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NASCAR official cites precedent for Chase Elliott to receive a waiver

Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan react to the news that Chase Elliott is out indefinitely after surgery to fix a broken leg suffered while snowboarding, and debate whether he should receive a waiver to remain playoff eligible.

A senior NASCAR official anticipates Chase Elliott receiving a waiver to be playoff eligible when Elliott returns to competition, citing a similar situation to when Tony Stewart was granted a waiver for an off-track injury.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, made the comment Tuesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Elliott broke his tibia in his left leg snowboarding Friday in Colorado. Hendrick Motorsports has not set a timetable for Elliott’s return. Hendrick Motorsports announced that Josh Berry and Jordan Taylor will share driving duties of the No. 9 car until Elliott returns. His recovery is expected to take about six weeks. Berry drove the No. 9 car last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, finishing 29th.

Drivers are required to start every race to be eligible for the playoffs. Elliott would need a waiver to compete in the playoffs provided he wins a race in the regular season. NASCAR removed the stipulation this past offseason that Cup drivers must be in the top 30 in points to be playoff eligible.

Asked about the possibility of granting a waiver to Elliott once he’s medically cleared to return, Sawyer told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “I wouldn’t see any reason that he wouldn’t be granted a waiver, but we’ll go through that process and make sure we’re checking all the boxes.”

While Sawyer noted the decisions are made in a case-by-case basis, he cited the example with Stewart in 2016. Stewart suffered a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in an all-terrain accident in the California desert sand dunes a few weeks before the season. He missed the first eight races of the season. NASCAR granted him a waiver for the playoffs shortly before he returned to action. Stewart won at Sonoma that season to make the playoffs. He was eliminated in the first round and finished 15th in the season standings.

Sawyer said of the decision-making process in regards to a waiver for Elliott: “Whether it’s on the racetrack ... or off the racetrack in this particular case, we’ll gather all the information, we’ll sit down and make the right decision to move forward.”

NASCAR on NBC analyst Kyle Petty said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast that Elliott should receive a playoff waiver.

“God bless the NASCAR fans,” Petty said. “We praise Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson and all these guys that go out and race six nights a week in winged sprint cars and go-karts and midgets and whatever they want to race, but God forbid you can’t go snowboarding and get hurt. You just can’t do that, people. I don’t know where you all have been, but you just can’t do that.

“I look at it as, yes, he should get a waiver. ... The point is, I don’t care how you are hurt or what happens, that’s what the medical waiver is for. The medical waiver is for an injury, an illness, a death in the family, whatever it may be. That’s what it’s for.”

NASCAR on NBC analysts Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton both say that Elliott should receive a waiver.

“You have to manage your risks, but snowboarding does not go on the list of crazy activities in my mind,” Letarte said. “We see drivers drive other cars. Everybody has to have an outlet. I agree with (Kevin) Harvick and his perception that you find something to take you away from the competition on Sundays.”

Said Burton: “I don’t think this is a case in which NASCAR should look at it and say, ‘Hey, we’re not getting him a waiver because he got hurt snowboarding.’”

Elliott finished 38th in the season-opening Daytona 500 and was second the following week at Auto Club Speedway before his injury.