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NASCAR Officially Grants Playoff Waiver to Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson Playoff Waiver NASCAR grants Kyle Larson his Playoff Waiver

Photo: Jared C. Tilton, Getty Images

After much discussion about the topic within the garage area, on social media, and in popular NASCAR-related podcasts over the last nine days, Kyle Larson will remain eligible for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

On Tuesday, NASCAR confirmed that it had approved a playoff waiver request made by Larson and Hendrick Motorsports this week, which allows the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro to remain eligible for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, despite being absent from the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weekends ago.

“Obviously, a lot going on in the last week around the Waiver for Kyle. We didn’t take that lightly. A lot of discussion internally. I’m proud of our team, and how we took the due diligence to work through this process. But ultimately landed at giving Kyle a Waiver so he’ll be eligible for the Playoffs going forward,” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR Vice President of Competition stated in a Zoom conference with the media on Tuesday morning.

Larson’s absence at Charlotte Motor Speedway a couple of weekends ago can be explained by an attempt at running ‘The Double’, which went awry when inclement weather pushed the start of the Indianapolis 500 back nearly four hours. That prompted a decision by Hendrick Motorsports to have Larson remain in Indianapolis, rather than arrive in North Carolina for the start of the Coca-Cola 600.

Upon finishing the Indianapolis 500 (18th) and traveling to Charlotte Motor Speedway, the event had already been halted because of the same weather system that impeded him in Indianapolis, which eventually forced NASCAR to call the race after 249 of 400 laps.

Larson never got a chance to turn a lap in the Coca-Cola 600, but the driver still made it to Concord, North Carolina, and was waiting to take over the seat of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 when weather forced the end of the race. Larson’s efforts to still complete the race that evening weighed heavily into the decision to grant a Waiver, and it helped NASCAR conclude that Larson and his team made every effort to give the fans in Charlotte what they paid for.

“Our decision making was although we had the inclement weather in Indy as well as Charlotte, Kyle made every attempt to get to Charlotte. He was standing in the pit box with his helmet on, ready to go. And unfortunately, we had weather in Charlotte as well, and weren’t unfortunately able to get the race going again.”

While NASCAR has issued Waivers for seemingly every reason under the sun since Playoff Waivers were added to the NASCAR Rule Book, this was a precedent-setting situation as it was the first case of a NASCAR driver choosing to miss the start of a NASCAR-sanctioned event for a competing series’ event. That is what led to the lengthy discussion within the walls of the NASCAR R&D Center, and why the decision took a week to come to it’s final conclusion.

“As we went through this process, you look at the Waiver, this was without a doubt uncharted waters,” Sawyer explained. “In the past, those Waivers have been given mostly for medical reasons or situations where drivers were suspended from our event, and those Waivers were granted fairly quickly. This one, again, was unprecedented in the fact that we had a driver miss one of our races, one of our Cup race, a championship event to be at another event. That’s why it took as long as it did.”

With the ruling, NASCAR has kept the hopes of running ‘The Double’ intact for every driver in the NASCAR Cup Series garage, including Larson who has the option to run a second Indianapolis 500 for Arrow McLaren. At the end of the day, ‘The Double’ is one of the biggest accomplishments in racing history, and NASCAR fully behind drivers trying to pull it off.

We embrace the double. We think it’s great,” Sawyer said. “We want to see other drivers have that opportunity. We have to just make sure we’re looking out, first and foremost, for the fans that buy the ticket, and were here in Charlotte.”

As far as drivers running other events outside of the Indianapolis 500, and missing the start of a NASCAR race despite making an attempt to arrive at the track, those will not be slam-dunk granted Waivers. Each instance will be on a case-by-case basis.

“I know its a little bit of a cliche, but every situation is different,” Sawyer explained. “I feel like we have the parameters in the rule book and the team here at the R&D center to ultimately make the best decision and that’s what we were required to do.”

With his post-season eligibility still intact, Larson will head to Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California to chase his third NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season.

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