Turn 2 Blog: Were Bubba Wallace’s actions worthy of suspension?

*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideCircleTrack.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the NASCAR and pavement short track racing topics of the day.

Did Bubba Wallace cross the line when he hit Kyle Larson in the right rear at Las Vegas?

Richard: As most reading this have probably already seen, Kyle Larson made a three-wide move going into turn three when Bubba Wallace and Kevin Harvick went side-by-side on the back stretch. As the cars exited turn four, Larson’s car got loose and slid up the track forcing Wallace into the outside wall. 

As the two cars raced toward the start/finish line, Wallace’s car abruptly turned left making contact with Larson’s right rear sending the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion into the wall driver’s side first. Playoff contender Christopher Bell was also caught up and ultimately eliminated as a result of the mishap.

Bubba Wallace

Wallace then walked a long distance and shoved Larson multiple times before safety workers got between the two drivers.

Larson admitted that his move was an aggressive one and that he could understand why Wallace would be upset. But the question is, was a line crossed regarding the retaliation. 

Wallace, for his part, denied that the move was retaliation saying that his damaged car only made it appear that way. Camera angles shown on by the TV broadcast made it look like retaliation to which Larson and Bell both agreed. 

Hooking another car in the right rear has long been considered unacceptable in all forms of racing. In my opinion, there has to be some sort of penalty issued to Wallace for his move. To me, his actions after the wreck confirmed in my mind that his contact on Larson was no accident. 

And all of this came at a time when there have been a number of discussions by drivers regarding safety. 

So yes, I believe Wallace crossed the line and is due a suspension for his actions. 

Keep in mind that Matt Kenseth was suspended for two races when he intentionally wrecked Joey Logano at Martinsville a few years ago. NASCAR said their penalty was issued because a Playoff driver was affected. Bell was taken out in this situation. It will be interesting to see if there is any sort of penalty for this situation. 

Michael: Yes, Wallace did cross the line. Given how he took out Larson and the issues we’ve seen with concussions the last several weeks, he definitely crossed the line.

I have no issue with a driver wanting to deliver a payback. But there are certain ways it is not done. Hitting another car in the right rear is near the top of the list of how it’s not accepted. I will be sorely disappointed if NASCAR does not issue a fine and a suspension.

It’s no surprise that Joey Logano will race for a championship in Phoenix, is it?

Richard: The 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion is one of those guys who seems to always be able to rise to the occasion when he needs to. As Logano said in his post-race interview, the Team Penske cars were very fast all day in Las Vegas, and of course, it makes winning easier when a team provides its driver with a great car.

I have always been of the opinion that Logano does not get enough credit for being as good as he is. 

Obviously, we do not know yet who Logano will have to compete with for the title but it would not be a stretch to pick him as the favorite. History has shown that the winner of the first race in the ‘Round of 8’ has a decided advantage in the finale. After all, his team can now focus solely on that race because they have nothing to worry about at Homestead or Martinsville.

No, it was not a surprise to see Logano take the checkered flag ahead of the pack on Sunday.

Michael: I always feel like Logano should be one of the two or three drivers to beat for the championship every year. He definitely sent a strong signal to the field that they have to deal with him at Phoenix, a track he usually runs well at.

I’m intrigued by the race at Homestead next week. The track was home to the finale for many years. It was moved to the spring last season. And now, it’s back in the playoffs but sandwiched between Las Vegas and Martinsville. The track is usually racy, it will be interesting to see if Logano can get another win, one of the other playoff drivers can punch his ticket, or another first-time winner this season breaks through.

The theme of Playoff chaos continued in Las Vegas. Who should be worried going forward?

Richard: Obviously, because of being involved in an incident not of his making that led to a 34th place finish, Christopher Bell has much to be worried about. Like the last round, the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team could find themselves facing a must-win situation if they are to move into the Championship 4. 

For much of the day in Las Vegas, Ryan Blaney looked like a serious threat to win and earn his way into the Playoff finals in his Team Penske Ford. Instead, a spin and crash that resulted in a 28th place result has him on the wrong side of the cutline. His teammate, Austin Cindric, suffered a similar fate and finished one spot behind. 

But the driver I was most surprised by on the negative side was Chase Elliott. He finished 21st but it wasn’t because of a crash or a mechanical issue. The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet simply was not competitive. There was never really a time in which he looked like a threat to earn a top-10 finish.

Elliott is still well above the cutline because of the bonus points he had built up during the regular season. I have warned of possible trouble for the 2020 champion before and been proven wrong but if that team doesn’t find more speed than they had in Vegas by the time they get to Homestead they might be in a must-win situation at Martinsville. 

Both Chase Elliott(9) and Austin Cindric had poor finishes in Vegas

Michael: I found it curious that Elliott was not competitive at Las Vegas. He’s been the favorite during the playoffs. He could still rebound the next two races. But he has afforded himself little room for error.

Denny Hamlin has been another head-scratcher. I would argue Bell has been the better JGR car in the playoffs. While Bell is in the hole right now, he’s been the victim of bad luck while being in contention for several wins. Hamlin is good at Martinsville. With so many drivers being desperate for a win at that race, even a strong driver could have a difficult day.

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