NASCAR driver Bubba Wallaces tries to battle Kyle Larson after a crash

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Bubba Wallace tried to take on reigning NASCAR champion Kyle Larson after Sunday’s crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that also collected title contender Christopher Bell.

Wallace led 29 laps and clearly had the fast car in the first race of the third round of the playoffs. Wallace did not qualify for the playoffs and Larson was eliminated last week.

Incident it started when Larson attempted a three-wide pass – Kevin Harvick in the middle dropped out of the pack – and Larson was sliding up the track against Wallace. When Wallace didn’t pull up to give Larson room, Larson rammed Wallace’s Toyota into the wall with his Chevrolet.

Wallace then bounced down the track, followed Larson’s car down to the apron and appeared to intentionally hook him in retaliation. That sent Larson into the path of Bell, who won at Charlotte last Sunday to earn an automatic berth in the Round of 16, ending Bell’s run.

Wallace got out of his car and walked toward Larson. Wallace yelled before reaching Larson and immediately began pushing the smaller driver. Larson tried to turn away from him and put his hands up several times to block Wallace’s punches, but Wallace landed more shots before NASCAR security separated the two.

Wallace claimed he did not intentionally destroy Larson, but both Larson and Bell saw it as clear retaliation. NASCAR could fine Wallace if it also believes he intentionally retaliated.

“I’m smart enough to know how easy these cars break, so when they intentionally push you into the fence like he tried to get me to go up, the steering is gone,” Wallace said. “Larson wanted to do a triple divebomb but he never released me and I’m not lifting.

“I know I’m a little new at running forward, but I don’t lift. I wasn’t even in a pick up spot and he never picked up either and now we’re trash. Just a (very bad) move to execute him.”

Asked what message he was trying to send to Larson when he started pushing him, Wallace said, “He knows.”

“He knows what he did was wrong. He wanted to question what I was doing, and he never gave me permission,” Wallace said.

And as for Bell becoming collateral damage?

“Sport,” Wallace, who like Bell is a Toyota driver, said with a shrug.

Larson, who hit the wall last week in Charlotte to contribute to his playoff elimination, he said he wasn’t surprised Wallace pinned him.

“Obviously I made an aggressive move in (turn) three, got in low, got loose and chased a little bit,” Larson said. “He got to my right front, and that got him and pushed him into the wall. I knew he would fight back. He had reason to be angry, but his run wasn’t over until he fought back.

“It is what it is. Just aggression turned into frustration and he fought back.”

He felt Wallace’s takedown of Larson was inappropriate given how much scrutiny NASCAR was under regarding its new next-generation car. Alex Bowman, who is Larson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, is out for the third straight race with a concussion, and Kurt Busch was forced to retire after suffering a concussion in July.

“I think with everything that’s been going on here lately, with the head injuries … I think it’s probably not the right thing to do,” Larson said. “I’m sure as things go, he’ll know he made a mistake in the revenge part and I’m sure he’ll think twice about it next time.”

He also said he expected Wallace to be ready to fight when Wallace approached his crashed car.

“I saw him walking, so I thought he was going to do something,” Larson said. “He had every right to be upset. I’d rather him do that (beat) than tear up our cars in a dangerous way.”

Bell, who will be seeded 34th on Sunday and is likely to remain last in the eight-driver playoff standings, said “we got the short end of the stick” as Larson and Wallace tangled.

“It’s disappointing because our performance is capable of racing for the championship and it looks like we’re not going to get there,” he said.

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