Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

Reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Larson

NASCAR has always been a contact sport, well before the 1979 Daytona 500 when Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison duked it out. That was also NASCAR’s first fully televised race and it likely brought more fans to the sport, some of whom are still watching today.

If they are still watching, there are likely a bunch of shoulder shrugs after Sunday’s South Point 400 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, when 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 moved on the No. 45 Toyota Camry of 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace. Wallace claimed, after their impact, that he lost his steering and was not directly retaliating for the bump that not only took out the two drivers, but also impacted Toyota racer Christopher Bell, who is deep into the NASCAR championship fight.

Reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Larson

The result, of course, was bedlam in the media, on social channels and anywhere people talk about NASCAR. The real result is that the No. 45 of Wallace won’t be racing this weekend on the 1.5-mile Miami-Homestead oval, having been given a one-race suspension by NASCAR. It’s well known that Wallace has a temper and he’s let it get the better of him on more than a few occasions. 

It’s also well known that Larson hasn’t always chosen the best times to make a move on another driver and he’s had more than a few competitors pissed at him for crashing them out. He’s let his mouth get the better of him, too, resulting in banishment from the sport for half a season, when he was driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. Hendrick Motorsports chose to rehabilitate Larson; they did a darn good job in 2021.

Wallace is currently the sole Black racer in NASCAR’s Cup Series competition

Everybody’s got an opinion on this. Probably the one that will matter most with fans isn’t coming from Wallace, Larson or even NASCAR. It comes from the sport’s most beloved racer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt made his opinion known that he wouldn’t have made the decision the sanctioning organization made. He would have docked points to Wallace’s team instead.

“If they were trying to send a message, I felt like the points would’ve really got there this time, because Bubba and his teammate [Kurt Busch] swapped cars, swapped numbers, to be able to take advantage of a situation where they are moving forward in the owner’s points.

“If you hit them with an owner’s point penalty, that would’ve absolutely got the message to team, driver and everybody involved,” Earnhardt mused. “Bubba would’ve felt the repercussions of that, felt the weight of that, and Bubba would’ve been able to continue to race this weekend.”

After the accident, Wallace and Larson got physical. Well, Wallace got physical with both Larson and a NASCAR official who was trying to get the driver into an ambulance, per NASCAR protocol. 

Because of that latter confrontation, former driver Kyle Petty insisted that Wallace should have been banned for the balance of the season, this weekend in South Florida, next week at Martinsville and in the Phoenix season finale. He brought up one-week suspensions for a runaway tire and said that Wallace’s behavior necessitated a three-week suspension.

Incidents like the Wallace/Larson contretemps happen in NASCAR’s three national touring series – and at local tracks – every single week. That this one occurred between the reigning champion, who is not in contention for the title this year, and the sole Black racer in the field, brings even more conversation to the fore. 

Did their respective positions in the Cup Series have anything to do with the crime and its punishment? Wallace made – what looked like – a sincere apology before his penalty was announced. Larson, the sole Japanese-American competing in Cup Series competition has kept his lips pretty much zipped. 

About Anne Proffit 1219 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

2 Comments on Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

  1. Wallace did not make an apology; he published a non-apology that the media department at 23XI racing had prepared for consumption, hoping to lessen Bubba’s penalty, which turned out to be, as expected, a non-penalty.
    Bubba is am untouchable in NASCAR due to his skin pigmentation.
    A “one race suspension” costs Bubba Wallace or 23XI or Bubba’s sponsors NOTHING!
    That car number will race this weekend, accruing owner points and position money payout, and McDonalds still has the advertising that they are paying for.
    There is NO COST to anyone.

  2. The poor totally incorrect bunk on this article is not acceptable by a phony writer. She twists things out of the truth about the whole situation. First off, Larson DID NOT hit or push that childish motor mouth you like. The immature and liar claimed Larson hit or push him into the wall but you like Bubba. Bubba totally LIED he lost his steering when the 23 crew said he didn’t on the TV. Larson hasn’t intentionally went out crashing everyone as you twist it out while your favorite here Bubby does more mouth and poor driving. Bubby the liar smashed Larson & Bell into the wall which is dangerous on the new horrid Generation Junk car. That is totally out of bounds. By the way, don’t forget Bubby STILL never is truthful about the old boys hung a noose to hang him which again was another lie. None of the good old boys didn’t, Bubby NEVER denied it really happened and still to sinuate it was intentionally for his half-race. You also claim it was Dale Jr. was a bad boy to get him out of his car per NASCAR rules! Bubba intentionally smashed Larson & Bell out of Championship points, illegally to exit leaving the car on the track, the Bubby assaulted (yes, per the law) Larson, pushed the Official and then lied about the NOT steering bad (with their shop said it wasn’t truth once inspected). Had NASCAR held his lies and ignorance should have been charged points, monetary costs, pulled from races until at least another not to drive and a real apology instead of the PR weasel that wrote it. It’s clear you have constant written incorrectly the truth because you once again only write against your favorite. You’re pathetic insinuating Larson is Japanese-American, didn’t speak on the TV shows, NASCAR & Fox REAL Larson discussion live, etc. you twisted every corner. BUT, you then brag “Bubby said an apology (PR’s paper since Bubby couldn’t do it), list Bubby as the Black (capitalized large Proffit???) sole racer in the field, brings even more conversation to the fore”? You are pathetic to the max literally twisted your half-race liar and so far, how could anyone waste your time without non-biased phony gibberish. By the way, I’m a real fan of Eric Jones with more class than you & yo’ Bubby ever. As for Bell, not a favorite myself but he was screwed during a real Championship by your clown. As for Larson, he made a mistake several years ago & handled the situation like an adult. Grow up and become a real writer if you ever can!

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