Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, North Wilkesboro, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Bubba Wallace flipped the bird on camera just before he was interviewed by Fox Sports’ Jamie Little after Sunday’s NASCAR All-Star Race.
After a runner-up finish behind Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson in Sunday evening’s NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace was about to be interviewed by Fox Sports’ Jamie Little in the pits.
As the driver of the No. 23 Toyota seemingly went to adjust the top of his fire suit, he visibly and relatively blatantly flipped the bird for everyone watching Fox Sports 1, and those in the immediate vicinity of him, to see. If he was indeed trying to hide it by “adjusting” his suit, he gets an E for effort, at best.
Given that it literally looked like he was flipping off the fanbase, some called for Wallace to be penalized. It didn’t appear to be out of frustration at another driver, though there were rumblings on social that it was directed at a few fans in particular.
Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass confirmed that NASCAR will not be penalizing Wallace in any way for the “inappropriate” gesture, indicating that the sanctioning body was under the impression that he had been doing it as more of a joke to a friend than anything intended to be offensive.
Bubba Wallace won't be penalized for flipping the bird on pit road after the race. It is NASCAR's understanding he was gesturing to a friend and while inappropriate, it wasn't done malicious.
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) May 22, 2023
The decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given how NASCAR has responded to similar instances of drivers flipping the bird while on camera.
Having said that, the idea that “it wasn’t done maliciously” is a strange reason for NASCAR to justify not penalizing him. They have let drivers off the hook before for the very same action when it was, in fact, done maliciously and clearly directed at another driver due to displeasure with something that had happened on the race track.
All things considered, a slap on the wrist was what this gesture warranted, and that’s what Wallace got.
You’d have to assume, however, that there may be further repercussions if it happens again, for obvious reasons.