Kyle Larson Receives Waiver From NASCAR, Playoff Eligibility Restored

Kyle Larson Receives Waiver From NASCAR, Playoff Eligibility Restored

NASCAR officials announced Tuesday that Kyle Larson will receive a playoff waiver after missing the Coca-Cola 600 to run the Indianapolis 500.

Jun 4, 2024 by Rob Blount

The “will they/won’t they” surrounding Kyle Larson’s playoff waiver has finally come to an end. NASCAR announced Tuesday morning that they will indeed grant Larson a waiver to maintain his playoff eligibility. The decision comes after Larson missed the Coca-Cola 600 to compete in the Indianapolis 500. 

Hendrick Motorsports requested the waiver on Thursday following the Memorial Day race weekend, but NASCAR clearly took its time to think about it before ruling in Larson’s favor.

Now, Larson will remain eligible for NASCAR’s playoffs, which are set to begin on Sunday, September 8 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Larson currently sits second in the points standings, 21 points behind Denny Hamlin, even after missing the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600. Larson has two wins and seven stage wins so far in 2024.

Larson missed the Coca-Cola 600 after rain delayed the start of the Indianapolis 500. Larson was attempting to complete the Memorial Day Double by competing in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in his career and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway later that evening, but Mother Nature had other ideas.

Rain delayed the start of the Indianapolis 500 by nearly four hours. Larson, who was scheduled to start the Indianapolis 500 from the fifth starting spot, made the decision along with team owner Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon, to stay in Indianapolis and complete the event. Larson eventually finished 18th due to a speeding penalty on pit road.

By staying in Indianapolis, Larson ended up missing the start of the Coca-Cola 600. Justin Allgaier was to start the event in his Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet and give way to Larson upon Larson’s arrival. But when Larson arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway that evening, so did the rain. Eventually the race was declared official after 249 of the 400 laps were completed. Larson never turned a lap.

NASCAR's Senior VP of Competition, Elton Sawyer, said in a teleconference Tuesday morning that NASCAR felt Larson did make every effort to race in Charlotte.

"Essentially our decision-making was, although we had the inclement weather in Indianapolis as well as Charlotte, Kyle made every attempt to get to Charlotte," explained Sawyer. "He was standing in the pitbox with his helmet on ready to go. Unfortunately we had weather in Charlotte as well and were unfortunately not able to get the race going again. That's how we landed on our decision."

Since NASCAR’s win-and-you’re-in playoff format was introduced in 2014, NASCAR has maintained a rule stating that all drivers must attempt to start every race throughout the regular season to be playoff eligible. NASCAR has issued waivers to drivers in special circumstances. 

Kyle Busch famously won the 2015 NASCAR Cup Series championship after receiving a waiver from NASCAR following a crash in the NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Daytona International Speedway that left him with a broken leg. Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott have also received waivers for injuries that caused them to miss races, as well as NASCAR-issued suspensions.

Larson’s waiver marks the first time that a driver has received a waiver after missing an event for any reason other than an injury or a suspension. 

There were plenty of well-documented reasons both for and against Larson receiving a waiver from NASCAR, but in the end Larson will still have a chance to compete for his second career NASCAR Cup Series title and second title in four years.

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