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  Debate

Debate

Is Dale Jr. right in backing Bubba Wallace, or is he missing the bigger picture?

The fallout from the Chicago Street Race has been both necessary and loud. Various infractions and incidents stretched well beyond its 58-lap finish. But, as usual, Bubba Wallace made the most noise, thanks to his fiery payback on Alex Bowman for an earlier incident. This happened while Bowman was still soaking in the emotions of breaking his 80-race winless streak.

This unnecessary yet viral incident doesn’t look good for the #23 driver. A hefty fine or even a points deduction could be on the way. Although Alex Bowman, Bubba’s former mentee, has been understanding of Bubba’s ill-tempered actions during the cool-down, the big debate is whether NASCAR will penalize or fine Bubba. And, as Dale Jr. pointed out, this issue is likely to leave many with divided opinions.

Dale Jr. suggests otherwise, asking the sports’ fire to remain as it is amid the penalty debate

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In a recent episode of the Dale Jr. Download, Junior sat down with Brad Keselowski’s spotter, TJ Majors, to discuss the various incidents that happened on the streets of Chicago last Sunday at Grant Park 165. It must have been a proud moment for Dale Jr. to have witnessed the driver he had once elected to replace him in the #88 Hendrick seat prove all the doubters wrong with a win and a guaranteed spot in the 2024 playoffs.

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As for Bubba Wallace? When Bowman spun him out following the Stage 2 restart, he was well within the Top 5, battling for his own spot in the playoffs. After all, the questions circling Bubba Wallace have only intensified as he now stands just 45 points below the bubble cut-line after a P13 finish in Chicago. Surely those frustrations were in play when Bubba decided to door-slam Bowman, knowing his actions on camera were certain to make headlines?

Contrary to many fans demanding a harsh penalty enforced on NASCAR’s most polarizing driver following his most recent controversy, Dale Jr. opined, “I do like the old throwback idea, that man, you know if you piss me off enough, I want to be able to drive up to your car and door you a little bit. Drivers need to be able to do those things.” 

“And if they (NASCAR) want to fine them. That’s fine. I don’t care. I don’t think the drivers mind too much. You know, 5,10, 15 grand. Don’t take points away. Don’t truly deter this, because this s*** is what racing’s about,” said Junior, wary of the potential excitement these incidents raise among fans, who are constantly asking for an upgrade in the current brand of NASCAR racing.

However, he did agree that “there is a line. There is a line where it’s too egregious. Just too aggressive, too dangerous. And you got to know as a driver, where that’s at.“

Bubba has been guilty of crossing that exact line Junior is talking about more than once, even with Alex Bowman. Some might remember that time in 2019 when he splashed water at Bowman from a bottle after getting spun out by the latter in the Charlotte ROVAL race. A few weeks later in Texas, Bubba made the wrong headlines yet again for admitting to spinning his car after losing a tire on the backstretch. This incident would warrant NASCAR handing him a $50,000 fine and a 50-point cutback for intentionally wrecking the competition.

The point is that incidents like these are barely uncommon and come far too often for Bubba Wallace. But moving the focus away from his tussle with Alex Bowman in the Windy City, the next most noticeable infraction, also under consideration for a penalty, came from an almost similar incident between two unlikely contenders, Chase Elliott and Daniel Suarez.

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Bowman’s ‘Most Popular’ Hendrick teammate had his moments with Suarez throughout the race. But their duel only caught everyone’s attention when a video was shared online post-race, which showed Elliott engaged in an animated conversation with Trackhouse Racing’s Mexican star.

The big issue? An aggressive final-lap move by Suarez on the rear of the #9 sent Elliott spinning into the Turn 11 tire barriers and out of contention for a top-10 finish. The race ended with Suarez placing in P11 and Elliott in P23.

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But what truly set the rumor mill rolling was another incident similar to Wallace’s actions on Bowman, but with the spotlight now trained on the #9 and the #99. Ironically, on the cool-down lap, Daniel Hemric’s in-car camera footage revealed Elliott expressing his frustrations toward Suarez with another door slam, plus a brake check and assumable words exchanged.

Dale Jr. talked about those developments, giving listeners a hint of Daniel Suarez’s own payback streak, stating, “You know, one thing I do know is you don’t mess with Daniel. Me and you were talking about this yesterday TJ. if you bump into that guy (Daniel) or mess with him. He has this reputation that he’s coming back. He’s going to get you back. You’re not going to get away with that.” 

Additionally, when Junior later asked TJ Majors if he thought the Bubba-Bowman situation was similar to that of Elliott and Suarez, he initially declined. But then he said that the only reason one could deem the two infractions similar is because one guy was “not happy with how they got raced by the other guy so they want to show their displeasure.” 

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Nevertheless, on the other hand, NASCAR has decided to wait out their penalty reports for Tuesday, possibly for some extra analysis to flesh out the details of their future statement. As per Bob Pockrass of FOX, No penalty report has been issued today so wouldn’t expect anything tonight as far as from the postrace Wallace-Bowman, Elliott-Suarez contact. Sometimes NASCAR takes until Wednesday and that appears to be the case this week.”

What comes of these controversially viral occurrences following Chicago? We must wait until Wednesday to find out.