday (Oct. 16) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Full stop.

If no other NASCAR races were held from Jan. 1 to Oct. 15, 2022, then I’d be all on board with Wallace’s one-race suspension for intentionally wrecking Larson after they made contact and Wallace was forced into the wall as they exited off turn 4.

But guess what?

We don’t live in a vacuum. History is a collection of events in an ongoing narrative.

Let me give you some reminders about what we’ve seen from the NASCAR Powers That Be in 2022.

We live in a world where on July 29, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Carson Hocevar clearly intentionally hooked Colby Howard into the outside wall in retaliation at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park. Howard’s truck was wrecked, and his night was done.

Afterward, Hocevar played dumb in an interview with Frontstretch, saying he had no idea what happened.

When the following week’s penalty report came out, NASCAR did nothing in regards to Hocevar’s actions. No fine, no points penalty and definitely no suspension.

See also
Podcast: Colby Howard on Carson Hocevar Wreck, Racing in Trucks

However, a few months later they penalized him a lap for intentionally bringing out a caution at Talladega Superspeedway.

Now let’s back up a few weeks to July 2 at Road America. You’re forgiven if you weren’t aware of the Hocevar incident.

But there’s no way you missed, after a bit of rough racing between them, Noah Gragson intentionally hooking Sage Karam on a straightaway. What followed was a melee that collected 13 cars and, as reported by NBC Sports a weekend later, amounted to at least $250,000 in damage.

Afterward, Gragson even owned up to it: “He starts it, I’m the one who finished.”

After a few days of social media outrage — though you kind of hope NASCAR doesn’t make decisions based on an echo chamber that doesn’t reflect reality — Gragson was penalized.

“I think is as you look at this, our actions are really specific to what took place on the racetrack,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s Chief Operating Officer, said. “When we look at how that incident occurred, in our minds, really a dangerous act, we thought that was intentional, and put other competitors at risk and as we look at the sport and where we are today, and where we want to draw that line going forward. We thought that definitely crossed the line and that’s what we focused on in terms of making this call.”

Oh wait, O’Donnell didn’t say that after the 13-car incident caused by Gragson. He said that on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio after Wallace’s suspension was announced.

What was Gragson’s penalty? He was docked 30 points and fined $35,000.

Gragson lost no spots in the points standings, and he got to race in both the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series races the next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Gragson’s season wasn’t impacted at all.

As I wrote then, it was all meaningless.

I’ve seen more than a few comments over the last few days saying the Hocevar and Gragson incidents were different from Wallace’s, they were in development series, they’re learning, the cars aren’t the same.

If you’re going to throw the book at someone to teach them a lesson, you should probably do it when they’re developing.

That’s basic parenting, right?

We can’t leave July without at least mentioning Ryan Blaney spinning out Daniel Suarez after the checkered flag of the July 31 Cup race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Nothing was done.

Here’s some more from O’Donnell appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“When we look at this incident, you’re not only endangering one, but there’s a lot of cars out there at speed,” O’Donnell said, accurately describing the race environments at IRP and Road America. “It’s a high rate of speed, it’s on an intermediate track, all those things factor in, … this could have been race No. 2 on an intermediate, and it’s the same call.”

Frankly, my dear, that last part is a whole lot of bull.

Let’s go back in time a grand total of three weeks to Sept. 25 at Texas Motor Speedway, which last time I checked is an intermediate track.

I’ll allow O’Donnell this: the situation between William Byron and Denny Hamlin — which NASCAR officials said they straight-up missed when it happened — occurred under a caution that had come out seconds before for an incident right in front of Byron and Hamlin.

But that didn’t stop Byron from ramming into the back of a defenseless Hamlin — on the front straightaway — with retaliatory message that sent him spinning through the infield grass with no idea where Hamlin’s car would come to a stop.

While Byron said the spin wasn’t intentional, NASCAR wound up attempting to penalize him by docking him 25 points and fining him $50,000. Hendrick Motorsports appealed, and the points penalty was wiped out, but the fine was raised to $100,000.

NASCAR made no move to try to suspend Byron for a retaliatory move on an intermediate track.

You know who they also didn’t suspend, let alone penalize at all?

