Following the Bank of American ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday (Sept. 29), Bubba Wallace confronted Alex Bowman regarding their lap 43 dust up that sent Wallace into the wall exiting the backstretch chicane. As Bowman was being treated by medical personnel due to illness and dehydration, Wallace threw Gatorade into the face of the No. 88 driver.
Did Wallace’s actions cross the line and warrant intervention from the sanctioning body, or is this just a continuation of “Have at it, boys,” and drivers settling things among themselves? This week, Clayton Caldwell and Vito Pugliese go after it … in an equally violent manner.
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Have at it, boys? Really? The term that was uttered by Robin Pemberton almost a decade ago now is long dead. Pemberton, for the record, is no longer a part of NASCAR and has not been for some time now. There are certain things that NASCAR has done in the past that have proven that theory is dead. If it wasn’t, then what would we be debating this week?
Anyway, back to the debate. I wasn’t a big fan of Bowman moving Wallace the way he did, but there comes a time and a place in someone’s career where enough is enough.
Take a driver like Joey Logano for example. Logano was in a similar boat with a similar reputation when he was at Joe Gibbs Racing. He got pushed around and raced differently because he was viewed as a kid who didn’t know any better.
Then, he took out Denny Hamlin in a race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and things suddenly began to change. He went from a kid who was pushed around and taunted by other drivers to a man who people realized not to mess with anymore. His reputation completely changed after the incident.
The numbers prove it. Logano won two races in four seasons at JGR. In the four seasons after his incident with Hamlin, he went to victory lane 15 times. There’s no doubt a change of scenery did Logano well, but so did a change in reputation.
Speaking of reputation, Bowman’s is slowly changing. He’s not looked at as a villain yet, but the shy, quiet persona that he has displayed during his career so far is now starting to be replaced by a tough, vocal side. While some may look at his actions with Wallace as pointless, don’t you think Wallace will now think twice before getting Bowman angry? You bet he will, and that’s the point. If you think Wallace was the only one who learned that lesson this weekend, you’re wrong. The whole garage area is now aware of Bowman’s no-nonsense mentality.
No more Mr. Nice Guy should be the theme for the rest of Bowman’s 2019 season. He may not win another race and he may not win the championship, but the message he is sending the garage area may be even more important.
Bowman is showing he is here to stay, compete and win races. His championship hopes can be considered a long-shot at best, but I think Sunday proved he is not going down without a fight and his desire to win the championship hasn’t wavered at all.
He has now shown he will not get pushed around nor will he take anyone doing him wrong. Drivers will drive just a bit more cautiously around Bowman, knowing that if contact is made, they may get some payback.
I don’t blame Wallace for being angry at Alex Bowman and I don’t think think NASCAR should have interfered. However, I think Bowman had had enough of Bubba’s antics throughout the year and decided to end it right then and there.
My favorite saying is, “Don’t play with fire if you’re afraid of getting burned.” Wallace played with fire on Sunday and got burned by Bowman, who sent him into the wall. He should consider that a lesson learned. Both drivers will talk it out, shake hands and move on without any penalty from NASCAR. That’s the way it should be. – Clayton Caldwell
Power-Bomb, Compliments of Captain Insano
The Bank of America ROVAL 400 race on Sunday was an evolution of last year’s wildness in its inaugural event. What many have deemed (accurately) as “a big, dumb, stupid, fun event” didn’t disappoint this year after Chase Elliott sent it into the Tums barrier on the frontstretch, rallied back to win, then ghost-rode the car following a post-race burnout in the same location. The final few laps also saw some late-race heroics and some legitimate DRAMA (capitalization for emphasis) as Bowman, struggling with an illness all weekend, managed to work through traffic and move into second place – just enough to get him above the cutline to stave off a round one elimination from the playoffs. That’s not to say his race didn’t have additional challenges to contend with beyond being sick and the unseasonably hot weather.
In a twist of irony on lap 43, Bowman sent the No. 43 sailing into the oval’s Turn 3 wall after he tired of seeing Wallace’s second digit out the window. To show his revulsion for such brazen disrespect, Bowman spun Wallace coming out of the backstretch chicane. Wallace, who throughout his career has had no issue with confronting anyone who runs into him on the track, went up to Bowman’s car. Bowman was seated on the ground being tended to by EMS workers, administering fluids and checking his vitals. Wallace, sizing up his compromised opponent, leaned in, and callously doused him with what appeared to be a handful of Gatorade on a 94-degree day.
“What a barbaric display of inhumanity!” they would declare with clenched fists in both print and on the airwaves. How could Wallace, who was just intentionally wrecked into an immovable object at speeds around 100 mph, have the audacity to splash a toddler-sized sippy cup full of cool, refreshing liquid into the face of his assailant and then –and only then – be absolved of any wrongdoing less than 48 hours later.
I’m tellin’ yas, this country is being FedEx-ed to hell in a handcart.
Now that we’ve suspended the hysterics, the faux outrage some have expressed over the incident is laughable at best. The overselling of everything is as ridiculous as the picture painted above. First of all, he didn’t “throw his water bottle at him.” That’s what Rusty Wallace does to Dale Earnhardt and Ricky Rudd does to his crewman. He had a half-empty (or half-full, being the eternal optimist that I am) bottle of Gatorade and splashed a little in his face. From the sound of things, you’d think he went manically screaming, flying over the top of everyone like Bobby Boucher in The Waterboy to get to him.
But he was being tended to by medical personnel!
Yeah, I saw that. They didn’t exactly have him on a backboard with a neck brace on or the paddles out to shock him, did they? There was so much concern for him that after he exited his car under his own power, his crewman just walked up and handed him a bottle of water – and then walked away. He didn’t even help him take his helmet off. But to hear some talk, he basically tried to smother him in a hospital bed like the doctor did to Nordberg in The Naked Gun.
Then, there’s the other item that those up in arms seem to overlook: Bowman intentionally wrecked Wallace for giving him the finger and ruining the day of a team that does what it can with significantly less resources than Hendrick Motorsports.
Bowman has said since that it’s been building throughout the year after a number of similar instances. So you do that in a playoff race – setting yourself up for retaliation later on when it really might count?
Could Wallace have chosen a better time to confront him? Yeah, sure. But what fun would that be? By then you’re going to cool off and think better of it. It’s always best to act impulsively in the heat and humidity of the moment. Besides, this is the ROVAL we’re talking about. That course is basically becoming Bowman Gray Stadium minus law-enforcement intervention.
So for everyone complaining about vanilla drivers and mandated behavior, sorry to pour some cold Gatorade on those sentiments, but what Wallace did wasn’t exactly a Stone Cold Stunner followed by pouring a beer out on his head. – Vito Pugliese