Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBC Deals With Bubba Wallace-Kyle Larson Fallout in Las Vegas

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.

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.

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.

If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below. Even though I can’t always respond, I do read your comments. Also, if you want to “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, please click on the appropriate icons. If you would like to contact either of NASCAR’s media partners, click on either of the links below.

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As always, if you choose to contact a network by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.

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.

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Bill B

I noticed that the lame, perfunctory apology did not include an apology to Larson for trying to kill him with the car or the multiple physical attacks after he got out of the car.

jdquick

That’s OK Bill, don’t worry, Wallace is the chosen one and can do no wrong. Just one more reason NASCAR is losing fans by the droves.

Jeremy

Ooh! What do you think would have happened if Bubba had hit the other “Golden Boy” Elliott instead? Enquiring minds want to know! lol

Steven

Kyle Larson has more class in his big toe than Bubba has in his entire body.
One is a Champion, the other is a loser. I hope Nascar makes an example of Wallace the drama queen regarding his violent tendencies. When I saw him stomping towards Kyle I thought he was concerned for his safety. Sportsman of the year! I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Jeremy

Concerned for Kyle’s safety? Really? The same guy that went after and threw water in the face of a competitor that was on the ground and unable to defend himself? The same guy who just purposely hooked the right rear of Kyle’s car to intentionally wreck him? You will be sorely disappointed if you keep thinking this guy will ever display any sportsmanship or class.

Al Sorensen

Hmmm, this “apology” seems to miss some very important content: not only Kyle Larson’s name but also his wife and kids… Seems pretty empty, and no doubt forced by sponsors…

RCFX1

William Byron thinks he was right too. Nascar has now drawn a line that retaliation during a caution is punishable. Getting out of your car and starting a physical confrontation is not allowed as well. Luckily, Larson didn’t shove him back. This is all Bubba’s mess. He should be fined for each offenses and put on probation for the rest of the season.

Chris

I understand all the attention on Bubba and his actions (as they should be) but I also have to add my that I wonder why any of the people around Larson didn’t intervene when Bubba was going after him? It was a long walk over to Larsons car and I’d like to think that someone from NASCAR would’ve have been on someone’s headset trying to head off Bubba doing additionally stupid stuff. I just don’t get why this is allowed. I’m just thinking that let’s say Larson swung his helmet while Bubba was pushing him and it caused some serious damage or that Bubba pushed Larson down and he was knocked out hitting the side of the car. It just seems to me that NASCAR just lets it happen, and will continue to let it happen until something serious does occur which they will then release a statement saying they take these things very serious.

johndawgchapman

While NASCAR is adding up the infractions of this altercation. They can also add one for altering the outcome of a race, for taking out Bell. I know he was collateral damage, but it was a direct result of a deliberate wreck. At least when Byron retaliated against Hamlin, he had the class to admit it, not lying about it.
I don’t expect Wallace to be parked, & docking points, & a stiff fine would seem to be the most realistic outcome, & both will cost the team $$. If the 45 car wasn’t already out of contention for the owner’s championship that was settled when he decided to use the car as a weapon, so $$ is about the only real penalty now.

Jeremy

Usually by now there would be an announcement on jayski if NASCAR was reviewing an incident. So unfortunately, it appears the only thing NASCAR is adding up are how many internet clicks/views Bubba’s poor behavior is racking up for them. They are clearly ignoring the incident and hoping it goes away.

Jeremy

Apparently I stand corrected. But only 1 race where others have received 2… Was still more than I expected he’d get.

johndawgchapman

This should have come with at least a 100K fine, & have been at least 2 races

Christopher

Wallace is a punk. Attacked an incapacitated Alex Bowman a while back, now attacks Larson, a guy a foot shorter and 30 pounds lighter. Big brave Bubba. Would bet money you don’t see him attacking someone like Corey LaJoie, who would bend him into a pretzel.

Charlie

Good recap. It was a compelling race, even without the antics. This is a no-win for NASCAR. Thanks for the article.

Steve R

Wallace showed the world who and what he really is, SCUM

Ron

Did you folks also notice that when Bubba walked back to his pit, he was fist bumping with his crew members. I guess nobody had any regrets yet at that time.

Steven

Hey Rob, thanks for your comments. The broadcasters would not mention the fist bumping, even if they were aware. I thought the Danica sugar daddy ride was obscene. This it worse. If people don’t like Bubba they are called racist. That’s Nascar WOKE.

Carl up North

NASCAR, the NBA is calling! They want Bubba and his anger issues in the NBA. He’s a better fit there with the other players.

Grandma Nixon

A 1 race suspension? How sad for NASCAR. It seems they r intent on destroying their own name and sport. As a fan we used to hav faces that represented NASCAR , the decision makers. Now most of us hav to use Google to find out whom they are!Again how sad. When u let any driver, push an official, walk out on a track ignoring track officials talk disrespectfully to media, attack another driver just to name a few, don’t they kno we have young kids watching this sport what message are you sending to them? They need to kno their are consequences for their bad and or heated decisions but when NASCAR more or less gives them a time out , that’s a wrong message they are telling the younger generation. Shame on NASCAR whomever you are

Tom B

The only thing Bubba said right was Marty Snider was ‘fishing’. Why didn’t Marty ask about all the ‘fist pumping’?

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