This year, NASCAR moved the Las Vegas Motor Speedway fall race weekend back a month. The reason for the move was obvious. All three years that this race weekend was held in mid-September, temperatures hovered around 100 degrees for the races. That is simply not hospitable.
NASCAR and the track also insisted upon a start time prior to noon local time, which seemed rather early. As a result, the sun was still up when many of the assembled media members finished their work and left the track, a rarity for a race in October. Sunday’s race, albeit quite competitive, will be best remembered for the wreck that took out Bubba Wallace, Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell.
Viewers were able to see this crash live. Often times, the chief sign of an intentional wreck is to look at the drivers’ hands. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a camera angle that allowed me to see Wallace’s hands clearly. If this had been a night race, it could have been different. That said, it did look suspect.
NBC’s broadcast did show Wallace get out of his car before the AMR Safety Team got to him. That, in and of itself, is a penalty in NASCAR, unless there is a fire or other immediate hazard in the car, and has been since 2014. Walking away from the safety crew is also punishable (he walked onto a hot track). The shoving probably won’t draw a penalty, but it is still a bad look. I’d say that about anyone since I’ve never really been high on the whole “Boys, have at it” thing.
Jeff Burton came forward with strong opinions here. He was unhappy with Wallace’s actions and point-blank stated that it was unacceptable. His words do have some weight, especially with everything that’s happened recently.
Later on, NBC showed a replay with telemetry from Wallace’s car that indicated that Wallace was wide open on the throttle when he crossed the track to hit Larson. That doesn’t look all that great for Wallace.
In regards to the shoving, none of NBC’s camera angles really showed how forceful the first shove was. On NBC, it looked almost like Wallace slipped while going after Larson.
A fan in the grandstands somehow had a better shot of Larson getting shoved into his quarter panel.
Well here’s our angle of it – forgive my terrible iPhone video 😅 pic.twitter.com/LTXSwozkpf
— Saskia (@Sasskatt) October 16, 2022
Note that I had to search to find the original post of this video on Twitter. As with seemingly everything that involves Wallace, you have to find the right clip or you’ll end up amplifying the wrong people. As much as that “most hated driver” thing a few weeks ago seemed to make no sense at all (I couldn’t tell you what the methodology was), it was accurate in depicting Wallace as the most hated driver in NASCAR, and it’s not even close. A scenario like Sunday brings out the absolute worst side of some NASCAR fans, as well as opportunists from outside the fan base that love nothing better than to denigrate Wallace for all kinds of different reasons. It stinks.
Afterwards, Wallace had a somewhat contentious interview outside of the infield care center with Marty Snider where he accused Larson of poor execution in an attempt to force him to lift. In addition, he accused Snider of “fishing.” Basically, he thought Snider was trying to pull something out of nothing since he wasn’t admitting to any intentionality at the time while Snider was continuing to push him on it. In retrospect, it was somewhat surprising that Wallace even consented to the interview. He technically didn’t have to, even though there would have been substantial demand for it.
To be fair, this wreck did look pretty intentional. Yes, stuff breaks on the Next Gen car with a fair amount of regularity. To a layman, Sunday’s crash will look suspect.
Do I expect Wallace to be suspended? I’ve gone back and forth on it, but the recent track record in NASCAR would argue no. If he is, expect yet another appeal. At minimum, I’d expect a penalty of 30-40 points and a fine of around $125-150 grand for multiple penalties (getting out of the car when he did will draw a fine, regardless of whatever NASCAR concocts for the main penalty).
Despite a number of drivers not having the best opinion of the media that cover the sport, it’s actually pretty rare for that to come out on a broadcast. Wallace seemed to legitimately get upset with Snider, something that I cannot recall him doing before. Snider did well to cover for himself here.
In the process of this column being written, Wallace released a statement on Twitter in which he apologized for his actions on Sunday.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) October 17, 2022
I have absolutely no doubt that this apology will change the minds of anyone. Even at the best of times, Wallace is a polarizing figure in the sport. He has fans, but he has people that are more virulently against him than anyone I can honestly recall in my 30+ years of watching NASCAR with the possible exception of late 1990s Jeff Gordon when Gordon was winning seemingly every third week.
Outside of the aforementioned mess, you had a very competitive race that was a joy to watch. You also didn’t have the sheer number of tire failures that have been a plague on intermediate races this season, which makes me happy (Austin Cindric was an exception). NBC brought a good amount of on-track action to those watching. I believe anyone that watched the race would have been satisfied with the on-track product.
Post-race coverage was very brief if you were watching only on NBC. Despite the race being pretty quick for most of it, it ended right up against the end of the 3.5-hour timeslot. As a result, viewers only saw the winner’s interview with Joey Logano and a check of the points before NBC left Las Vegas to get to local news. That’s a little weak, to be honest.
If you have Peacock, then you got an additional half-hour of post-race coverage. Viewers on there got an additional eight interviews and some post-race analysis. Not everyone there was a playoff driver. Good to see drivers like Justin Haley (and his somewhat strange sunglasses) get some airtime.
Countdown to Green was quite brief, like the post-race coverage on NBC. It was scheduled as a half-hour show, but seemed less than that. It covered the big stories of the week (Kurt Busch’s not really a retirement retirement announcement, etc.), but didn’t really preview the race much.
Overall, NBC had a pretty good broadcast on Sunday. There was plenty of action to be had and they did a pretty good job in bringing the action to race fans.
Of course, this broadcast will be remembered for how they handled the Wallace-Larson mess. I found that coverage to work fairly well. As noted, they didn’t have the best angle of the initial Wallace shove, but they did have substantial audio of the crowd reaction to the conflict.
That audio was substantially different than normal. Usually, you hear a bunch of loud cheers. Here, you heard what sounded like jeers. It’s a very different feel that I’m not used to at a NASCAR race. It was obvious that everyone was fired up, with the possible exception of Larson. He seemed unusually mild-mannered, given the circumstances.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, NASCAR returns to South Florida for a tripleheader weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Saturday will be a doubleheader for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series (the Xfinity race has been lengthened back to 300 miles, where it should be). Sunday will see the NASCAR Cup Series race 400 miles at Homestead. Still think the finale should still be there, but they couldn’t sell the race out. I’d know. I covered the last five finales down there for Frontstretch.
In addition, Formula 1 returns to the United States for the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. The races are scheduled to start at nearly the same time, which is of course a dang mistake. TV listings can be found here.
For next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday, we’ll cover the action from Homestead. It should be an exciting weekend as Homestead does deliver the goods 80-95% of the time. Unless your name is Cole Custer and he decides to kick butt like he did in the Xfinity Series season finale in 2017.
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About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.