NASCAR fans have a bone to pick with driver turned commentator Kyle Petty after he lobbed criticism at current driver Bubba Wallace ahead of the Cup Series playoffs.
Petty, the son of legendary driver Richard Petty, won just eight races over his nearly 30-year career. But he’s never afraid to be outspoken.
The latest drama stems from comments he made about Wallace’s decision to turn down interviews prior to last weekend’s race at Daytona.
Wallace held the last playoff spot entering the race and needed a strong showing to ensure he kept that spot heading into this weekend’s Cup Series playoffs.
“For professional athletes to refuse interviews is unacceptable in any game,” Petty said, via NBC Sports. “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.”
Those comments didn’t sit well with fans, who immediately shot back at Petty.
kyle petty is gonna be mentally fragile when I chop off his ponytail https://t.co/GiUHiNhrF2
— 🔪 (@cobradiazz) August 29, 2023
Kevin Harvick routinely turns down interviews post race if they are nonfactors idk why this is such a big deal. Should everyone pull a Kyle Busch "I'm just here so I don't get fined" every week??? Kyle Petty stays being the worst. https://t.co/ggNAbVvA2L
— Andrew Natalizio (@anatalizio0523) August 30, 2023
I knew someone was going to have a hot/bad take like this as soon as NBC said Bubba declined an interview before the race. Absolutely not shocked at all that Kyle Petty was the one to say it. https://t.co/F0omATxczz
— Jon Iaccino (@ji711) August 29, 2023
— TechnoRowdyEV (@EvTechno) August 29, 2023
Petty received similar backlash last season when he criticized another current driver, Ryan Blaney.
Wallace, meanwhile, didn’t back down.
“That was the most important thing,” Wallace said. “As much as talking to media is really important, I’m sorry [but] y’all don’t pay my bills.”
“You get back and you see that ‘Bubba Wallace is mentally fragile and doesn’t want to do interviews,’ and [my response was] I was good,” Wallace said, per Racing News. “I could have stayed on pit road [after the race] and talked to y’all for hours but I guess people handle their stress differently because absolutely, I was stressed to the max. I’ve never been stressed like that before. I’ve never been in this situation before.”
Wallace did grab the final playoff spot. He then back that up with a seventh-place finish in Sunday night’s Southern 500. The 23XI driver sits one point below the cut line now with two races left in the opening round of the playoffs.