Bubba Wallace admitted to the misdeed and virtually dared NASCAR to do something about it.
The sanctioning body responded appropriately.
One week after it was apparent that Wallace intentionally spun his car in the closing stages of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, drawing the ire of his peers in the process, Wallace admitted to the act in an interview with NBC Sports.
Further, he defended the actions with a variant of “everyone does it” and said,Â “until (NASCAR) does something about it,” he wasnât worried about the consequences.
Then came the consequences: NASCAR fined him $50,000 and docked him 50 points,Â a sizable penalty on both fronts since he has neither a treasure trove of cash nor the points to fall back on. The penalty essentially stripped him of four races’ worth of points, considering the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 typically runs outside of the top 20 each week.
The spin drastically changed the outcome of the race. WhenÂ Wallace was unable to nurse a flat tire back to pit road, he intentionally spunÂ in the middle of green flag pit stops to avoid losing multiple laps. The decision trapped front-running playoff contender Kyle Larson out of the top five and allowed Kevin Harvick to get the track position he needed to win his way into the Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Larson was adamant from the start that Wallace needed to be penalized in some way, suggesting that NASCAR could tell the race-altering moment was intentional based on throttle and braking data.
As a result of the penalty, Larson feels the garage can move on and focus on Sundayâs race.
“I donât want to get docked 50 points or have to spend $50K either,” Larson said. “Hopefully, Iâm not in that spot where you have to make that choice. It sucks that NASCAR got to make that call, because it is in a way a judgment call. Itâs good that they send us the message because itâs happened the last two weekends. Yeah, now weâll move on to Phoenix and go race.”
The damage done, Wallace didnât offer much on Saturday following qualifying for the Cup Series race at Phoenix. Wallaceâs argument, if there was one to make, was that he was going to bring out a caution one way or the other.
Either he was going to spin before the tire let go, or he would spin afterwards, littering debris all over the track as a result.
“The only one that can make that call is me driving,” Wallace said. “When you have a flat tire, itâs pretty tough to hang on to.”
In addition to Larson, Denny Hamlin was victimized in his championship hunt by the spin. Harvickâs victory meant that the Joe Gibbs Racing veteran went from single digits back of the playoff cutoff to 20 for this weekendâs decisive event.
“Harvick winning was really bad for us,” Hamlin said. “The last update I got was we were six points behind, and I was running 30 something. Harvick was stuck in 10th and the caution came out. It definitely helped Harvick.
“Donât fault Bubba, he doesnât know where anyoneâs running. Heâs out there doing the best for himself, but it changed the outcome. It put Harvick up front and he wins the race, so weâre 20 back.”
The beneficiary, of course, was Harvick, who had nothing to say on the matter on Friday and even less to offer on Saturday. His approach has always been to stay out of drama and keep his team focused on a second championship in five years.
“If you need a story or something stirred up, thatâs fine,” Harvick said. “But for us, we need to be as quiet as possible and just concentrate on our job. I donât want anything to do with any of it.”
Other drivers took the turn of events, and a rare mid-weekend penalty, as a reminder to simply keep quiet when youâve done something unscrupulous.
Take veteran driver David Ragan, on the verge of making his final two full-time starts as a full-time Cup Series driver.
“If youâre going to do it, youâve got to have a plan, follow through with it,Â and keep your lips tight,” Ragan said.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson says league officials were left with no other recourse.
“There was a time when you never did that,” Johnson said. “I guess the guard has come down to a certain degree, and in the world we live in, everyone is open and honest, and I guess youâre commended a lot of times for doing that. But NASCAR was left with an easy decision after that.”
As for Wallaceâs fine, and lack of funding to race, much less pay penalties, he responded to questions about paying the $50,000 fine a reminder of his third-place finish in the Brickyard 400.
“Indianapolis paid well,” Wallace said.