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Joey Logano may have won the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday, but all eyes were glued to the unfolding brouhaha between Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson. Though it appeared Wallace was poised for a good finish after leading for 29 laps during the race, the competition devolved into madness when Larson, who was unable to complete a three-wide pass of Wallace and Kevin Harvick, slid up the banked track and aggressively used his car to shove Wallace’s Toyota into the wall. Multiple camera angles of the incident captured Wallace careen wildly off the wall, then surge after Larson down to the apron – the paved portion of the track that separates the racing surface from the infield – before appearing to hook the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion in an act of retaliation. But Wallace wasn’t done with “Yung Money” in the least.
Fans and media pundits alike watched as an irate Wallace exited his car, marched down to Larson and dropped his helmet before shoving Larson several times. Larson futilely tried to block Wallace’s angry advances until NASCAR safety officials broke up the fracas and escorted Wallace away. Still fuming after the race, Wallace broke down what transpired in his own words.
"I'm smart enough to know how easily these cars break, so when you get shoved into the fence deliberately like he did trying to force me to lift, the steering was gone," Wallace revealed to the press. "Larson wanted to make a three-wide divebomb, but he never cleared me, and I don't lift.”
In NASCAR strategy, lifting typically occurs after an unsuccessful passing attempt when a driver pulls his foot away from the accelerator and falls back into the racing line.
"I know I'm kind of new to running up front, but I don't lift. I wasn't even at a spot to lift, and he never lifted either, and now we're junk. Just [very bad] move of his execution."
When pressed about whether he was trying to send Hendrick Motorsports’ star a message, Wallace replied, "He knows … He knows what he did was wrong. He wanted to question what I was doing, and he never cleared me," Wallace said.
In his recollection of the scuffle, Larson owned his role in instigating the incident.
"I saw him walking over, so I figured he would do something," Larson tells. "He had every right to be upset. I would rather him do that [fight] than tear up our cars in a dangerous manner."
"I obviously made an aggressive move into [turn] three, got in low, got loose and chased it up a bit," Larson continued. "He got to my right front, and it got him tight and into the wall. I knew he was going to retaliate. He had a reason to be mad, but his race wasn't over until he retaliated.”
Despite saying he understood Wallace’s frustration, Larson was quick to rebuke him for exacerbating the incident, especially considering the current narrative of Next Gen car crashes and drivers’ health.
"I think with everything that's been going on here lately, with head injuries ... I don't think it's probably the right thing to do," Larson said. "I'm sure with everything going, he'll know that he made a mistake in the retaliation part and I'm sure he'll think twice about that next time."
Considering both Wallace and Larson had already been eliminated from title contention, the unfortunate irony of the clash is Larson’s car also knocked Christopher Bell’s No. 20 Toyota Camry out of the race, eliminating the momentum he and Joe Gibbs Racing had generated after winning in Charlotte the week before. Bell’s 34th place finish at Las Vegas drops the 27-year-old to 8th place in the Cup Series Playoffs.
"It's disappointing because our performance is capable of racing for the championship, and it doesn't appear that we're going to get to," Bell explained. “We got the short end of the stick.”
Next up is the Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday Oct. 23. There's currently no word on any penalties doled out by NASCAR for ether Wallace or Larson.
Can't get enough NASCAR action? Watch “Race For The Championship,” which follows the lives of NASCAR's biggest stars on and off the track, Thursdays at 10/9c on USA Network. And you can catch up on the series now on Peacock.
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