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 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.