NASCAR grants Larson playoff waiver, calls it “uncharted waters”

NASCAR grants Larson playoff waiver, calls it “uncharted waters”

Larson attempted to become the fifth driver to attempt to run the Coca-Cola 600 and Indianapolis 500 on the say but bad weather – first in Indianapolis and then in Charlotte – ultimately saw Larson run the 600 but fail to get into his No. 5 Chevrolet in the 600.

After what he described as a “diligent process,” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, Elton Sawyer, said during a Zoom call with reporters that Larson has been granted the waiver and is still eligible to compete for the 2024 Cup title.

“It was in uncharted waters,” Sawyer said of the decision-making process. “It took the time it did to make sure that we got this right. One of reason this waiver process takes place is to give our fans some certainly that if they buy a ticket and come to watch our athletes and stars before, that they’re going to see them.

“So, the prior precedence set with allowing waivers were quick decisions. This was unique in the fact that Kyle raced for another series and wasn’t there to start our event.”

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, H1100 Chevrolet Camaro

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, H1100 Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Rusty Jarrett / NKP / Motorsport Images

Asked if thought this was a “close call,” Sawyer said, “As far as it being close, I don’t know. There were different views from different people. I commend our process, proud of our team. Everyone had a view on it.

“The ultimate decision we wanted to get to was the right decision. We’re looking to getting to Atlanta to kick off our playoffs and we’ll have one of the sport’s biggest stars contending for a championship.”

Larson’s attempt to run the Coca-Cola 600 and Indianapolis 500 on the same day on May 26 was on schedule until bad weather in Indianapolis forced a several-hour delay in the start of the 500.

Larson and Hendrick made the decision to run the 500, which meant he would miss the start of the 600. JR Motorsports Xfinity Series driver Justin Allgaier started the 600 in Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet and planned to turn it over to Larson when he arrived (Allgaier would keep the finish as the driver of record).

Larson finally arrived in Charlotte after 249 of 400 laps were completed, but so did the bad weather. The race never resumed – since it went more than half the distance it was considered official – and Larson never got behind the wheel. Allgaier was credited with the 13th place finish.

Changes needed to the waiver policy?

Sawyer said he did not believe the waiver rule needed to be altered but that the sanctioning body regularly reviews all such issues in the offseason.

“The rulebook is very clear – you grant the waiver, or you don’t,” he said. “Anything in between in that would not really be following our rule book. Again, we didn’t take this lightly.

“I do want to commend the team from Hendrick Motorsports, especially Jeff Andrews. We worked very closely with them on the timeline of the All-Star Race, all the collaboration was really good.

“At no point did before 6:20ish on Sunday night of the 600 was anyone led to believe they would 100-percent would get a waiver. The ‘Double’ is great, it’s great for motorsports, it’s great for NASCAR.

“We were all looking for Kyle to land at Charlotte get out of helicopter get in his car and hopefully complete the 1,100 miles but that didn’t work out that way.”

The rule in question states “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.”

In the past, NASCAR has granted waivers for drivers sidelined for medical reasons, and even drivers who they’ve suspended for violating NASCAR’s behavioral policy.

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