NASCAR suspends Bubba Wallace 1 race for Las Vegas crash

Oct 18, 2022, 2:16 AM | Updated: 5:34 pm
Bubba Wallace, center, shoves Kyle Larson (5), left, after they crashed during a NASCAR Cup Series ...

Bubba Wallace, center, shoves Kyle Larson (5), left, after they crashed during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

(Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

Bubba Wallace received a one race suspension from NASCAR after an investigation determined he deliberately spun reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in a “dangerous act” of retaliation before confronting him afterward.

Wallace had a shoving match with Larson after Sunday’s incident at Las Vegas and also pushed away a NASCAR official. The suspension handed down Tuesday falls under NASCAR’s behavioral policy, and technically could cover most of Wallace’s actions at Las Vegas.

But Steve O’Donnell, the executive in charge of competition and racing operations, said the penalties were for Wallace’s dangerous and deliberate retaliation against Larson, not the fracas a few moments later.

“When we look at how that incident occurred, in our minds, (it was) really a dangerous act that we thought was intentional and put other competitors at risk,” O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Still, Wallace’s suspension for this Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway is a rare step: Wallace is the first Cup Series driver to be suspended for an on-track incident since Matt Kenseth was parked for two races in 2015 for an incident at Martinsville.

23XI Racing, which is owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan, is not appealing the penalty, and John Hunter Nemechek will replace Wallace this weekend.

“23XI is aligned with NASCAR on the one-race suspension issued to Bubba and we understand the need for the series to take a clear stand on the incidents that took place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway,” the team said in a statement. “Bubba’s actions are not in keeping with the values of our team and partners. We have spoken to Bubba and expressed our disapproval of how he handled the situation. Bubba has made impressive strides this season and this experience is an opportunity for him to further learn and grow as a competitor in NASCAR.”

Larson, who had been eliminated from the playoffs a week earlier, and Wallace, who did not qualify to race for the Cup title, clashed on Lap 94 at Las Vegas. Larson attempted a three-wide pass and Kevin Harvick in the middle dropped out of the bunch. Larson slid up the track toward Wallace, who did not lift off the gas to give Larson any room. Larson then shoved Wallace’s Toyota into the wall.

Wallace had led 29 laps in a car he believed capable of winning and he reacted by following Larson’s car down to the apron, where he seemed to deliberately hook him in the rear corner as retaliation. That sent Larson spinning into the path of Christopher Bell, a title contender who is part of the Toyota camp with Wallace.

The crash ended Bell’s race and dropped him to last in the eight-driver playoff standings.

Wallace, meanwhile, climbed from his car and marched on the track toward Larson. Wallace was shouting before he even got to Larson and immediately began to shove the smaller driver.

Larson tried to turn away from him and several times lifted his arms to block Wallace’s shoves, but Wallace got in multiple shots before a NASCAR safety worker separated the two.

Wallace on Monday night apologized “for my actions” in a social media post he titled “Reflection.” He apologized specifically to NASCAR and its fans, but also Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota for “putting them in a situation in the Playoffs that they do not deserve.”

His post did not address wrecking Larson — Wallace had claimed his steering broke when he hit the wall — or apologize specifically to the champion.

“I compete with immense passion, and with passion at times comes frustration,” Wallace wrote. “Upon reflecting, I should have represented our partners and core team values better than I did by letting my frustrations follow me outside 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 incident has been sharply criticized by some of his fellow drivers, who have called for safety improvements to NASCAR’s new Next Gen car after recent injuries.

Joey Logano, winner of Sunday’s race and the first driver locked into the championship-deciding finale, said Wallace’s “retaliation is not OK.”

“If he spun (Larson) into the infield, maybe it’s a little better,” Logano said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “But right-rear hooking someone in the dogleg is not OK. I don’t think anyone realizes how bad that could have been. That could have been the end of Kyle Larson’s career. That to me was what was on the line. Or, his life.”

Logano said Larson was actually fortunate to have ricocheted into Bell and not directly into the wall.

“(Larson) might have flush-hit that thing in the side. And then game over. There’s no room for that. You can’t do that,” Logano said. “I don’t like using cars for a weapon. If you’re that mad, just get out and fight him.”

NASCAR also announced that the crew chief for Kyle Busch, Ben Beshore, along with two pit crew members have been suspended for the next four races after a wheel came off during the Las Vegas race.

___

More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Uruguay's Luis Suarez, right, stops the ball with his hands to give away a penalty kick duri...
Associated Press

Suarez a World Cup great for Uruguay, ‘the devil’ for others

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The day before what was likely his last World Cup game, Luis Suarez walked into the room, sat down and placed himself squarely in the spotlight — again. Then a Ghanaian journalist let it all out: Ghana wants to “retire you,” he said to the Uruguay forward. You are “the devil […]
1 day ago
Crew members train for the Hoki Mai challenge, a voyage that covers almost 500 kilometers, or about...
Associated Press

Polynesian pride: Three-day canoe voyage in mid-Pacific

RAPA NUI, Chile (AP) — The causes are worthy, the course is daunting – almost 500 kilometers (about 300 miles) across a stretch of the Pacific Ocean in a large canoe. It’s the Hoki Mai Challenge, which started Saturday in Rapa Nui, a territory in the Pacific that is part of Chile and is better […]
1 day ago
Brazil's Alex Telles is injured during the World Cup group G soccer match between Cameroon and Braz...
Associated Press

Neymar expected to train again with Brazil at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Neymar is expected to train with Brazil again on Saturday while left back Alex Telles and forward Gabriel Jesus have been ruled out for the remainder of the World Cup after getting injured in the match against Cameroon. Neymar was expected to practice with the ball for the first time since […]
1 day ago
England's Phil Foden waves towards the fans after scoring his side's second goal during the World C...
Associated Press

England bonds over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — For a nation that has frequently flattered to deceive at soccer’s major tournaments, a card game that relies on the art of deception is strengthening the bond among England’s players ahead of their match against Senegal in the World Cup round of 16. Werewolf, a game of roleplay and deduction, has […]
1 day ago
FILE - A partial view of the Stadium 974 prior to the start of the World Cup group G soccer match b...
Associated Press

Built to disappear: World Cup stadium 974

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Of the seven stadiums Qatar built for the World Cup, one will disappear after the tournament. That’s what the games’ organizers have said about Stadium 974 in Doha — a port-side structure with more than 40,000 seats partially built from recycled shipping containers and steel. Qatar says the stadium will be […]
1 day ago
France's Kylian Mbappe plays during the World Cup group D soccer match between Tunisia and France a...
Associated Press

Messi, Mbappé and co: The AP’s World Cup team of group stage

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Writers covering the World Cup for The Associated Press have chosen their standout players at the tournament so far to form a best team of the group stage. Spoiler alert: Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé are in there, along with surprise names who have helped to cause some of the many […]
1 day ago
NASCAR suspends Bubba Wallace 1 race for Las Vegas crash