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"It's Complete BS": Bubba Wallace Suggests Double Standard in Middle Finger Backlash
The 29-year-old Cup Series wheelman has drawn the ire of many within the NASCAR community for his use of the middle finger after the All-Star Race, but he says it's been going on for years in the spectator sport.
By all accounts, Bubba Wallace objectively ran a superb race during the 200 laps of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race on May 21 — his best career finish ever at the event. But instead of being able to shine the spotlight directly on his skillful outing and embrace his finishing second behind Hendrick Motorsports driver and 2021 Cup Series champion Kyle Larson, once again, Wallace’s sheer talent and mastery behind the wheel was overshadowed by off-track drama, namely his flashing a middle finger during a post-race interview.
Now, the only Black full-time driver in the Cup Series is weighing in on the hullabaloo, suggesting it indicates there’s a double standard in NASCAR because drivers have been flipping the bird on tracks for years.
What did Bubba Wallace do after the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star race?
With the first race in three decades at North Wilkesboro Speedway having just finished, Wallace — who battled valiantly with Larson on the legendary short track’s unique uphill backstretch and downhill frontstretch — had just waltzed up to be interviewed by FOX Sports reporter Jamie Little in the pits. As she dialed up her question about what 23XI’s driver needed to do to take home the checkered flag instead of Yung Money, Wallace subtly but, without a doubt, deliberately flipped the bird to the camera as he seamlessly answered her question.
Did NASCAR punish Bubba Wallace for making the gesture?
NASCAR decided that the league would not punish Wallace in any fashion for displaying his middle finger while discussing his second-place finish at the NASCAR All-Star race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, FOX Sports reported. It is not, however, confirmed whether Wallace’s flipping of the bird was meant for any of the specific race fans who booed him during his driver introduction.
FOX Sports NASCAR writer Bob Pockrass tweeted about how the league reached its decision a day after the incident.
“Bubba Wallace won't be penalized for flipping the bird on pit road after the race,” wrote Pockrass. “It is NASCAR's understanding he was gesturing to a friend and while inappropriate, it wasn't done malicious[ly].”
What have other Cup Series drivers said about Bubba Wallace’s middle finger incident?
NASCAR Cup Series journeyman Corey LaJoie discussed the scene on SiriusXM Radio NASCAR and, for all those who have been incensed over Wallace’s post-race gesture, LaJoie’s perspective is crucial because he notes how their pair giving one another the middle finger is normal for the two drivers who are friends off the track as well.
“Nobody shows their emotions good or bad as often or as evident as Bubba, which that’s why some people hate him,” LaJoie offered. “That’s why some people love him. I love the guy, right? I’d take a bullet probably in like, I don’t know, like, maybe the meat of like my leg for him. Maybe not the chest, but I’d take a bullet for him.”
“Him and I, if we’re running, if we’re having a comparable day, we will throw the bird to each other no less than like four or five times,” LaJoie revealed. “It’s actually kind of a competition sometimes who can hold their middle finger out to each other the longest. He has a record of two laps with his bird out the window at Michigan, so I still haven’t been able to beat that amount of time with one hand on the wheel.”
LaJoie says there was nothing nefarious behind Wallace’s gesture.
“Let him [Wallace] be him, and being him is tossing what he probably considered an inconspicuous bird even though it’s on national television,” LaJoie added. “People are going to pick up on that. So, you know, you live and learn.”
How has Bubba Wallace responded to the outrage around making the gesture?
Considering it was the perennially embattled Wallace who was caught on live television giving the middle finger to some mystery person or group, the social media firestorm against him has been swift and brutal, leaving little space for other opinions. That said, Wallace, who’s been dealing with hecklers, racism and all sorts of drama since entering the league — someone even hacked into his team radio to spew derogatory, racially-charged comments at him during the All-Star Race — is a pro at navigating these murky waters. So, when he had the chance to speak with Claire Lang on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, the Mobile, Alabama native addressed the middle finger kerfuffle.
"People think that I love to stay in the headlines for different reasons, and I actually hate it," Wallace said candidly. “It’s funny how it all works out. The finger's become such a big thing when Bubba Wallace does it, but you have guys that get wrecked, and they walk on the track and shoot one bird or shoot the double-bird, and we laugh about it and move on. We tell them that they're No. 1.
“But when Bubba Wallace does it, we gotta shut the whole state down, shut the whole series down, kick him out, suspend him, so, on that side of things, it's complete BS,” added Wallace. “But it is what it is. It's been going on for years, and it sounds like I just invented something new, and we know how some of these people that are part of this sport hate when Bubba Wallace brings in something new."
When pressed by Lang if he needed to be more careful about making the gesture, Wallace deviated from his defense that it was all normal stuff and instead took accountability for his actions.
“100 percent I need to stop doing it,” Wallace continued. “It’s not a good look, right? We all get that, but what I’m getting at is that it’s been going on for years.”