NASCAR fines Wallace for intentionally causing caution at Texas

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE - JULY 20: NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard "The King" Petty (L) stands with Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, in the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 20, 2019 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR issued a behavioral penalty to Richard Petty Motorsports driver Bubba Wallace Saturday for ‘intentionally manipulating competition’ last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

The sanctioning body fined Wallace $50,000 and docked him 50 driver points as a result.

Wallace brought out a caution during a green-flag pit cycle when his car spun after a tire began going down on lap 242 of 334.  The ensuing caution seemed to affect Playoff driver Kyle Larson who started to question if Wallace intentionally spun his car. On Friday Larson said his team looked at the data, which bolstered his claim.

“I understand it’s a judgement call,” Larson said Friday. “But there’s so much data out there now that I don’t think it’s as much of a judgement call as people think it might be.”

When told of Larson’s comments, Wallace told NBC Sports:

“I learned from Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano).”

Asked if he was worried about any repercussions, Wallace told NBC Sports: “Until they do anything, no. I’m not the only one to do it. I’m racing for myself. Not for Larson. Not for Chevrolet at that moment. For myself and going multiple laps down.”

Richard Petty Motorsports issued a statement shortly after the penalty was announced.

“We fully understand NASCAR’s position and expectations of its competitors,” Philippe Lopez, Richard Petty Motorsports director of competition, said in a team statement. “NASCAR has a difficult job officiating race events and we do not need to make the task more challenging. Wallace will not appeal the penalty and will direct his immediate focus to this weekend’s event at the ISM Raceway.”

NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller later met with the media and questioned if Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing team had seen any data that proved Wallace intentionally spun.

“I would dispute that the data clearly shows that,” Miller said. “We don’t have a lot of data comparison of a guy trying to drive a car with a flat tire.  We’ve looked at all that and we don’t feel like it’s really as straightforward as some of the others do as far as the data showing definitively that he did it on purpose.”

Besides, he added data had nothing to do with NASCAR’s reaction.

“No basically the reaction today was after a complete admission of guilt,” Miller said. “That’s really what led to the penalty happening today.”

Miller said NASCAR’s hope is that the drivers get the message moving forward.

“Here’s the deal: it’s not very straightforward to determine whether that is done on purpose,” he said. “We’ve all watched the cars drive down the straightaway with a flat tire weaving all over the place so for us to make a definitive call that a guy spun out on purpose when he can barely keep his car going straight is a big call and it’s a judgment call and it’s a call we would not be able to have to make. Hopefully they can know that the possibility of this happening is out there if it’s very blatant and that they don’t do it.”

“Don’t do it anymore,” he added.

And he added a note of caution.

“If we feel like it’s on purpose and we have enough information to determine 100 percent that it’s on purpose,” Miller said. “We will react.”

Wallace had the last word, or lack of it, later just prior to Cup qualifying.

“We’re good,” he said. “Let’s go and qualify and have a good race tomorrow and get it behind us.”

He was asked if the message from NASCAR was ‘don’t ask don’t tell.’

“Everybody has their opinions it’s all just a matter of who speaks up about it,” he said. “Like I said we’re moving on; this is a really good track for us, really good car, so I’m excited to see what we can do today.”

Wallace added that the fine and penalty won’t affect the way he races in the future.

“The only one that can make that call when they are driving is me, when you have a flat tire it’s pretty tough to hang on to,” Wallace said. “I’m the only one that can make that call.”

As for whether he admitted to NASCAR that he intentionally spun,” You’ve seen the interview,” he said.

As how he would pay the $50,00 fine?

“Indy paid well,” said Wallace who finished third there.

Greg Engle