HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Bubba Wallace is missing Sunday’s NASCAR race, and that is evidently not his only sanction after losing his cool in Las Vegas last weekend.
Denny Hamlin — who, along with Michael Jordan, co-owns the 23XI Racing team Wallace drives for — said Saturday that the team has dealt with matters in a way that goes “above and beyond” the penalties handed down by NASCAR.
Hamlin didn’t say what that means, choosing to keep those matters in-house.
“He understands where I stand, where the team stands, the values that we want to present on the racetrack, and he just didn’t represent it that well last week,” Hamlin said. “But you know, in the grand scheme of things, we’re very happy with his progress. And he knows he’s still got some stuff to work on when he gets out of the race car.”
Last week, Wallace intentionally wrecked reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in a dangerous act of retaliation. Playoff contender Christopher Bell got caught up in that wreck, smashing his car and denting his chances of becoming NASCAR champion. Bell remains in the playoffs but needs to rally.
Wallace was suspended for this week at Homestead-Miami, but he is not the only driver in the spotlight right now for causing trouble.
Two weeks ago, NASCAR issued $200,000 in fines after finding that Stewart-Haas Racing driver Cole Custer slowed on the backstretch of the final lap in Charlotte and helped teammate Chase Briscoe move up enough to reach the next round of the playoffs. Custer and his crew chief, Mike Shiplett, were both fined $100,000 after NASCAR determined Custer’s slowdown was deliberate.
“NASCAR’s like your parents a lot of times,” playoff leader and title contender Joey Logano said. “There’s a line of, you know, you’ve got to let the boys figure it out sometimes, and they’ll figure it out together and move on or Mom and Dad has to step in a little bit and control the situation because it’s gotten out of hand. So I believe NASCAR kind of decided it’s getting out of hand.”
Drivers tended to agree with NASCAR on these calls.
“In my opinion, those moves were extremely, extremely dumb — both of them,” Daniel Suarez said. “And with both of them, I was going to be extremely surprised if they were not penalties. … You have to be smarter. I don’t know what those guys were thinking.”
That question — “What was he thinking?” — has been a storyline for much of this NASCAR season, with no shortage of temper-flaring incidents.
Ross Chastain, who has had a big first season for Trackhouse Racing, has featured prominently in a few of those. He has clashed with Hamlin, had a starring role in a wreck that put a good dent in Kevin Harvick‘s title chances and had his name converted to a verb by Kyle Busch. Getting wrecked by Chastain is now, in NASCAR parlance, getting “Chastained.”
“Look, some of the things I did throughout the summer were just not … looking back, I would do them different,” Chastain said. “Some of it would just be my stance after the race. I would prefer it be different. But a lot of on-track stuff, I could definitely clean up.”
Wallace isn’t at Homestead this weekend, even to watch. He will be in the team garage, and Logano said he doesn’t think Wallace owes his fellow drivers an explanation.
“It’s kind of all in front of us. We all see,” Logano said. “I’m not looking for anything. He didn’t do it to me. If he did it to me, yeah, we’d have big problems.”