Kyle Larson.

“We’ve all done it — maybe not all of us — but I have,” Larson said Sunday. “I’ve let the emotions get the best of me before too. I know [Wallace’s] probably still upset. I’m sure with everything going [on], he’ll know that he made a mistake in the retaliation part, and I’m sure he’ll think twice about that next time.”

It’s been a long year, but waaaaay back in February, in the first race of the year in the Busch Clash at the L.A. Coliseum, it was Larson who was dealing out the retaliation.

In the middle of the race, Justin Haley attempted to pass Larson on the inside coming out of turn 4.

They made pretty significant contact.

Larson didn’t like it.

I don’t remember anyone calling for Larson to be punished.

Time and again this season, NASCAR did two things when it came to retaliation during a race: nothing or it put window dressing on the issue.

“Boys have at it” hung over everything, even when Hamlin harassed Ross Chastain for almost an entire race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

That is, until this week.

This entire column has been devoted to examples from solely the last nine months.

Because recent precedent is important. I don’t care what happened in 2011 or in 2015.

It’s been seven years since NASCAR suspended a Cup Series driver for a flagrant act of retaliation, when it took Matt Kenseth out of competition for two races for taking a damaged car back out onto the track at Martinsville Speedway and ramming Joey Logano into the turn 1 wall.

Remember, the fans loved it.

The Wallace incident rises nowhere close to that level.

“When we look at drivers, historically, it’s been very rare that we suspend drivers. We don’t take that action lightly,” O’Donnell said.

Clearly.

“So in this case that’s an action we’ve rarely move forward with when it comes to a driver,” O’Donnell said. “There’s comparisons to what we’ve done in the past. But as we’ve always said, we need to ratchet things up where we see that there’s a line that’s crossed.”

OK, a line was crossed. Apparently a line in the sand.

Again, I’m only going off the precedent set in 2022.

Far worse incidents have occurred this year that violated the same rule that was cited to defend the Wallace suspension.

If you want Wallace to be the example, for whatever arbitrary reason, make clear this is it. Draw that line — or the specific subsection of the rulebook —  with a sharpie.

Anything resembling the retaliation seen Sunday — no matter the series, the driver, race, religion or creed — will result in a one-race suspension.

Anyway, I’m starting a stopwatch.

I’ll stop it the first time I see NASCAR or a related entity promoting an incident NASCAR deemed suspension-worthy to draw attention to the sport.

Wait, what’s that?

It already happened?

2022 is Daniel McFadin’s ninth year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his second year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can also be found at SpeedSport.com. You can hear more from him on his podcast, Dropping the Hammer.

Bubba Wallace Suspension Coverage

Bowles: New NASCAR Precedent Set. Why?

Massie: Can Bell Come Back From Being Wallace’s Collateral Damage?

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 danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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Jake

Suspended? Doug, kick him off the tour!

Bill B

Settle down Shooter.

Happy now?

Last edited 3 months ago by Bill B
Bill B

Am I the only one that got Jake’s “Happy Gilmore” reference?

DoninAjax

Double down on the penalty. The next penalty will be two events and double the fine. The next one will be double that. Get their attention!

Echo

Bubba almost fell on his first attempt to push Kyle. That would have been priceless to see him attempt to push Kyle and fall on his face. Hamlin and MJ have a lot of power inside nascar right now, no fines at all for even walking across a hot track.

Rob

I think bubba should have been suspended for at least two races.you could hurt somebody at that speed hitting him on purpose.i hope he got fined.

CJ

Getting out of your car before safety crews arrive should have been 1 race suspension. Putting hands on official should have been one race suspension. Take ur pick on the last race. Can’t compare the other drivers crashes to this one. Each driver has the same steering wheel, accelerator, and brake. Each drivers decides how he uses each. By his on admission he doesn’t lift, and hit the wall. Larson didn’t get into him on purpose and made very little contact before he hit the wall and booth could have continued if not for Wallace becoming a kamikaze. He should have been sit down for the rest of the year

Frank

100% correct.

Rob

Aman.

Ken mahr

I wish they would fire Bubba, he has created to much controversy in nascar.

kb

Familiar with other incidents and I still don’t think NASCAR went far enough with MDW.

