Race Weekend Central

Dropping the Hammer: Just Say ‘No’ to Playoff Waivers Like Chase Elliott’s

The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!” – Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: First Contact

It was going to happen.

I knew it.

You knew it.

Your uncle down the street who claims he hasn’t watched NASCAR since 2001 because “NASCAR died with Dale,” but yet he knows exactly what happened in last weekend’s race knew it was going to happen.

Chase Elliott was going to get a playoff waiver.

When the 2023 NASCAR Cup season got underway, I did not have “Corey LaJoie will drive Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 9 car in a race” anywhere on my bingo card.

See also
Did You Notice?: An Opportunity That Can Make or Break Corey LaJoie's NASCAR Career

Not even on my backup bingo card, where the really outlandish scenarios live, did I have the reason why.

Elliott, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, would end up suspended for a race.

For what?

Intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin at speed on the frontstretch during the Coca-Cola 600, hooking Hamlin’s right rear to send him into the outside wall dead-on.

There needs to be a limit.

Playoff waivers shouldn’t be given out like candy.

If you’d asked me three months ago, when Elliott sat out six races due to a broken leg, my thoughts on waiver eligibility, I would have likely said…

They should be given for illness, family emergency or an injury.

Stuff a driver can’t control.

And that’s about it.

If a driver is sat as a punishment for actions that happened in a race, like using their car as a weapon against another, your team should live with the fear that you won’t be eligible for the postseason.

Otherwise, all of this punishment is just dramatic theater NASCAR will still use in highlight reels for years to come.

While not 100% certain about my thoughts at the time, I’m pretty sure I believed the same in 2019, when NASCAR suspended Johnny Sauter one race for his on-track retaliation against Austin Hill at Iowa Speedway.

That involved Sauter turning Hill under caution and proceeding to ram Hill in the driver side door.

That’s not quite Kyle Busch wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011, ending Hornaday’s title hopes, but it’s still pretty egregious.

Who got a waiver?

Sauter did.

And here we are again in 2023.

See also
2-Headed Monster: Was Chase Elliott Suspension the Right Call by NASCAR?

So, where is the line?

When will the sanctioning body say “no” to a request for a playoff waiver?

NASCAR has yet to define it in practice.

It’s clearly not Elliott, who will now have missed seven races – for reasons both in and outside of his control – and still have a shot to participate in the title chase if he simply wins a race (NASCAR did away with the top 30 in points rule for 2023).

Guess we can’t have NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver and his sponsors miss the playoff driver class photo. That’s just too much to ask.

2023 is Daniel McFadin’s 10th year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his third year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can be found at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and SpeedSport.com. 

The podcast version of “Dropping the Hammer” is presented by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

About the author

Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.

You can email him at danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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Bill B

I think sitting out a week, getting no points, and pissing off your sponsor is enough of a punishment. With 16 drivers the playoff field is a joke anyway.
Either go back to “you have to run every event”, period. Or let waivers be given out like they have been.


There should be zero waivers. None, zip, zilch.


I have no issue with the waiver option per se but that said, it is way too lenient. Illness, short term injury if in a NASCAR sanctioned race yes. It’s the issue created by NASCAR when Kyle Busch missed almost 1/3 of the season due to injury at Daytona and NASCAR felt bad because it may have been avoidable. Now issue is how long is too long. I would say 3 races or fewer missed would allow for a waiver. You still have 90% of the season and still need to earn back lost points. Anything longer and one can wonder if said driver is at an advantage to be out of the weekly grind and thus be mentally fresh.

Other issue, bad behavior period no waiver at all. This would especially be true in cases like Wallace, Elliott, and Hamlin where intentionally dumping a competitor or other poor behavior does you in. If NASCAR truly wants these to stop I just took care of it. You get suspended for any reason once found guilty (Kurt Busch a few years is the cautionary tale), no playoff. I guarantee all the crap would stop immediately. Issue is drivers with no shot at playoffs anyway (RWR) then hefty fines should take care of it.


Carl Long would never get a waiver.


It’s Bill’s son, of course he will get anything he and Old Rick want! NASCAR is spineless and jelly in Old Rick’s hand! No backbone or their beliefs or convictions (if they have any) to execute and do the right thing!

IMO~ The spoiled NASCAR GOLDEN CHILD creates a self-inflicted scenario while snowboarding or whatever the fluck he was doing. Not in his sponsors car for many a race, and now this lack of control move to Denise and he gets a waiver????????????? And I am no fan of Hamlin! WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? The nepo baby thang in NASCAR is alive and well with this little hothead, and same old same old RICK doing what he seems to do, every damn time.

michael hornung

Man someone needs a diaper change….you are crying like a little baby!! Are you related to Denny?

Bailey Dog

And DH D. H. got to race a couple years ago THE NEXT race after M’ville after what he was doing to Bowman, in the Championship Race, NO freaking way that should have happened. After all the the times he wreaked CE over the last few years and chasing him down as well as others, D. H. got what was coming..

Ed Rooney

Some racing animals are more equal than other racing animals.


Nah, if you jack a driver’s tires off the ground so he cannot make a turn, intentionally wrecking him, which Hamlin admitted, you should be suspended. Bottom line.


Chase received a waiver because it was a precedent set by Nascar just like suspending Elliott was…..but if we are going to leave teams in fear of missing playoffs Denny Hamlin needs to be in fear of all that unnecessary contact and wrecking he does every other week. You have to go after the core issue, the way drivers such as Chastain and Hamlin drive if you want to stop things like hooking goes on the right quarter panel into the wall. That is where this starts.

John Price

Wow, you’ve been covering NASCAR for 10 years. I’ve been DOING NASCAR for about 60 years. WTF is the idea behind “you have to run every race”? Seems to me if you miss a race, or if you miss 20 races, it costs you points and possible wins. That’s penalty enough. And if you’re going to disqualify people from the championship for purposely crashing other drivers then prohibit Hamlin, Bubba, Chastain, and half a dozen others. It’s all crap. NASCAR is becoming F1. When will we see “ push to pass” and soy diets for drvers?

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