Bubba Wallace pursues, shoves Kyle Larson after crash at Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Bubba Wallace attempted to fight reigning NASCAR champion Kyle Larson after a crash Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that also collected title contender Christopher Bell.

Wallace had led 29 laps and clearly had a fast car in the opening race of the third round of the playoffs. Wallace didn’t qualify for the playoffs and Larson was eliminated last week.

The incident began when Larson tried to pass a three – Kevin Harvick in the middle fell out of the field – and Larson slid up the track against Wallace. When Wallace didn’t pick up to give Larson a seat, Larson used his Chevrolet to push Wallace’s Toyota against the wall.

Wallace then jumped back onto the track, following Larson’s car to the apron and seemingly intentionally hooking him in retaliation. That put Larson in the path of Bell, who won in Charlotte last Sunday to earn the automatic berth in the last eight, ending Bell’s race.

Wallace got out of his car and walked toward Larson. Wallace yelled before he even got to Larson and immediately started shoving the smaller driver. Larson tried to turn away from him and raised his arms several times to deflect Wallace’s shove, but Wallace fired several shots before a NASCAR security guard separated the two.

Wallace said he did not intentionally destroy Larson, but both Larson and Bell viewed it as clear retaliation. NASCAR could fine Wallace if it also believes he is deliberately taking revenge. NASCAR said it would review the incident, which included Wallace urging an officer, and any penalties would be assessed next week.

“I’m smart enough to know how easily these cars break down. So if you were intentionally pushed against the fence, like he did when he tried to force me to lift, the steering was gone,” Wallace said. “Larson wanted to do a triple dive bomb but he never cleared me and I don’t lift.

“I know I’m a bit new to running in front, but I don’t lift. I wasn’t even in a spot to lift and he never lifted either and now we’re junk. Only [very bad] step of his execution.”

When asked what message he was trying to send Larson when he started pushing him, Wallace said, “He knows.”

“He knows what he did was wrong. He wanted to question what I was doing and he never acquitted me,” Wallace said.

As for Bell as collateral damage?

“Sport,” said Wallace, who, like Bell, is a Toyota driver, with a shrug.

Larson, who hit the wall in Charlotte last week to help get him out of the playoffs, said he wasn’t surprised Wallace hooked him.

“I obviously made an aggressive move [turn] three, got in low, detached, and chased it up a bit,” Larson said. “He came to my right front and it stuck him and into the wall. I knew he would get revenge. He had reason to be angry, but his race wasn’t over until he hit back.

“It is what it is. Only aggression turned to frustration and he retaliated.”

Larson said he felt Wallace’s fall was inappropriate given how closely NASCAR has been scrutinized regarding its new next-generation car. Alex Bowman, Larson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, is out for the third straight season with concussion and Kurt Busch was forced to retire following his concussion in July.

“I think with everything that’s been going on here lately, with head injuries… I don’t think it’s probably the right thing,” Larson said. “I’m sure whatever comes on he’ll know he made a mistake in the retaliation part and I’m sure next time he’ll think twice about it.”

He also said he expected Wallace to be combat ready when Wallace approached his crashed car.

“I saw him come over, so I thought he was going to do something,” Larson said. “He had every right to be upset. I would prefer if he does [fight] than tearing up our cars in a dangerous way.”

Bell, who finished 34th on Sunday and dropped to last place in the eight-rider playoff standings, said “we came up short” when Larson and Wallace tangled.

“It’s disappointing because our performance is capable of fighting for the championship and it doesn’t look like we’re going to make it,” he said.

Joey Logano became the first driver to qualify for the NASCAR Championship Finals by chasing down Ross Chastain on fresh tires and winning Sunday’s race.

https://www.espn.com/racing/nascar/cup/story/_/id/34810786/bubba-wallace-pursues-shoves-kyle-larson-crash-vegas Bubba Wallace pursues, shoves Kyle Larson after crash at Vegas

Emma Bowman

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