NASCAR has brought this criticism of this penalty on themselves as they are on the pulpit telling us every chance they get that “safety is important” to them. This could have been the tide turn that shows us how concerned they are for safety and what commitment they have towards the rhetoric they spew. Another blown opportunity by the clown car front office.

A one race suspension is a slap on the wrist in this instance, considering what we all saw. Outrageous.

janice

the penalty is only because nascar knew they had to do something or fans would had been heading for the exit. but they might have succeeded in doing so with the weak penalty for such aggression.

guess with all the egg on their collective faces, nascar will have an omlet special at the next race in the concession stands.

Jack Mehoff

One race is bullcrap. He could of really hurt Kyle Larson no to mention he took out Bell that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Plus he put hands on an official and walked across a hot track. He lucky he’s not out the rest of the year. I wonder why ? Maybe cause he’s Nascars only black driver !

Steven

Now that Bubba has been kicked to the curb who will replace him? I’d like to suggest Trevor Bayne. There’s a talented guy who hasn’t gotten much attention. Solid, and NO drama, thank you.

Lance

Keep in mind it was more than just a crash. Add in retaliation in the most dangerous was hooking the right rear quarter panel, walking across a hot track, continually shoving Larson who had no intention of fighting (if Larson fought back, I wouldn’t add this, but he continued to try to walk away) and Wallace puts his hands on an official. Add them ALL up – yeah, he deserved a suspension

PattyT

He also needs to get a big, fat fine! But it looks like NASCAR’s poster boy is once again getting away with something no one else could because he’s black. SMH 🙄

Rick Dolph

Guess his playing the race card is over! He got off easy still. He deserved big fines and longer suspension!!

gbvette

It’s really easy to say the new face of NASCAR and their star of the future, shouldn’t be suspended, because Byron and Gragson weren’t (I won’t comment on Hocevar since I rarely bother watching trucks). But NASCAR has suspended drivers for such actions in the past, including Kyle Busch in 2011, Kenseth in 2015, and Harvick in 2002.

NASCAR, the announcers and the TV camera’s all missed the Byron hit on Hamblin. Later an in car shot was found, but what did that really show, one driver slowing for a caution, quicker than another. How many times a year do we see that?It actually happens somewhat often, though the results are usually just a bump. I’m not saying Byron didn’t do it on purpose, but he sure wasn’t as obvious about it as Wallace.

It was pretty clear that Gragson retaliated in a similar way to Wallace, but Gragson didn’t climb out of his car, ignore track safety personal, walk across a live track, attempt to start a fight, shove a NASCAR official, and then further ignore safety personal. Wallace chose to escalate the situation multiple times. Wallace was put in a bad spot on the outside, at a tight part of the track, and drove himself into the wall (Larson didn’t shove him into the wall, and left him at least a car and a half). Driver’s get squeezed to the wall in every race, and yet we never see anyone react in such an extreme way.

JD in NC

Exactly! gbvette, you covered all the points as to why this incident was much more serious than the ones the author pointed to and why Bubba deserved a suspension.

Last edited 3 months ago by JD in NC
Bill B

Yeah, I was going to point out how convenient it was for Mr. McFadin to look no farther back than the current year when making his appraisal that “no one but Bubba gets suspended”. Perhaps he has only been a fan since 2016 which would explain his short vision. Or maybe going back more than one year wouldn’t have supported the premise for this article that he wanted to make so he purposely ignored them.

The Byron/Hamlin deal was much different. Both cars were still able to continue. It was at a much lower speed. No other cars were involved. No fists were thrown. There were no NASCAR officials involved to ignore. The penalty for that one should have been Byron immediately sent to the back of the field.

Jeremy

I remember the media crucifying NASCAR because Carl “Road Rage” Edwards only got a 3 race probation for purposely sending Keselowski into the fence at Atlanta back in 2010. Some differences still though;

1) Carl had the opportunity to hook right rear, but didn’t. He dropped down and tagged left rear – which the end result wasn’t any better, but not an unwritten taboo as hitting right rear is.

