NASCAR fines Bubba Wallace $50,000 after knocking Alex Bowman's car into wall after Chicago Street Race

NASCAR penalized driver Bubba Wallace with a $50,000 fine Wednesday after Wallace knocked Chicago Street Race winner Alex Bowman’s car into the wall after the conclusion of Sunday’s race.

Wallace, angered by an incident earlier in the day which saw Bowman accidentally spin Wallace’s No. 23 car on a wet track, pulled up alongside Bowman’s No 48 car after the checkered flag and veered sharply left. The cars made contact and Bowman’s car hit a concrete barrier hard enough to briefly lift his right front tire off the ground.

An in-car camera shot showed an unprepared Bowman, who had his window net already dropped, getting jostled and then putting his hands up in a “what the…?” gesture.

Bowman later said he did not think Wallace should be penalized for the incident and repeatedly expressed remorse for the earlier crash which infuriated Wallace (who had been trying to race his way into NASCAR’s playoffs with Bowman as one of his primary competitors).

“I was fighting with my windshield wiper switch trying to get the thing working,” Bowman said. “I was focused on that, missed the corner and cleaned him out. I just messed up and absolutely ruined his day.

“He has every right to be mad; I’d be mad, too. I tried to call him during the rain delay and I shot him a text. Nothing I can do to make it better, and I’m sure us winning probably only makes it worse.”

Bowman added Wallace “barely hit me” and it was “plenty deserved.” But NASCAR officials saw it differently, because they viewed it as enough of a safety concern to issue a penalty.

There is a precedent for an angry driver being penalized after slamming his car into the race winner. In 2006, Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun out Carl Edwards during an Xfinity Series race at Michigan and Edwards then retaliated by driving into Earnhardt’s door while the driver’s hand was out the window. Edwards was fined $20,000 and issued an apology.

Significance of this fine

In the grand scheme of things, the dollar amount is largely inconsequential. Consider it a slap on the wrist.

But by fining Wallace, what NASCAR did was send a reminder that safety is paramount. To allow drivers to make intentional contact with one another after the race that sends a competitor into the wall — regardless of how minimal the contact is — sends the wrong kind of message, a potential catalyst for something consequential.

This penalty is NASCAR’s equivalent of writing a traffic ticket to remind drivers that safety must always be top of mind.

Drivers often put down their window nets and undue their safety belts on a cool-down lap, thereby creating a scenario where someone could get hurt. Sure, it may be unlikely, but all it takes is one avoidable situation for NASCAR to have a mess on its hands.

If drivers have an issue with one another, there’s a better way to handle it than on the cool-down lap.

What is confusing, though, is why Chase Elliott did essentially the same thing — minus sending Daniel Suarez into the wall. Was that really the difference between Wallace getting penalized, while Elliott escaped? The two incidents are too close for one to get slapped while the other doesn’t. — Jordan Bianchi, motorsports writer

Required reading

(Photo: Ben Hsu / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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