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NASCAR grants Kyle Larson a playoff waiver

NASCAR has granted Kyle Larson a playoff waiver for not starting the May 26 Coca-Cola 600 because he was competing in the rain-delayed Indianapolis 500 at the time.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday morning that there was much internal discussion on the matter and the situation was “unprecedented” because it was a driver missing a race to compete in another event.”

Section of the Cup Rule Book 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. 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.”

Car owner Rick Hendrick issued a statement Tuesday:

“Under normal circumstances, completing ‘the double’ is one of the toughest tests in sports. Despite our best efforts, this year’s combination of weather conditions in Indianapolis and Charlotte made it impossible. Although losing ground in the standings was hard to swallow, we were especially disappointed for the fans at the Coca-Cola 600 who were not able to see Kyle (Larson) race. I’m extremely proud of everything he did to prepare and the months of planning by our team and our partners at Arrow McLaren to run these two crown jewel events.

“We hoped race day would play out differently, but the program was still incredibly positive for everyone involved. Kyle’s performance throughout May was a great reflection on the level of talent competing each week in the NASCAR Cup Series. We appreciate NASCAR communicating with us throughout the effort and granting our request for a playoff waiver.”

Although Larson had two victories this season, he needed the waiver since he did not start the Coca-Cola 600.

NASCAR has granted waivers to drivers primarily for injuries suffered on the track, but there have been exceptions.

Matt Kenseth was granted a waiver in 2020 when he replaced Larson at Chip Ganassi Racing. Kenseth had not competed in the series since the 2018 season finale and had missed the first four races before joining Ganassi.

NASCAR gave Chase Elliott a waiver last year after he was injured in a snowboarding accident and missed six races. Elliott also received a waiver after he was suspended one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last year’s Coca-Cola 600.

NASCAR granted a waiver to Erik Jones this season after he was injured in a crash at Talladega. He missed the following race. A week later, he was medically cleared to race but the team sat him out. Although he had been medically cleared, Jones’ waiver was still good even with sitting out the extra race.

Larson sought to become the fifth driver to race in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. Rain thwarted Larson at both tracks.

The start of the Indianapolis 500 was delayed about four hours because of rain. The field took the green flag about 90 minutes before the Coke 600 began.

Larson, who won rookie of the year honors at Indy, finished 18th. He climbed into an SUV on pit road at 7:50 p.m. ET and headed for the helipad outside Turn 2 after the Indianapolis 500 for a short flight to the airport to board a plane to North Carolina. He arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway shortly after 9 p.m. ET but never got to race. Rain halted the race before he was to take over for Justin Allgaier in the No. 5 car. Allgaier finished 13th.