Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Should NASCAR Issue Kyle Larson a Waiver for Coca-Cola 600 Absence?

The greatest day in motorsports was a roller-coaster of emotions this past weekend. A huge lap 1 crash in Monaco, followed by virtually no passing, to one of the most iconic moments on the final lap of the Indianapolis 500.

While the Coca-Cola 600 had great racing, its anti-climatic finish left many fuming – among them, Kyle Larson, who showed up late due to a rain-delayed Indy 500 and never got the opportunity to get back into the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

While we can’t control the weather (…or can we?), should that preclude Larson from being granted a championship waiver like many drivers before him? This week Trenton Worsham and Vito Pugliese present a stark differing of opinion in 2-Headed Monster.

See also
NASCAR Mailbox: Kyle Larson Proved Coca-Cola 600 Isn't a Crown Jewel, But at What Cost?

No Waiver, No Cry

Things were looking good for Kyle Larson at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the rains moved out, running in the top seven – before a botched pit entry put him behind for the rest of the day. Upon his arrival to Charlotte Motor Speedway, Justin Allgaier was doing yeoman’s duty, bringing the No. 5 from dead last up to 16th before Concord received its end of a storm system that extended from the Carolinas to Hudson Bay. Despite a track that appeared raceable by midnight, NASCAR abruptly called an end to the race and deemed Christopher Bell the winner, with Larson waiting in the wings to relieve Allgaier and complete the kind-of-a-double.

Should the effort alone warrant a championship waiver? In short – no.

I know that’s going to anger a lot of not just NASCAR fans, but motorsports fans in general.

He’s drawing more attention to the sport! It was a great story! What about what Hendrick did for NASCAR at LeMans!

All fair points. Let’s debunk them in order.

Since when does a “story” translate into “OK to blow off a crown jewel race if it gets wet?”

Last week, we announced the newest group of drivers getting into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Let’s reflect on some of those who are already in there and their heroic exploits:

  • Richard Petty – racing with half a stomach following ulcer surgery and a broken neck.
  • In case you didn’t read that the first time, RACED WITH A BROKEN NECK.
  • Newest inductee, Ricky Rudd, raced in the Daytona 500 with his face tapped together so he could see after almost flying out of the car in the Busch Clash. Won the next race at Richmond.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. – is on camera burning alive in an ALMS race, still starts the first race in the Chase, covered in salve, bandages and layers of fireproof Nomex to bleed through
  • Dale Earnhardt Sr. – Broken collar bone? No problem, just sit on the pole at Watkins Glen driving one handed.
  • Mark Martin – broke his wrist and knee at Daytona 24 hours earlier, cuts off cast in middle of race so he can continue driving while third in points. Oh, and needed a spinal fusion.

None of those guys got a pass. Different era, different situations? Sure.

But waivers for snowboarding, not getting a full-time ride with a salary you were expecting, putting all your chips on midwestern weather in late May, or getting dinged in a mid-week dirt race in BFE?

That’s a leap I’m not willing to make.

This isn’t to pile on Kyle. It absolutely was a great story and was the focus of attention for non-racing types. Should a marketing exercise grant you a pass into playoffs?

What other sport would permit this?

One prominent journalist this week used the example of NASCAR pushing Hendrick Motorsports to field the Garage 56 car at Le Mans as justification for a waiver.

First of all, wrong continent, secondly, no drivers missed a points race in order to participate in Le Mans. It also apparently didn’t have much of an effect on HMS as a whole with Larson and William Byron winning races, while Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman were on the mend from their extracurricular activities.

The rules stated in February a driver must start all 26 races to be eligible for the Championship. That was a known inherent risk with attempting the double. Should the rule be changed in the future for drivers attempting the 500 and 600?

Absolutely! So why hasn’t it been done?

Does NASCAR view it as a deterrent to skipping a crown jewel event on their calendar to compete in the world’s biggest single motorsports event? It would appear so – I mean, it isn’t like they aren’t prepared to deal with rain at every race each weekend.

Will NASCAR issue Larson a waiver? Almost assuredly it will. I won’t lose a whole lot of sleep over it, but it’s also why Championships of the Playoff era don’t carry the same weight as those we saw in the 1990s that people still talk about. Will those in the future speak the same of the generational waiver runs we’ll see in years to come? Unlikely, but time will tell. – Vito Pugliese

See also
Dropping the Hammer: The Great Expectations of Kyle Larson's Double

For All You Do, This Waiver’s for You

The reign of the most popular driver in NASCAR has been that of Chase Elliott, but the tides could be turning. His Hendrick teammate Kyle Larson attempted what very few have tried, racing 1,100 miles between the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600.

Attempted.

Mother Nature seemed to have other plans. Delaying the Indy 500 and ending the 600 just under 400 miles put a nail in the coffin that had been a month of fanfare and awe across the motorsports world which prevented Larson from being able to race in both races, even for a lap in Charlotte. The driver of the No. 5 absolutely deserves the waiver for a multitude of reasons with the most obvious being the preciously mentioned early end to the 600, either NASCAR or FOX called it. Angry fans and even teams showcased on social media how the track was able to race but it was too late as the decision had been made.

The waiver SHOULD be granted because he did make it to Charlotte and could take the wheel over from Justin Allgaier to complete the event. This was not on Larson but on whoever decided to end the race. He would have raced in that event, not doing so left him defeated.

Larson didn’t just skip out on a crown jewel to go race his dirt car in some middle of nowhere dirt track or decide to take the day off. He and his Hendrick team planned to race TWO races, one being the biggest in America if not the world, and make it back to race the other. Not racing in Charlotte was not something he planned on doing, he showed up to do just that. This was not a vacation or playing hooky to miss a race due to being in the playoffs for being locked in with a win.

