NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace was suspended for this weekend’s race at Miami-Homestead on Tuesday after reigning champ Kyle Larson flew at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and then faced him.
NASCAR classified Wallace’s offense as behavioral, which under the rulebook could cover Wallace’s intentional spinning of Larson, his connection to a chainmaster and his scramble match with Larson.
However, the suspension for Sunday’s race in South Florida is a rare move for the stock car series: Wallace is the first Cup Series driver to be suspended for a crash on the track since Matt Kenseth was suspended for two races in 2015 for an accident in Martinsville.
Team 23XI did not immediately announce a replacement driver for the Homestead race, although John Hunter Nemechek was a possibility.
Like Larson, Wallace was already eliminated from the championship chase when the two clashed during lap 94 of Sunday’s race. Larson attempted a wide three pass and Kevin Harvick was knocked out halfway from the set. Larson slid down the track towards Wallace, who didn’t lift to give Larson any place. Then Larson Toyota pushed Wallace into the wall.
Wallace drove 29 laps in a car he thought could win and reacted by following Larson’s car down to the parking lot, where he appeared to intentionally tie him up in a back corner in retaliation. That prompted Larson to spin the way of Christopher Bell, a title contender who is part of the Toyota camp with Wallace.
The accident ended Bell’s race and dropped him to the bottom of the eight-driver qualifying list.
Meanwhile, Wallace got out of his car and walked down the track toward Larson. Wallace was screaming before he got to Larson and immediately started pushing the younger driver.
Larson tried to get away from him and raised his arms a few times to fend off Wallace’s gaskets, but Wallace got several shots before the NASCAR safety factor separated the two.
Wallace apologized Monday night “for my actions” in a social media post titled “Reflection.” He specifically apologized to NASCAR and its fans, but also to Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota for “putting them in an undeserved position in the playoffs.”
His letter did not address Larson’s destruction – Wallace claimed his steering broke when he hit a wall – or specifically apologize to the other driver.
“I compete with tremendous passion, and sometimes frustration comes with passion,” Wallace wrote. “In reflection, I should have represented our partners and core team values better than I did by letting my frustrations follow me out of the car. You live and learn, and I intend to learn from this.”
Wallace, the only black driver at the top level of NASCAR, has shown clear progress this season under heavy scrutiny. The accident was sharply criticized by some of his fellow drivers, who have called for safety improvements in NASCAR’s next-generation car after recent injuries.
“Wallace’s revenge is not good,” said Joey Logano, Sunday’s race winner and the first driver to enter the crucial final of the championship.
“If he (Larson) weaves on the field, he might be a little better,” Lugano said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “But the right back of tying someone up in a dogleg is no good. I don’t think anyone realizes how bad that could be. This could have been the end of Kyle Larson’s career. For me that was what was at stake. Or his life.”
Lugano said Larson was really lucky to have bounced off Bale and not straight into the wall.
“(Larson) might have hit that thing in the side. Then it’s game over. There’s no place for that,” Lugano said. “I don’t like using cars as a weapon. If you’re that crazy, just go out and fight him.”
NASCAR also announced that Kyle Bush’s chief of crew, Ben Bayshore, along with two pit crew members have been suspended for the next four races after a wheel went off during the Las Vegas race.
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