2) Carl did not exit his car on a hot track

3) Carl did not put his hands on a track official

4) Carl did not physically assault Brad afterwards

5) Carl was a man, owned his actions, and didn’t lie like a child

Speaking of that Atlanta incident… Thank God NASCAR finally listened and took that stupid wing off the car that was sending them airborne. Too bad they still kept Ryan Newman’s money for publicly calling out their engineering stupidity.

Last edited 3 months ago by Jeremy
johndawgchapman

NASCAR didn’t drop the hammer….They dropped the ball, again!

You have just thoroughly documented why NASCAR’s credibility is measured in negative numbers.

PattyT

Since NASCAR refuses to treat, fine and suspend Bubba Wallace the same way they do the rest of the drivers, I think it’s time for all of the fans to take action. By that I mean it’s time to hit NASCAR and the sponsors where it hurts…

$The fans are the ones who buy those expensive race tickets.

$We buy the t-shirts, hats and race accessories for each of the drivers.

$We buy the different car makes and models that our favorite drivers race in.

$We buy the products that the sponsors plaster all over the race cars of our favorite drivers.

Needless to say WE, along with our hard earned money, are the ones that keep this sport going.

It’s time we put our foot down and BOYCOTT NASCAR via ticket sales and NASCAR licensed products.
BOYCOTT anything and everything Bubba Wallace has anything to do with, including:
Toyota, McDonald’s and everything that falls under the Michael Jordan Brand umbrella.

Continue to BOYCOTT NASCAR until they start treating Bubba the same as the other drivers and take him off of that pedestal they’ve placed him on.
Continue to BOYCOTT each and every one of the businesses and their products until they drop their sponsorship of Bubba Wallace.

Money talks… when it stops rolling in, maybe – just maybe, they will start to listen.

Ronnie

Totality of circumstances! How do you write an article and refer only to the actual on track wreck? Why don’t you tell the whole story! Did you even read the rule section you referenced in your piece? You know, where it reference’s physical violence! Yet you make it appear like the suspension was only for the wreck. If it was just the wreck and nothing happened afterwards would he have been suspended?

Brian

Bubber should have a criminal charge as well. In what world is it acceptable to physically go after someone? It’s against the law in our country to put your hands on someone else for any reason. Kyle Larson was assaulted. The writer of this article is smoked. When you add all of bubber’s behavior together, a 1 race suspension is a total joke. Bubber has a long history of being a violent hothead. Nascar at a minimum also should have required anger management as they have for other drivers.

John

Your comments here are a joke. Considering the driver injuries with this so-called better car, Wallace could have possibly killed someone with his hothead move. He also took out a championship driver in the process, one who also could have been injured. Moreover, look at what else Wallace did that is against NASCAR rules–he left his car rather than waiting for the safety crew and he tried to start a fight.

If NASCAR had done the right thing, it would have set him down for the rest of the season to teach him a real lesson. No fine? No points loss? Really? Seriously?

Again, what a joke!

Steve R

You are not very bright; how did you get this job. All the driver you talk about never walked across a hot track and none of them put their hand s on a NASCAR official, you seem to have forgotten that part, Learn to tell the whole truth in your stories, this was lame

Kevin in SoCal

If Kenseth got a two-race suspension, Bubba should have gotten two-races, too.

Frank

They suspended 3 guys 4 races for a loose wheel and bubba gets 1 race for a really stupid move. Nascar moves make absolutely no sense.

Aan

This article is a load of shit!! Not one of those ppl dropped 3 lanes to take someone out…the Blaney suarez thing, was at a low speed, not almost 180mph…go back to your closet and actually pay attention to the shit you are comparing to n see the actual differences on how unprofessional, moronic, and dangerous that was!! Let’s just cause another career ending concussion huh…

PeteJ

7 year veteran writer for nascar and you didn’t learn a thing about the sport? It was the speed that larson and bubba were traveling at that made this so much more dangerous than the other examples listed. Bubba did at least 4 things that were worthy of at least a 1 race suspension. 1. Spinning larson out at 160 mph where they were located in the track. 2. Exiting his vehicle and walking over to larson on a hot track. 3. repeatedly shoving larson. 4. Pushing an official. He’s lucky it was only 1 race, this is a slap in the wrist.

Last edited 3 months ago by PeteJ
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