NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace not sharing details of last altercation with Aric Almirola

Bubba Wallace looks on before driver introductions at a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Sunday, June 16, 2024, at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

LEBANON, Tenn. (AP) — Bubba Wallace refused Saturday to discuss the details of the physical altercation in late May that led to the suspension of Aric Almirola by Joe Gibbs Racing, saying he preferred to “keep some people's images good.”

Wallace spoke after qualifying for Sunday's Cup Series race at the Nashville Superspeedway, briefly addressing an altercation that was first reported by The Athletic on Thursday.

“I think I said enough at Charlotte last year, so all in all life is good for me,” Wallace said. “That (expletive) happened over a month ago, and a lot of goods come my way. And that’s what I’m focused on. Focused on getting our stuff turned back around.”

During a rain delay at the Coca-Cola 600 last year in Charlotte, television cameras caught Almirola shoving Wallace during a rain delay after the two exchanged words. Wallace also declined to say what sparked that altercation except to say he wasn't surprised.

“When you walk around with two faces, that’s what you get,” Wallace said then.

The Athletic first reported the altercation and resulting suspension Thursday for an altercation during the weekly competition meeting before the May 25 Xfinity race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That meeting includes drivers from both Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing with both teams using Toyotas.

Almirola retired as a full-time driver after 460 career starts at the end of the 2022 season to spend time with his family.

He returned this offseason with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity program and won April 6 at Martinsville. He was listed as the driver of the No. 20 at Charlotte only to be replaced May 22 on the entry list with Ty Gibbs who finished ninth in that race.

Christopher Bell drove the car to victory last weekend in New Hampshire before winning the Cup Series race the next day. John Hunter Nemechek is listed as the driver in that car for Saturday’s Xfinity race at the Nashville Superspeedway, the Tennessee Lottery 250.

Denny Hamlin, who won the pole for Sunday's Cup Series race, is Almirola's JGR teammate. He's also co-owner of Wallace's 23XI Racing team. Hamlin said he did not witness what happened and that it's all “hearsay” for him.

“At 23XI, we let Joe Gibbs Racing handle it and they did what they saw fit,” Hamlin said. "So again, I don’t know all the details, but I don’t want to get too much into the personal business.”

Almirola reportedly is expected back for the Xfinity Series race July 20 at Indianapolis.

Wallace hasn't won yet this year on the Cup Series, yet he ranks 15th in the points race. He's just outside the cutoff for the playoffs with four top-fives, including second at the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro. The driver for 23XI said Saturday that off the track he's focused on his wife and baby boy.

“Things are good for me off track,” Wallace said. "Not so much on track. That’s what we’re focused on right now. So there you go. That’s the only question you’ll get.”


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