Through the Field: The Game of Retaliation
“Through the Field” is a seasonal column by Elliot Hicks. It follows the NASCAR season and provides broad driver analysis to support Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and NASCAR betting. Elliot is in his third season writing the column and sharing his perspective on life with the In-Between Media community. This week, he talks about actions and consequences following Bubba Wallace’s outburst in Sunday’s race. He also shares his NASCAR DFS and betting picks ahead of the Dixie-Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The big story in the NASCAR world this week is, of course, the actions of Bubba Wallace during the race at Las Vegas.
Wallace and Kyle Larson were battling for position when Larson lost some handling on his car and ran Wallace into the wall. Wallace immediately retaliated, spinning out Larson’s No. 5 and his own No.23 while also damaging a car still active in the playoffs, Christopher Bell’s No. 20.
Then Wallace walked over to Larson and began to shove him once they were both out of their cars.
Retaliation Making the Whole World Blind
Much of the NASCAR world is dropping the hammer on Wallace, and I’ll do that too, to an extent. But we cannot ignore that many of us have certainly had those heat-of-the-moment thoughts when we feel justice is best served an eye for an eye. Those times when we want just to scream, shout and shove the person or entity we feel is responsible for the wrongdoing.
However, this form of justice being executed at hundreds of miles per hour in a vehicle that has resulted in two drivers currently sidelined with concussions and another who had to miss a race due to ligament injuries is not acceptable.
It’s something Denny Hamlin, Wallace’s team owner who has been wronged on the track this year, has said drivers need to keep in mind when factoring in retaliation. The storyline most of the year was “when is Hamlin going to get back at Ross Chastain and others for earlier incidents?” The answer may be, and should be, never (or at least not until next season).
The risk is just too great, and I understand the one-race suspension NASCAR chose to impose upon Wallace.
But let’s not forget that we still had an exciting race Sunday, with Joey Logano winning to punch his ticket to the Championship 4. With two more chances left to advance and race for a championship, here’s who I have my eye on for this weekend’s race at Homestead-Miami.
Top Picks Heading Into Homestead-Miami Speedway
Ross Chastain & Denny Hamlin: I’m grouping these two together because of their rivalry throughout the season. but the fact that it will certainly be dormant for the rest of 2022 will be to the advantage of both drivers. I don’t think either driver will be overly aggressive toward the other, but both will likely be running around each other upfront for most of the day.
Hamlin has won three times at Homestead-Miami Speedway, most recently in 2020. Interestingly, he has started on the pole in the last five races here (of course, some of those were set via the qualifying metric rather than running the fastest qualifying lap). Chastain has two Xfinity top-10s here and has finished no worse than seventh in four of the five most recent oval races in the Cup Series.
Christopher Bell: Christopher Bell doesn’t have a win at Homestead, nor are his results unbelievably spectacular here in the top three series. But he’s my gut-feeling pick of this week. No matter how things look for Bell in the 2022 playoffs, he’s been able to come through, overcome adversity and keep moving forward. The team’s win at the Charlotte Roval was the only way they could advance into the Round of 8. It’s likely it’ll take a win here or at Martinsville to advance now. I’m hardly more confident in any other team to get that done.
Tyler Reddick & Noah Gragson: Both of these non-playoff drivers could easily spoil the party in Miami. Both drivers have run extremely well at this track in the past. With both also in competitive Cup rides at the moment, they have every chance in the world to take a checkered flag.
Tyler Reddick has finished no worse than fourth in his two Cup races here. He also won here twice in Xfinity to claim his back-to-back titles in that series.
Noah Gragson was well on his way to an Xfinity win here last season before being crashed out by a lapped car. He has finished top five in his three other Xfinity races here.