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SRIGLEY: After Eight Days, A Once Easy Answer to Larson’s Waiver Saga is Anything But

Kyle Larson Playoff Waiver Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series NTT IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 Coca-Cola 600 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Charlotte Motor Speedway

Photo Credit: Craig White, TobyChristie.com

CHAPTER TWO: After Eight Days, A Once Easy Answer to Larson’s Waiver Saga is Anything But

Published: Monday, June 3, 2024

It has now been eight days since Kyle Larson’s unsuccessful attempt at ‘The Double’, which saw the Hendrick Motorsports driver bail on the start of the Coca-Cola 600 in favor of making his Indianapolis 500 debut — after the race had been delayed four-plus hours.

It’s still unknown whether or not NASCAR will grant Larson a Playoff waiver.

As things were unfolding on Memorial Day Weekend, the answer to the waiver debacle seemed pretty straightforward (and it still feels that way eight days later): just give Larson the waiver, and let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

But alas, that wasn’t the path chosen by NASCAR. Instead, we’ve completed an entirely separate race weekend — and locked Austin Cindric into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs by doing so — without knowing whether or not Larson is even eligible.

With just 11 races left in the regular season, there are nine (or eight) winners locked into the post-season, with an additional seven (or eight) spots currently available for the highest drivers in the points.

…and listen, NASCAR is within its rights to deny the waiver request because when push comes to shove, Kyle Larson didn’t race in the Coca-Cola 600, and the rule has a provision that allows the sanctioning body to grant a waiver, but at their discretion.

There’s a valid question in all of this, though: At what point does this entire situation become more of a headache than it’s worth? Should they choose to deny the waiver, how can NASCAR explain that Kyle Larson – one of the most successful drivers all season – won’t finish any better than 17th in points?

Now, heaven forbid Larson ends up winning the regular-season championship (which, by the way, he is still very much in play for, right now, sitting second in points). That just puts a neon flashing LED sign on the entire situation.

That’s not conducive for new fans watching NASCAR, it’s not a great way to capitalize on IndyCar fans who may be tuning in to watch Larson’s NASCAR exploits, and it’s not a point in favor of the current championship format, which has been heavily scrutinized for the last decade.

It just doesn’t make sense to deny this waiver.

In this instance, a choice to destroy Kyle Larson’s season alienates all of the NASCAR drivers with interest in running ‘The Double’ — Busch, Blaney, Reddick, Bell, etc. — as there is now incredible risk involved because should something keep them from arriving in Charlotte, then their entire season is derailed.

There are a plethora of reasons that deciding to deny this waiver is bad for NASCAR, and at the start of this discussion, it seemed like such a sure-fire thing, that people were accusing the media of trying to dramatize it for clicks.

Now, after eight days of no comment from NASCAR other than confirming they received the request, you have to wonder if there is some serious thought from the sanctioning body into eliminating Kyle Larson from the championship fight.

… and that feels like a net negative for everybody involved.


SRIGLEY: The Kyle Larson Waiver Question Has A Blatantly Obvious Answer

Original Story: Published on Sunday, May 26th, 2024

Without some pop-up shower or unscheduled delay in Charlotte, Kyle Larson won’t be making it to Charlotte Motor Speedway in time to start the Coca-Cola 600 — electing to stay in Indianapolis to compete in the 108th Indianapolis 500, where he’ll start from fifth in the No. 17 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

That choice by Hendrick Motorsports, to keep the 31-year-old driver in Indianapolis to compete in the 500-mile contest (which is scheduled to start at about 4:45 pm ET), unleashes a new storm of questions, many of which have an impact on the NASCAR Cup Series beyond Sunday, May 26.

As expected, Justin Allgaier will start the Coca-Cola 600 driving the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro.

For the purpose of NASCAR’s records, Allgaier will be credited with starting the race, as well as the results that should come from Sunday’s 600-mile contest — no matter who is piloting the entry at the time of the checkered flag.

Thus, Larson, the NASCAR Cup Series points leader, will not be credited with starting the race, and will need to apply for a waiver to qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

When it comes to a situation like this, the NASCAR Rule Book is pretty much anything but black-and-white, stating the following when it comes to post-season eligibility: “Unless otherwise authorized by NASCAR, driver(s) and Team Owner(s) must start all Championship Events of the current season to be eligible for The Playoffs. If a starting position was not earned, then the driver(s) and Team Owner(s) must have attempted to Qualify, at the discretion of the Series Managing Director, for the Race.”

In this never-before-seen situation, there isn’t any precedent to be followed by NASCAR, as the sanctioning body decides whether they’ll grant Kyle Larson said post-season waiver — but, as of the time of publishing, no decision has been announced.


So… Should Kyle Larson Get a Waiver?

Let’s not be foolish about this. Of course, Kyle Larson should be granted a post-season waiver.

