NASCAR star Bubba Wallace is no stranger to controversy.
It's perhaps that penchant for drama that has turned the 29-year-old Wallace into something of a pro-wrestling villain in the world of NASCAR. Wherever he goes, he's often greeted with a chorus of boos from fans of the sport.
That bubbling ugliness came to a head in North Carolina over the weekend when some of NASCAR's biggest stars gathered at North Wilkesboro Speedway for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race on Sunday.
Before that main event, however, there was the Tyson 250, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday.
It was a solid, if ultimately disappointing, finish for Wallace, who held a lead at one point before stumbling all the way to fifth due to worn tires.
After the event, while taking questions, Wallace was booed by fans, which prompted a reporter to ask him how he felt about that.
To his credit, he largely brushed off the negative reaction as being just a part of sports, but he did take a parting shot at the jeering fans and their pocketbooks.
"Hey, as long as you continue to live your life, judging a book by its cover, that’s who you are,” Wallace told reporters. “Don’t change it up for anybody else. That’s the biggest thing. That’s fine. I mean I finished fifth.
"I got a good payday. I’m good."
The boos for @BubbaWallace after today’s truck race & during driver intros were very loud at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
A @wsoctv reporter asked a great question about how/if that affects Bubba.
— Noah Lewis (@Noah_Lewis1) May 20, 2023
Wallace appeared to carry some of that resentment over to Sunday.
After finishing a sterling second place in the All-Star Race, he appeared to slip a little middle finger for all of NASCAR fandom to see:
WARNING: The following video and tweets contain imagery some viewers might find offensive.
— Charlie Waffles (@CWaffles) May 22, 2023
Social media quickly caught onto the brief, but seemingly deliberate, gesture from Wallace:
— d (@robertsonderek4) May 22, 2023
— i am kirks complete lack of playoff success (@thelimoseats8) May 22, 2023
I wonder who Bubba Wallace was giving the finger to after the race? pic.twitter.com/5xrPL2876z
— David Posey (@DavidPosey1414) May 22, 2023
While it's not clear who, exactly, Wallace was flipping off, it's not a good look for an already polarizing driver.
Wallace, the only black driver in the Cup Series, made headlines in June 2020 when he claimed to have found a noose hanging in his garage. A thorough FBI investigation found the "noose" to be a garage door pull rope that had been in place since the year prior.
That incident thrust Wallace into the spotlight in ways that he did not appear ready for.
An incident in July 2020 saw him making a bigoted swipe at another driver's Christian beliefs.
“People say one of the nicest guys in the garage," Wallace said of Michael McDowell. "Can’t wait for the God-fearing text that he’s going to send me about preaching and praise and respect.
"What a joke he is.”
— NASCAR Alerts (@NASCAR_Alerts) July 15, 2020
In October 2022, Wallace was handed a one-week suspension for violating NASCAR's code of conduct.
His return from that suspension was to a chorus of boos.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.