Aric Almirola’s altercation with Bubba Wallace led to JGR suspension

Aric Almirola is scheduled to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing next month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ending an absence of the past two months that reportedly included a suspension handed out by the team for an altercation with Bubba Wallace.

The Athletic reported Thursday, citing industry sources, that Almirola got into an altercation with Wallace during a competition meeting that included drivers 23XI Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing as part of their Toyota alliance.

That altercation caused Almirola to miss the May 25 Xfinity race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Ty Gibbs, who won the pole for that race in place of Almirola, said he found out three days before the event that he would be driving the car. At the time, a JGR spokesperson said it was a “team decision.”

A JGR spokesperson said Thursday the team had no comment on the report.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the decision told FOX Sports over the past month that Almirola’s absence was the result of an altercation with Wallace during the meeting. Almirola and Wallace had a problem a year earlier during the Cup race at Charlotte when Almirola pushed Wallace during a rain delay.

Wallace, for his part, denied to FOX Sports that this had happened when he was asked the question on May 25 as he was preparing to leave the room where the drivers were making their mandatory weekly media availability with the journalists.

“Who said that?” Wallace told FOX Sports when asked.

When told that was the rumor, Wallace responded, “Is that true?” »

When it was pointed out that this could be the reason Almirola was not in the car, Wallace replied: “No, we’ve had disagreements before, but man, this is crazy.”

Almirola, who retired from full-time Cup competition after 2023, signed during the offseason with JGR as a mentor driver and part-time Xfinity driver. The team said at the time that John Hunter Nemechek would drive 10 races in its No. 20 car and that Almirola would do the “majority” of the remaining 23 races.

Much of Almirola’s schedule was scheduled to take place in the second half of the season, as Cup drivers cannot compete in the final eight races (the regular season finale and playoff races). Almirola has competed in five Xfinity races this year, with his last start coming on May 11 at Darlington. At that race, he said he was scheduled to run the Charlotte race two weeks later.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He spent decades covering motorsports, including more than 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.

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