Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Kyle Larson granted waiver by NASCAR to remain eligible for playoffs after failed Indy-Charlotte double

After a little over a week of deliberation, NASCAR announced Tuesday the sanctioning body has granted Kyle Larson a waiver to remain eligible for the Cup Series playoffs despite missing the Coca-Cola 600 due to rain both delaying the start of his first Indianapolis 500 and ending the Coke 600 short of the finish. Larson will retain his playoff eligibility having won two races this season and sitting second in the regular-season championship standings.

In the past, NASCAR has been very permissive and prompt in handing out playoff waivers to drivers who miss races, usually for injuries or medical reasons. But speaking to reporters, NASCAR senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer explained that Larson’s unique circumstance of missing a NASCAR race to run a race put on by another series was unchartered territory for officials.

Ultimately, NASCAR elected to grant Larson a waiver on the basis that he made every attempt to get to Charlotte Motor Speedway to complete the Coca-Cola 600 after the Indy 500, arriving at the speedway in uniform and ready to get in his car — which started the race with relief driver Justin Allgaier behind the wheel — before a rainstorm came that stopped and shortened the race at Lap 249, preventing Larson from ever getting in his car.

“Our decision-making was although we had the inclement weather in Indy as well as Charlotte, Kyle made every attempt to get to Charlotte,” Sawyer said. “He was standing in the pit box with his helmet on ready to go, and unfortunately we had weather in Charlotte as well and we weren’t fortunate enough to get the race going again. That’s how we landed at our decision.

“… To not have Kyle Larson in our playoff and give our fans the opportunity to see him race for a championship and compete against some of the best drivers in the world, at the end of the day, didn’t feel like the right decision for us to make. And we didn’t. We feel like we got to the right spot.”

Sawyer went on to explain that series officials ultimately felt that Larson losing a full race’s worth of points — Larson lost the regular-season championship lead due to missing the Coke 600, and also lost out on potential playoff points available — was penalty enough for the 2021 Cup Series champion. He also reiterated that NASCAR embraces the Indy-Charlotte double, as Larson was trying to become the fifth driver to¬†compete in both IndyCar’s signature event and NASCAR’s longest race on the same day.

“The double is great. It’s great for motorsports, it’s great for NASCAR,” Sawyer said. “We were all looking forward to having Kyle land in the ballfield there at Charlotte, get out of a helicopter, go get in his car and hopefully compete and complete the 1,100 miles. But that didn’t work out that way. That didn’t unfold for the obvious reasons that we know about.”

While the possibility of NASCAR changing its waiver rules in response to Larson’s situation was not outright dismissed — such rules may be revisited in the offseason — Sawyer said that he does not expect that to happen.

Larson offered a basic public reaction following his waiver request being granted, sending out a .gif of himself giving the thumbs up in a post on his X account. Larson returned to the Cup Series field this past weekend at Gateway, finishing 10th.

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