NASCAR: Should Bubba Wallace have been penalized?

Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Did Bubba Wallace deserve a penalty for his move through the grass on a late restart during Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race, one which netted him several positions?

One of the most confusing moments of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course took place on the final restart, when Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain went sailing into the turn one runoff area and took the escape road.

From his fourth place starting position, the move got him the lead over Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick.

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Reddick was able to retake the lead and win the race following the two-lap dash to the finish, but Chastain crossed the line in second place ahead of Team Penske rookie Austin Cindric in third.

It seemed fairly obvious that it was an unfair move by Chastain, and as you might expect, Reddick and Cindric were both left wondering if they were actually racing him for position.

As it turns out, they weren’t, as both Chastain and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, who did the same thing but in a far less significant manner in terms of the race result, were issued 30-second penalties. Chastain was officially scored in 27th place instead of second.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace, however, went unpenalized for his move. Should that have been the case?

On the penultimate restart, which was just as chaotic as the one that would follow suit, Wallace was pushed off the track in turn one of the 13-turn, 2.439-mile (3.925-kilometer) Speedway, Indiana road course.

Keep an eye on the orange #23 Toyota.

While he didn’t go through the escape road like Chastain and Dillon did, his move through the grass ended up gaining him quite a few positions.

The argument that he was “forced off” makes sense, but in last year’s race, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe was forced off as well, and all he did when rejoining the track was maintain his position. He ended up being penalized.

At the very least, it would have made sense for Wallace to have been forced to give a few positions back. While he had nowhere to go, he technically advanced his position over perfectly legal race cars that were not involved in the calamity with the route he took. Plus, we hear all the time about NASCAR’s lack of consistency.

But at the same time, even in the interest of consistency, it’s also hard to formulate a total argument against the no-call.

It definitely wasn’t deserving of a 30-second penalty like Chastain and Dillon got, and it definitely wasn’t deserving of a penalty that would have knocked him out of contention for a decent finish like the one Briscoe got last year (whether Briscoe’s was fair or not is another story). It was a product of evasive action after being run off the road under green flag conditions.

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Do you agree with the call? Would you have penalized Bubba Wallace for the move, even if that simply meant having him give a handful of spots back?