This past week has seen a great deal of activity on social media over the suspension of Bubba Wallace for one race after NASCAR officials determined that he intentionally wrecked Kyle Larson in the early laps of stage two in the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  The wreck resulted in Wallace, Larson, and Christopher Bell, who was caught up in the melee, being out of the race.  After the crash Wallace exited his car and made for Larson where he proceeded to shove Larson in an attempt to provoke a fight. 

Any or all of these incidents could have resulted in a penalty for violating the NASCAR rule book; however, officials chose only to suspend Wallace over the crash itself.

The one game suspension of Bubba Wallace was the first time in seven years that NASCAR has suspended a Cup Series driver.  While the owner of the car may replace the suspended driver, the driver loses any points that would have been earned from the race.  And even though the driver is out of the playoffs, there are still positions…and money…to be earned toward bonuses at the end of the season.  And in most cases, a driver being forced out of the car can be a devastating affair mentally.

Former driver and current NBC broadcaster Kyle Petty has been very vocal about the suspension and his opinion that NASCAR did not go far enough.  Petty feels that the suspension should have lasted for the remainder of the season – three races – instead of just one.  Petty is not alone in his thinking…so does social media.

However, in a rare moment, a majority of the drivers agree with the way NASCAR has been handling penalties in recent weeks.

Wallace’s suspension came on the heels of Stewart-Haas Racing and Cole Custer being penalized for his attempt to “artificially alter” the outcome of the race on The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.  There were no suspension of Cole Custer but the 41 crew chief Michael Shiplett was suspended indefinitely and fined $100,000; Car owner SHR and Cole Custer were each docked 50 owner and driver points.

Chief operating office of NASCAR Steve O’Donnell noted that when it comes to suspending a driver, “it’s been very rare, if ever, that we suspend drivers, so we don’t take that action lightly.”

The message has been sent, but have the drivers received it???

Several years ago, NASCAR adopted a policy “boys have at it” when it came to on track disputes that at times led to some aggressive discussions involving fists; but NASCAR has drawn the line when it came to the “intentional” wrecking of each other on the track.  Trouble was, they often weren’t sure when it was intentional unless a driver admitted it.

Responding to the question of whether or not a message has been sent, driver of the Team Penske number 22 car Joey Logano said, “yeah, I would say (NASCAR has sent a message). Yeah, I would.   NASCAR’s like your parents a lot of times, right? … You gotta let the boys figure it out sometimes, and they’ll figure it out together and move on. Or mom and dad have to step in a little bit and control the situation because it’s gotten out of hand. So I believe NASCAR kind of decided that it was a little getting out of hand. And I would agree with them.”

He continued, “I think there’s, I mean, there’s a few things that kind of go to all that stuff, right? What’s acceptable to NASCAR; what’s acceptable to you, as an individual? … I always say sports test your morals and test your character a lot of times, and it’s sometimes tough to balance all that in the heat of the moment. It’s hard, right? It’s hard to imagine yourself inside of a race car if you haven’t done it before. And you sometimes make decisions that you’re not proud of later on. But you learn lessons every time. I’ve made mistakes and made dumb decisions inside race cars, and I regret them, but I learned from every one of them. And I feel like I really know where my line is now. Fifteen years later, but (I’ve found) where my line is and what I feel is acceptable or not on the race track.”

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney who drives the number 12 car added, “It’s NASCAR’s decision; whatever they thought was the right thing to do and that kind of case, that’s all NASCAR’s kind of judgment call. And they did what they thought was fit for it.  I personally think it’s good that NASCAR’s putting the law down, right? Like, (laying) the hammer down on things that they think (are) wrong. … I mean, that’s the only way you can kind of police it, right? You have to do those things. And at the end of the day, it’s their call. They see something that they don’t like, I expect them to act on it, and they have the last couple of weeks.”

Trackhouse Racing’s driver of the number 99 car Daniel Suarez added his thoughts to the matter saying “honestly, it hasn’t changed anything in the way I think or the way I do things because, in my opinion, all those moves were extremely, extremely dumb. Both of them.”  Suarez was eliminated from the playoffs in Charlotte after he lost the power steering in his car and finished the race four laps down after manhandling the car around the 17 turn road course.  Trackhouse teammate Ross Chastain is still a part of the round of eight playoff drivers.

Suarez continued, “and I was going to be extremely surprised if there were not penalties. Like, before even those situations happened, I would never do something like that. I mean, not that clear. You have to be smarter. I don’t know what those guys were thinking. I’m glad NASCAR reacted to this because, you know, when is too much? When is it too much, helping a teammate like that? And people know I’m gonna race. I race everyone very hard. But yeah, in the next few weeks, I’m gonna race Ross not super hard, because he’s my teammate. … I will never give up a win to help him, you know? But definitely, my level of aggression to my teammate right now is gonna be a little bit lower. I will never brake to give up a position. I know the consequences of that. That’s not professional. The same thing, wrecking somebody in the way that happened last week, it’s just not smart, especially with everything that is happening right now. So, honestly, I’m glad that NASCAR stepped in and they were able to put everyone in their places because it was too much.”