NASCAR has been aware of Larson’s intentions to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 for more than a year, giving the sanctioning body ample time to think about what exactly they would do in this situation.

Plus, with the buttoned-up way that Hendrick Motorsports conducts its business, it would be far-fetched to assume that the organization hasn’t had some kind of conversation with NASCAR, especially when viewing the forecast over the last week or so.

The only potential snag in this process could be that Larson and Hendrick Motorsports decided to skip the opening laps of the Coca-Cola 600, and made that choice after Indianapolis Motor Speedway had already announced the start of the Indianapolis 500 would be delayed.

However, for that one potential reason to deny the waiver request, there are at least five reasons to suggest that NASCAR is much better off approving it.

First off, NASCAR’s waiver-granting process has been anything but stingy.

Kyle Busch was granted a waiver (and won the title) after missing 11 races, Chase Elliott was granted two different waivers (one for injury, one for suspension), multiple different drivers have been given waivers for injuries or suspensions, and one was granted for “family reasons”.

There is one previously approved waiver, though, that slams the door wide open for Larson to be granted this waiver, and it stems from the driver’s 2020 suspension. When Matt Kenseth was tapped to replace Larson, NASCAR approved a waiver, citing ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

That seems to be pretty in line with what has occurred on this Memorial Day Weekend. But, in situations like these, consistency isn’t always guaranteed.

Looking beyond just the surface, though, the chance that Larson could be denied a shot at a NASCAR Cup Series title when IndyCar, NASCAR, and broadcast partners FOX Sports and NBC Sports have experienced such a boost from the storylines provided by this month-long endeavor.

Plus, let’s face it. With Larson being touted as one of the best and most versatile drivers in the world, right now, NASCAR stands to gain a bunch of notoriety simply by having Larson involved in the battle for the NASCAR Cup Series championship.

At this point, it would be utterly nonsensical for NASCAR to even think about denying the post-season waiver for Larson, who has already picked up a pair of victories in the NASCAR Cup Series this year — and has a major advantage in the point standings entering the Coca-Cola 600.

The more interesting part of the situation, though, is that Larson won’t even be absent for the entire Coca-Cola 600, and will join the remainder of the NASCAR Cup Series field just an hour or so after completing his debut run in the Indianapolis 500.

While he won’t be credited with starting the Coca-Cola 600, Larson is still going to be turning laps around the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway in Sunday’s event, and provided things don’t go awry at Indianapolis, should be the driver finishing the race.

So, considering Larson will be making laps in every single on-track session for the NASCAR Cup Series this weekend, it doesn’t seem ridiculous for NASCAR to determine that the 2021 Cup Series champion has been involved enough in his team’s effort to warrant the waiver.

So, considering Larson will be participating in every on-track session this weekend, it doesn’t seem ridiculous for NASCAR to determine that the former champion has been involved enough in the No. 5 team’s effort to warrant a waiver.

And, it honestly should, because, at this point in the season, Larson looks to be among the main contenders for the NASCAR Cup Series championship.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which NASCAR blocks Larson’s request for a post-season waiver and eliminates his shot at a second championship in the NASCAR Cup Series.

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4 Responses

  1. Kyle Larson should NOT be granted a waiver if he makes it on points that’s fine but for NASCAR to bow to Rick Hendrick is ridiculous and insane. In fact I would prefer that NASCAR go back to only owner drivers or one car teams no multi car teams let the drivers fund their own cars then we could actually see who the best drivers are

    1. Barring any major problems later in the year, he will absolutely will make it based on points alone. Even after missing the 600 completely, he only fell to 3rd in the standings AND he has two wins already. But the current nascar rules state that to be eligible for the playoffs the driver has to start EVERY regular season race. This is what the waiver is about. Yes, Kyle CHOSE to race elsewhere. But several other drivers have been granted waivers because of choices they made. Namely Kyle Busch CHOOSING to race in the Xfinity race, having an accident and breaking his legs. He was granted a waiver and won the cup that year. Chase Elliot CHOSE to go snowboarding in his free time and got injured. He was granted a waiver. The precedent has already been set. Nascar gained publicity because of this, why punish Kyle because of things he couldn’t control. Several other drivers have done the double and the rain didn’t effect those performances. Had it not been for the rain, Kyle would have started the cup race.

  2. I disagree with Stephen Hite, Kyle Larson has no way to control the weather therefore no culpability in delaying his timely arrival to start the Coca-Cola 600. Had this been a perfect weather day he would have made both races without incident and probably would have won or at least been in the top 10 of the Coca-Cola 600. As it was Bell won on a weather technicality leaving Larson with 151 laps that he could have driven for the win.

  3. Absolutely NOT should Lawson be allowed to get a waiver. He did his Indy thing and came late to the race. Race was called due to rain and he never even did one lap on that track. Lawson did not race on that track he should be eliminated from playoff contention. Hendrick or not -does NOT matter.

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