Kyle Petty called out Bubba Wallace after the August 26 Daytona race for not giving NBC a pre-race interview, suggesting the driver was “mentally fragile” and might not be suited for NASCAR. During the pre-race show at Darlington, the 23XI Racing driver not only answered questions, but returned fire at the broadcaster, including dropping a curse word on national television.
Petty started the exchange during the August 28 edition of the NASCAR on NBC podcast after the regular-season finale on the 2.5-mile superspeedway, where Wallace finished 12th and, more importantly, secured his first berth in the playoffs on points. During the show, the former driver candidly called out the 29-year-old and Ty Gibbs for declining interviews before the Daytona race.
“For professional athletes to refuse interviews is unacceptable in any game,” Petty said. “Unacceptable to your fans. Unacceptable to the sport. It’s just not — Ty Gibbs did the same thing. He didn’t want to do an interview.
“I don’t know how these guys think that’s acceptable in any world because that’s what you’re here for. That’s what they pay you the money for. And it’s that stupid saying — that’s why you make the big bucks, dude. You got to handle it. Put it on your shoulders and carry it. If mentally he is that fragile, then maybe this is not the game for him. You know, honestly.”
Bubba Wallace Returns Fire at Petty Before Darlington
Making his first appearance in the postseason at Darlington, NBC caught up with Wallace during the Countdown to Green show, where reporter Dave Burns asked the driver about his No. 23 car heading into the race. He obviously had Petty’s comments on his mind.
“Well, I’m just here fulfilling my media obligations before the race,” Wallace started, mimicking similar comments from Kyle Busch at Phoenix in September 2019.
“I got a word count, though. I start speaking too many words; I get really anxious and mentally fragile. Now, on to the s— that matters,” he said, before addressing the reporter’s question.
Bubba Wallace Got in Trouble Earlier This Year During Interview
For Wallace, this isn’t the first time in 2023 that he’s made headlines for an interview. The other came during All-Star Race weekend at North Wilkesboro.
After a solid race, where he finished second behind Kyle Larson, the 23XI pilot visited with Fox’s Jamie Little, who asked what it would have taken to catch the Hendrick Motorsports car. During the reporter’s question, the driver ran his hand over his mouth before grabbing the collar on his firesuit. And that’s when he flashed the middle finger.
“I don’t know. I think we needed the louvers and whatever cheated up stuff they have on there,” Wallace said laughing. “No, his capability throughout the whole run. He can attack hard and have something there at the end.”
Some criticized the gesture on social media. The driver addressed the bird incident before the June 4 race at Gateway and offered some interesting remarks about making headlines.
“People think that I love to stay in the headlines for different reasons and I actually hate it,” Wallace admitted. “It’s funny how it all works out. How the finger has become such a big thing when Bubba Wallace does it, but you have guys that get wrecked and get dumped on the track and they walk out on the track and shoot one bird, shoot the double bird and we laugh about it, move on, and we tell them that they’re number one.”
First the finger. Now avoiding an interview. His latest comments will certainly be criticized. But it’s safe to assume Wallace doesn’t care because he’s letting his performance on the track do the most important talking.