CONCORD, N.C. — Bent fenders and hurt feelings.
A five-hour thriller in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 had its fair share of drivers not getting along on the track and of a smattering of run-ins through the day-to-night event — peaking when two drivers had a heated exchange on pit road.
Bubba Wallace and Aric Almirola ran each other hard throughout the first portion of the race before a short rain delay paused activities around the 1.5-mile North Carolina track. However, the rain didn’t halt the frustrations between the pair as the two met on pit road, leading to an exchange of words and a shove from the driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
When it came to what happened on the track, Almirola said he was frustrated with how he was being raced by Wallace.
“Just early in the race, I felt like I was running him pretty clean and I felt like he was racing me pretty dirty,” Almirola said of their Stage 2 entanglements. “He ran me all over the race track and then he got by me and he shot me the bird so I just went to ask him ‘why are you throwing me the bird,’ like I gave him a lot of room and gave him a lot of respect and he started mouthing off and just saying a lot of bad things and cussing.
“I got my point across. I let him know that it’s not acceptable. He’s not gonna cuss at me and shoot me the bird.”
While Wallace was less explanatory of what occurred between Almirola and himself, he did provide a short reason for the conversation.
“Yeah. Passionate, man.”
Wallace added that he and Almirola “were racing hard for the second stage and we finished fourth;” a nod to Wallace’s finish in the race, which marked a career-high third straight top-five finish for the 29-year-old.
The incident with Wallace wasn’t the only adversity Almirola faced throughout the 600 miles as the No. 10 was caught up in a late-race, multicar wreck that began with Kyle Larson spinning from inside the top five and collecting Ty Gibbs, Christopher Bell and Joey Logano along with Almirola.
Almirola went on to finish 25th after the checkered flag.
Meanwhile, Wallace’s day was full of ups and downs. The No. 23 started inside the top 10 but faded to outside the top 20 in Stage 1 as the 23XI Racing team tried to make the proper adjustments to get the car in the right direction. Wallace also suffered issues on pit road, including the final stop that saw him have to stop and back up in his stall to get around Alex Bowman.
On the final restart with 20 laps to go, Wallace appeared to have one of the fastest cars in the field, moving from outside the top 10 to a fourth-place run to close an eventful day.
Neither Wallace nor Almirola were willing to go into specific detail on what was said and why the shove occurred but both finished their thoughts on the incident with slight jabs at one another.
“Just typical Bubba. He just runs his mouth. He’s got a chip on his shoulder so it’s all part of it,” Almirola said.
“When you walk around with two faces, that’s what you get,” Wallace said.