Why Bubba Wallace’s $50,000 Fine Shows NASCAR’s Partial Behavior Towards Their Only Black Driver

It finally happened. After days of speculation, discussions, and rumors, NASCAR went ahead and fined Bubba Wallace $50,000 for door-slamming Alex Bowman during the cool-down lap at Chicago Street Course. Even though Bowman said he “deserved it”, referring to being door-slammed, and a similar incident between Chase Elliott and Daniel Suarez went unpunished, NASCAR went ahead and made an example of Bubba Wallace. Harsh? It certainly seems so.

The last time NASCAR awarded a penalty for a post-race and on-track tussle was back in 2009. Yes, that’s how long it has been. And it could have been worse, had the incident occurred during the race under caution, or if it had cost Bowman track positions. Luckily for Wallace, it was neither, as Bowman went on to win the race. While some may call Bubba Wallace fortunate, the 23XI Racing driver will hardly think so.

NASCAR’s glaring penalty inconsistencies

To understand Bubba Wallace’s intentions behind the cool-down lap incident, it’s important to know what occurred during the race. Starting in sixth place, Wallace was optimistic about getting a top-10 result at Grant Park 165, trying to keep his playoff hopes alive. However, on Lap 25, Alex Bowman, who attempted to clear his windshield, took a wrong turn and collided with Wallace, causing his No. 23 Toyota Camry to spin. As a result, Bubba Wallace lost valuable track positions and finished the race in 13th place, while Alex Bowman went on to secure his first win of the season.

Over the years, NASCAR has fined and docked points for various incidents after the race. Most recently, Carson Hocevar was fined $50,000 and a 25-point deduction for spinning Harrison Burton at Nashville Superspeedway. However, YouTuber Eric Estepp believes Bubba Wallace was judged harshly by NASCAR in this instance. Speaking on his YouTube channel, he said, “Go back to 2018, Truex Kamikazed Jimmy Johnson on the cool-down lap. No penalty. Denny Hamlin disrupted Alex Bowman’s victory celebration at Martinsville in 2021 and similarly no penalty.

“So as you can tell, I’m trying to make sense of this. Why was Bubba Wallace fined $50,000? Is it because he put Bowman in the wall? Chase Elliott put Denny Hamlin in the wall at Martinsville a few years back. Obviously wasn’t big contact or anything but that did happen. So is it just a mix of the contact between Bubba and Bowman being a little rough? Were they factoring in Bubba’s history at all?”


The penalty seems harsh, especially considering that Alex Bowman, who took full responsibility for the incident in Lap 25, dismissed the cool-down door slam. Moreover, with Chase Elliott not being held accountable for door-slamming Daniel Suarez, there certainly seems to be inconsistency in applying rules. Granted, the contact was less aggressive than Bubba Wallace’s, but if the objective is to discourage drivers from such incidents, rules should be applied to everyone.

In NASCAR’s defense, they may have deemed the incident dangerous, having found Bubba Wallace guilty of violating sections 4.4B & D: NASCAR Member Code of Conduct. Even though drivers are encouraged to keep their seatbelts on until the car comes to a complete halt, it’s not unusual for drivers to unbuckle and lower window nets during the cool-down lap, which means an incident like the one in Chicago could have caused a serious injury. After NASCAR’s verdict, fans had contrasting views about the incident and the penalty awarded to Bubba Wallace.

Fans react to Bubba Wallace’s fine

It didn’t take fans long to share their views about Bubba Wallace receiving a $50,000 fine for door-slamming Alex Bowman during the cool-down lap. For some fans, the reaction was unnecessary, especially because hours had passed by since the initial incident during Lap 25, which hence somewhat validated the penalty issued. Writing on X, one fan said, “Bubba should have been docked 25 points as well but I know NASCAR would really like him to make the playoffs. The sad thing is Bubba’s rage issue is being ignored. Why is that?”

Another fan felt that Bubba Wallace needs to show more restraint on track, especially since he’s driving the No. 23 Toyota for 23XI Racing, a team owned by the legendary Michael Jordan. The fan said, “Maybe some day he will learn to control his ISSUES,hasn’t learned yet though. This is just my opinion, but when you represent MJ and the #23,he needs to do a better job controlling his anger.”

Even though Chase Elliott got no penalty for door-slamming Daniel Suarez in the cool-down lap, one fan believed that the Hendrick Motorsports driver would have received a worse penalty if the tables were turned. “NASCARs golden boy. If Chase did something even remotely close to this, they’d fine him double and dock points. Maybe even a suspension”, wrote the fan on X.

Despite Alex Bowman taking responsibility for the incident on Lap 25, Bubba Wallace made no post-race comments. This prompted one fan to ask Bob Pockrass if the 30-year-old had taken any accountability for the incident, or given a generic statement. He said, “Has he even bothered to apologize or just the usual I need to be better.”

Bubba Wallace
Feb 14, 2024; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23) speaks with reporters during media day at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Echoing Freddie Kraft’s sentiments about the incident, that such incidents are a common occurrence in NASCAR, but it’s only Bubba Wallace who is subjected to intense media scrutiny and public backlash, one fan wrote, “That’s bullshit. That happens all the time”.

While Wallace’s actions aren’t defensible, the issue primarily lies in the penalties not being applied consistently. If Bubba Wallace is being held accountable, so should Chase Elliott, even if the contact wasn’t as aggressive. Remembering Elliott’s incident with Daniel Suarez in the cool-down lap, one fan wrote, “No fine for Chase and HMS isn’t that convenient.” Could it be a coincidence that NASCAR’s only black driver was subjected to a penalty?

For some fans $50,000 fine was a harsh punishment for some fans, while many others believed that Bubba Wallace deserved a points deduction. However, one fan was flabbergasted at this notion that the 30-year-old deserved a bigger penalty, saying, “Okay, all the people calling for a tougher punishment are crazy. This was no different than a dirty hit in football that drew a fine.”

It’s time NASCAR sets clear guidelines regarding penalties for post-race incidents, which are enforced consistently for all drivers in the three national series. By doing so, not only will they avoid unnecessary speculation and uncertainty, but it will also give clarity to the drivers about the repercussions of their actions. As a result, NASCAR will also be able to escalate punishments, to include points deductions and suspensions for repeat offenders.

What are your thoughts about Bubba Wallace receiving a $50,000 fine? Let us know in the comments!

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