Bubba Wallace returned to the track on Saturday at Martinsville Speedway and said he accepted his one-race suspension from NASCAR after wrecking Kyle Larson two weeks ago.
Wallace was the first Cup Series driver to be suspended for an on-track incident since Matt Kenseth in late 2015. Across the three national series, Johnny Sauter in 2019 in the Camping World Truck Series, had been the last driver to be sat for a race.
“I totally accept the penalty and the repercussions that came from my actions,” Wallace said. “I talked to [Steve] O’Donnell, and I talked to [Steve] Phelps, and I said, ‘Hey, I’m good with being the example if we can keep his consistent moving forward.’ Because it’s happened multiple times this year, and it’s something that may still continue to happen for other drivers down the road.
“I’ve definitely learned my lesson, but we have to be consistent with this, no matter if it’s here at Martinsville or Daytona or Talladega. We’ve got to keep it consistent across all the boards and all the series. So, that was the conversation. It was a good conversation.”
On lap 95 off Turn 4 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Wallace bounced off the wall while running side-by-side with Kyle Larson. After hitting the wall, Wallace hooked Larson in the right rear, crashing them both and collecting Christopher Bell.
Wallace sat out the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and John Hunter Nemechek drove the No. 45 Toyota. On race day, Wallace tweeted a photo from the command center at the 23XI Racing shop. In the caption, Wallace said he was eating humble pie for lunch.
“Sitting out [and] not being a part of your normal routine,” said Wallace of the toughest part of the suspension. “It’s unfortunate, but I tried to play a different part of the team than I was in the driving aspect of being there for the race and helping John Hunter predict the feel he needed for practice and qualifying and the race. But just sitting out and not being a part of your normal routine is the hardest part.”
Homestead had been a race Wallace said was circled on the schedule and he hated not being in the field. Nemechek was fastest in practice in Wallace’s car and was running in the top 10 in the race when he spun off Turn 2 and
“I was bummed,” Wallace said. “Legit bummed that I wasn’t racing. But I had to put that aside and still go out and help the team grow and continue to gain speed with those two drivers.
“What have I learned? You have to think before you do, and in this sport, it’s the heat of the moment type things that get you. So, seeing that, going back and looking from a 10,000-foot view, I definitely could have handled everything way different and been in a different spot.
“I put myself in a bad light. I put our team in a bad light. Our sponsors. It’s something I’m not proud of but moving on, moving forward. Not allowed to make that mistake again.”
Denny Hamlin said last weekend that 23XI Racing also handled things internally with Wallace but did not elaborate on how. Wallace’s name did not appear on his car last weekend in his absence, and Wallace said the organization was “mad at me, which was fine”.
Hamlin and Michael Jordan were “understanding of the heat of the moment type things,” said Wallace, “but they were very adamant on how we need to handle those five seconds later.
“Like I said earlier, think before you do.
“That was the biggest thing. They still support me, and we’re here, and we just have to go out and continue to build this team up.”
In his apology the day after the Vegas race, Wallace expressed regret for his actions but did not mention Larson. Wallace and Larson have since spoken and everyone is moving on.
“I’m not coming back with a vengeance or anything,” Wallace said. “We’ve just got to continue to do what we’ve been doing.
“And for the record, I have talked to Larson. We had a great conversation this week, and I think the best thing for us is we both understand where our frustrations were and [know] moving forward on how we both can handle those situations better.”