If Bubba Wallace Was Truly Sorry for His Actions, He Wouldn’t Suggest NASCAR Treated Him Unfairly

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Bubba Wallace walks on stage ahead of a NASCAR Cup Series race.

On Saturday morning at Martinsville Speedway, Bubba Wallace spoke with reporters for the first time since his one-race suspension for deliberately wrecking Kyle Larson on October 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The session lasted all of four minutes, but that was plenty enough time for one thing to be abundantly clear: Wallace isn’t truly sorry for his actions at Las Vegas, where he intentionally clipped Larson in the right-rear quarter panel, sending Larson’s car barreling head-first toward the wall at a rate of speed that could’ve killed the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion.

How can we be so sure that Wallace isn’t genuinely remorseful? Well, just consider the following comment, which was part of a full transcript of Wallace’s comments that Toyota Racing PR made available to media members shortly after his session.

“I mean, I totally accept the penalty and the repercussions that come from my actions. I talked to [Steve] O’Donnell and I talked to [Steve] Phelps, and I said, ‘Hey, I’m good with being the example if we can keep this consistent moving forward,’ because it’s happened multiple times this year and it’s something that may continue to happen for other drivers down the road,’” Wallace said, recalling a conversation he had with NASCAR’s chief operating officer and NASCAR’s president.

Then Wallace continued: “I definitely learned my lesson, but we have to be consistent with this no matter if it’s here at Martinsville or if it’s at Daytona or Talladega. We have to keep it consistent across the board and across the series. That was the conversation. It was a good conversation.”

It’s nice to know that Wallace walked away feeling like he’d had a “good” conversation with two of NASCAR’s top executives. In all reality, there’s no way Phelps, O’Donnell, or anyone else, for that matter, could really take his aforementioned comment seriously. Up next, I’ll explain why.

Bubba Wallace somehow expects NASCAR to treat all payback the same across the board

Bubba Wallace walks on stage ahead of a NASCAR Cup Series race.
Bubba Wallace during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400. | Sean Gardner/Getty Images

One of the biggest problems with Bubba Wallace’s “we have to be consistent with this” plea is that it’s complete and utter nonsense to suggest that NASCAR feel obligated moving forward to suspend every driver who ever retaliates on the race track. 

In virtually every race that’s been held on a short track in NASCAR’s 74-year history, it’s safe to say that at least one driver bumped into another driver as payback for earlier contact.

If you suspend every driver who ever rubs another car intentionally, you might as well go ahead and suspend the entire field and cancel the NASCAR season while you’re at it. Heck, go ahead and just end the sport altogether because everyone — and I do mean everyone — is going to be guilty of this at some point.

But to hear Wallace tell it, any driver who retaliates under any circumstances should now be suspended. Institute a rule like this — let’s just call it the “Bubba Wallace Rule,” why not? — and drivers are literally going to be afraid to race each other out of fear that any move they make on the track might be deemed by NASCAR as retaliatory. 

To suggest that NASCAR treat each and every instance of payback the same way is pure ignorance and wishful thinking on Wallace’s part. NASCAR knows it can’t do this — and rest assured, it never will.

Bubba Wallace fails to understand why his move on Kyle Larson was judged more harshly than others

Another fallacy in Bubba Wallace’s thinking about retaliation is his apparent belief that what he did to Kyle Larson was no worse than any other move we’ve seen this season. That’s simply not the case, however.

Sure, plenty of drivers have wrecked other drivers — in some cases, deliberately. But this was the first time in a long time we’ve seen a driver take the forbidden hard left into another vehicle’s quarter panel. This almost never happens for the simple reason that drivers know it’s off-limits and will land them in major hot water with the sanctioning body. So, they refrain from it 99.9 percent of the time.

The last time it happened — and was clearly intentional — was in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011, and the combatants were Kyle Busch and Ron Hornaday Jr. Upset about contact under green moments earlier, Busch used the dreaded left hook on Hornaday under caution, sending Hornaday’s truck slamming head-first into the wall.

The result? NASCAR parked Busch for the rest of the race and weekend, meaning he was unable to compete in the next day’s Xfinity Series race or Sunday’s Cup Series race. 

So, no, NASCAR didn’t unfairly suspend Wallace. The move he made on Larson is almost non-existent these days because drivers know the result of such an action won’t be in their favor.

Bubba Wallace doesn’t comprehend the difference between short-track retaliation and high-speed revenge

Now for Bubba Wallace’s demand for consistent rulings on retaliation “no matter if it’s here at Martinsville or if it’s at Daytona or Talladega.” Have you ever heard anything more ludicrous than this?

To compare someone running into someone at 65 miles per hour (the average speed through the corners at Martinsville) to plowing into someone at 200 miles per hour (the average speed through the corners at Daytona and Talladega) is comparing apples to oranges if I’ve ever heard it.

No reasonable NASCAR executive, fan, or driver is going to agree with this take. Everyone — except, apparently, Wallace — understands that what’s considered kosher at some types of tracks isn’t viewed the same at others.

But you can’t outlaw drivers retaliating at Martinsville just because retaliation is a big no-no at Talladega or Daytona or, yes, Las Vegas, where Wallace carried out his act of aggression again Kyle Larson at around 160 mph. In short, NASCAR can’t apply a one-size-fits-all approach to drivers retaliating because not all acts of retaliation put other drivers at risk. Wallace’s did, hence his suspension. But he seemingly doesn’t understand this, either.

Here’s a thought: Maybe instead of giving NASCAR recommendations on how to officiate races in the future, Bubba Wallace should focus on cleaning up Bubba Wallace. And actually being genuinely regretful about his actions toward Larson.

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If Wallace was sincere about taking responsibility for what he did, he would’ve left it at that. But instead, he turned the focus to NASCAR and how the sanctioning body — in his mind, at least — needs to do a better job at making sure all situations involving retaliation are handled in the exact same fashion. No exceptions whatsoever. Yeah, right.

Considering this is never going to happen, nor should it, Wallace is left with two choices: He can either admit that NASCAR ruled completely fairly in the situation at Las Vegas and go on about his life, or he can go on claiming that he was treated unfairly.

I hope for his sake that he’ll choose the former option. Otherwise, he probably needs to find another line of work.

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