By Pat DeCola | NASCAR.com
AVONDALE, Ariz. — NASCAR issued a behavioral penalty to Richard Petty Motorsports driver Bubba Wallace on Saturday for intentionally manipulating competition last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
The driver has been fined $50,000 and docked 50 driver points as a result.
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Wallace brought out a caution during a green-flag pit cycle when his car spun after a tire began going down. In a brief interview with NBC Sports’ Dustin Long on Friday, Wallace said the following when asked if he was worried about a potential penalty: “Until they do anything, no. I’m not the only one to do it.”
Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, met with media on Saturday morning at ISM Raceway to discuss the infraction.
“If we feel like it’s on purpose and we have enough information to determine that 100% it’s on purpose, we will react,” Miller said. “The reaction today was after a complete admission of guilt, so that’s really what led to the penalty happening today.
“… That was a full admission of something that has been abuzz in the garage and the media. (A warning instead of a penalty) wasn’t an option.”
Richard Petty Motorsports put out a statement shortly after the penalty was announced, accepting NASCAR’s decision and noting that Wallace will not appeal.
“We fully understand NASCAR’s position and expectations of its competitors,” said Philippe Lopez, Richard Petty Motorsports’ director of competition. “NASCAR has a difficult job officiating race events and we do not need to make the task more challenging. Wallace will not appeal the penalty, and will direct his immediate focus to this weekend’s event at the ISM Raceway.”
Kyle Larson, a playoff driver running in the top five at the time of last Sunday’s incident, and others had to alter their pit strategy at Texas as a result. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver was perhaps the most vocal to question if Wallace intentionally spun his No. 43 Chevrolet, and later Friday said his team looked at the data, which bolstered his claim.
“We looked at Bubba’s data the next day,” Larson said. “You could definitely see because we have SMT (SportsMEDIA Technology) where you have the digital car, you could see him like swerving, he turns right and at the same time he turns left and stabs the throttle and spins out. It’s whatever at this point.”
Miller, however, disagreed that the call was as black and white as Larson presented it.
“I would dispute that the data clearly shows (an intentional spin) … we don’t have a lot of data comparison of a guy trying to drive a car with a flat tire. So we’ve looked at all that and we don’t really feel it’s as straightforward as some of the others do as far as the data showing definitively that he did it on purpose.
With precedent now set and the message clear – “Don’t do it,” Miller cautioned – the hope is that this will not be an issue moving forward.
“We haven’t spoken to the drivers, but this obviously is going to start some dialogue. … We have the ability to react monetarily and points-wise, what we feel is appropriate. I’d say this is pretty substantial and hopefully sends the right message,” Miller expanded, adding that he hoped the ruling impacts how drivers react when they have flats going forward.
“All we can do is wait and watch and see how we need to react next.
“Hopefully we don’t. Hopefully, it cleans itself up.”