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Waiver Granted: Kyle Larson Officially Eligible for NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs

Kyle Larson will officially be eligible to chase his second career NASCAR Cup Series championship this season despite missing the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR announced on Tuesday morning.


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It took nine pain-staking days after the Coca-Cola 600, but on Tuesday, NASCAR officially made it's decision in regards to a Playoff Waiver that had been requested by Kyle Larson and Hendrick Motorsports. The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion will be eligible for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition, confirmed the Waiver approval to the media in a Zoom session at 10:30 AM ET.

"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," Sawyer said in his opening statement on Tuesday morning.

Larson's Playoff status was in question after the 31-year-old driver chose to forgo the start of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway a couple of weeks ago in favor of starting his first-career Indianapolis 500. Larson had planned on running all 1,100 miles on Sunday, May 26, but weather delayed the start of the Indianapolis 500 by several hours, which put him in the precarious position of having to make a choice.

He chose the Indianapolis 500.

The fact that a NASCAR Cup Series driver chose another series' event over making it to the start of a NASCAR Cup Series points-paying event is what made the Waiver decision a difficult one for NASCAR, and it was the key component in why the Waiver announcement took a week to decide.

"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."

Following an 18th-place finish in the Indy 500, Larson immediately flew to North Carolina, and as soon as he landed on the Charlotte Motor Speedway premises and arrived in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports pit box, Mother Nature ended the 2024 Coca-Cola 600 prematurely after 249 laps.

However, Larson making the trek to Charlotte Motor Speedway despite the weather delays in Indianapolis, and being in the pit box with his helmet on proved that the driver and his Hendrick Motorsports team had all intentions of attempting to run the Coca-Cola 600 in addition to the Indianapolis 500 a couple of Sundays ago.

"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 stated. "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."

It would have been quite awkward for Larson, who has two wins this season to go along with seven Stage Wins and who currently sits second in the Regular-Season championship standings, to be deemed ineligible for the Playoffs. But by not starting the Coca-Cola 600, one of NASCAR's crown jewel events, it left the decision up to NASCAR's discretion.

Ultimately, NASCAR decided to utilize the Playoff Waiver to keep one of its biggest stars active in the NASCAR Cup Series championship hunt and to add further security that he'll continue to compete all season long for fans that have purchased tickets to future NASCAR races.

"The decision making process, it took the time that it did to make sure we got this right. One of the reasons the Waiver is in place is to give our fans some certainty that if they buy a ticket to come to watch our athletes and our stars perform, that they're going to see them," Sawyer said.

Sawyer says that the decision-making team at NASCAR heard a lot of different views from a lot of different people before landing on their final decision.

At the end of the day, NASCAR made the ruling, which seems to be the most popular choice far and wide. And in doing so, NASCAR has seemingly preserved the chance at the Memorial Day Weekend Double for any driver, Larson included.

While NASCAR leaned toward granting a Waiver for Larson's Indianapolis 500 bid, Sawyer did caution that the Indianapolis 500, and Memorial Day Weekend Double in particular is a very special and unique situation. Waivers for missing NASCAR sanctioned events despite making attempts to arrive at the track are not set in stone with this ruling. They will remain on a case-by-case basis going forward.

"Indy is a big race. Obviously, the Coke 600 is a huge event for us as well. You look at Motorsports in general, the Indy 500 is a big event. We embrace the double. We think it's great. We want to see other drivers have that opportunity," Sawyer explained. "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.

"We felt like Kyle and the team gave every effort to be able to get here, and he was ready to go. Had his helmet on, and unfortunately, we weren't able to get going and get him back in the car. Again, I know its a little bit of a cliche, but every situation is different. 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."

"Was it close? I don't know. There were different views from different people, which again, I commend our process. Proud of our team and everyone had a view on it."

Photo by Chris Owens/HHP for Chevy Racing

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