Bubba Wallace has been accused of anti-Asian hate for attacking Kyle Larson after they crashed at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
The confrontation began at Stage 2 of the South Point 400, where Wallace — who won Stage 1 — ended up racing side-by-side with Larson in Turn 4 of the track. Larson, who was driving the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, bumped Wallace’s #45 McDonald’s Toyota into the wall while trying to make a three-wide pass.
Wallace bounced back and followed Larson down to the apron, where he appeared to spin the latter out before they both crashed into the wall.
Wallace then exited his vehicle, charged toward Larson and shoved him against his Chevrolet. Wallace pushed Larson several more times before a safety worker managed to separate them.
It has been a challenging year so far for both drivers, with Wallace failing to qualify for the playoffs and Larson — the reigning NASCAR champion — being eliminated last week. Now, NASCAR is expected to penalize them for their latest actions.
“I’m smart enough to know how easily these cars break, so when you get shoved into the fence deliberately like he did trying to force me to lift, the steering was gone,” Wallace said after the race, as per the Associated Press. “Larson wanted to make a three-wide divebomb, but he never cleared me and I don’t lift.”
When asked to explain his actions after the crash, he simply said Larson “knows” why.
“He [Larson] knows what he did was wrong. He wanted to question what I was doing, and he never cleared me.”
But aside from a possible penalty, Wallace’s display of aggression has earned him allegations of racism and anti-Asian hate. Larson, who is visibly smaller in stature, is Japanese American.
“Bubba Wallace, who falsely claimed that someone hung a noose in his garage last year, violently attacks one of the only Asian drivers in NASCAR. Violence against Asians needs to stop,” conservative commentator Ian Miles Cheong wrote in a now-viral tweet.
Others echoed the sentiment:
While Wallace evidently shoved Larson, the accusations against him appear to be unfounded as he has not been reported to have uttered anything racist or anti-Asian during the incident. Additionally, the 29-year-old has no known history of anti-Asian behavior, and it was actually Larson who made headlines in 2020 after using the N-word during a virtual race.
Cheong, whose allegation appears to have received the most engagement thus far, also accused Wallace of making false claims about a noose the driver had found in his garage. Two days after a member of Wallace’s team reported the noose to NASCAR in June 2020 — and nearly a month after the police murder of George Floyd and the popular rise of Black Lives Matter — the FBI confirmed that it had been present in the garage since October 2019, but whether Wallace conjured a hoax has not been proven.
Besides Cheong’s, many of the anti-Asian claims lobbied against Wallace appear to stem from users who are not Asian and are critical of the Black Lives Matter movement, which the NASCAR driver has been a proponent of.
Larson, for his part, acknowledged that he made the initial aggression on Sunday but stressed that Wallace’s race “wasn’t over until he retaliated.”
“I obviously made an aggressive move into [turn] three, got in low, got loose and chased it up a bit,” Larson recalled, according to AP. “He got to my right front, and it got him tight and into the wall. I knew he was going to retaliate.”
Still, Larson said he prefers a fight over the potential damage that could have been done to their cars.
“He had every right to be upset. I would rather him do that [fight] than tear up our cars in a dangerous manner.”