Drivers such as the aforementioned Elliott have been granted waivers left and right for various reasons, such as the injury the driver of the No. 9 suffered a year ago snowboarding, something not racing-related. Matt Kenseth was granted a waiver in 2020 when Larson was suspended, allowing him to compete in the playoffs should he have made it in.

Before putting time, money, and resources into this, one would also think that Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon would not have been worried about not obtaining a waiver. Some talks behind the scenes must have happened but here we are, here they are, wondering if it’ll happen. With all the fanfare and almost every other race detailing the Hendrick origin story on the broadcast, there’s no way NASCAR would rip that right from them or their driver who has elevated the sport with new eyes at this time.

One consideration for the waiver is because of the elevation he has brought to the sport of NASCAR. People heard of the double and his plane being tracked like Taylor Swift after Indy qualifying to North Wilkesboro for the All-Star race. The attention he brought was different than his predecessors Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart, even reaching the rich and glamorous Formula 1 spectacle of Monaco.

Sure, just bringing eyes and causing people to pay attention to NASCAR doesn’t inherently deserve a waiver, but NASCAR would set a precedent if drivers wanted to do this again in the future, gambling a championship chance for achieving a dream and a goal. Even if they did make the race but unable to turn a lap due to circumstances out of their control.

If NASCAR doesn’t grant the 2021 Cup champion this waiver, nothing is stopping him from not racing the rest of the season and hopping in his dirt cars and reminding them who the hell he is.

If NASCAR doesn’t grant Kyle Larson — the most talented racecar driver on the planet — the waiver, they’ll just be doing what they did two weeks ago: punishing a driver and then marketing the hell out of them. -Trenton Worsham

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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Mike

Why is anyone even discussing this issue. Im sure it was determined that nascar would give larson and hendrick a waiver before larson even decided to race at indy. As usual this reporter is trying to create drama where there is none. Amazing how nascar stopped the race just as Larson helicopter was landing. There was no rain on the windshields of any cars. They could have ran 10-15 more laps. Just more blatant favoritism as usual for hendrick teams.

Bill B

YOU’RE SURE?!!

Could you direct me to the source of your information.

No disrespect but I don’t trust a random guy on the internet.

Rob

Not sure how you see that as favoritism towards Hendrick. They stopped the race just as he was going to get in the car and ended his chance at getting a better finish. As good as the car was and with how much of the race was left, Larson had a good chance of a very good finish.

More to the point, if they gave Chase Elliott a waiver for missing a race when he was SUSPENDED FOR WRECKING ANOTHER DRIVER, then Larson should have no worries.

Mike

My point is imo nascar already let hendrick and larson know they could get a waiver. And once larson got there nascar called the race bc of rain and it didnt matter about larson finishing the race or winning bc nascar was already going to approve a waiver. Im not saying larson doesnt deserve one he does but hendrick already had prior approval by nascar before they decided to go to indy

Bill B

What is the source of your information?

Diane Lima

You couldn’t be more WRONG.Kyle really wanted to race, finish both races in at least 5th or better. If what you say was true, why was Kyle rushing to get there.

Mike

Did you talk to him?

Kathleen ann Kulesza

Kyle Larson shouldn’t need a waiver because he’s locked into the playoffs. Kyle Busch received a waiver after missing most of a year if he could get a waiver anyone should.

Bill B

Sounds like you don’t even know the rules

One of the rules for championship eligibility is that a driver must run in all 26 races leading up to the playoffs.
If they don’t, they need to apply for a waiver from NASCAR.

Larson did not drive a lap in race 14 of the 2024 season. It doesn’t matter if it’s one race missed or ten races.

Therefore he needs a waiver from NASCAR.

Drew

I hope that Kyle Larson will try again next year for the Hendrick 1100 and he will return to the Indianapolis 500 and he will try to race in the Coca Cola 600 and I hope that Mother Nature will never ruin his chance for the double.

Gary

I sure hope so they would loose tremendously if not

Carl A

I’m a Larson fan but I think his day job should be his priority. There will be other Indy 500.

Steve

There is no waiting and wondering about this waiver. Hendrick/Gordon/Larson knew before Sunday that they were going to be granted a waiver. If there was any doubt, Larson would have been back to Charlotte by green flag.

Mike

Thank you for your common sense

Bill B

Since when does NASCAR’s decisions adhere to common sense?

Bill B

You are ASSUMING that. And you know what they say about assuming….
You don’t know it for a fact. If so please share your source.

Mike

In my previous post i let others know that my comments were imo. Which means in my opinion. Myself or anyone else that has commented on this subject has no facts to back up any of their opinions. So why should i be held to a different standard

gbvette62

I find it hard to believe that there’s even any discussion about Larson getting a waiver. Do I think he’ll get one, of course, but do I think he deserves one, no. Of course I didn’t think Elliott or Bowman deserved them either. I can support giving Kyle Busch and Erik Jones waivers, because at least they were hurt racing with NASCAR (though even Busch’s injury pushes the envelope some since it happened in an Xfinity race).

I just don’t see how getting hurt skiing or racing a sprint car, or in Larson’s case blowing off a Cup race to race in another series, deserve waivers. And I’m not a Hendrick hater like many on here, in fact I like Larson though I don’t necessarily root for him or any other Hendrick driver. Like so much else in NASCAR the waiver system has become a joke. If you’re going to require drivers to compete in all 36 races to be eligible for the championship, then why do they throw waivers around like candy?

What’s next, giving out waivers to Cup drivers who are to hung over to race on a Sunday, because they celebrated too much after winning a Saturday Xfinity race?

Last edited 17 days ago by gbvette62
Christopher

No, you chose another racing event over your cup event. Sorry but it’s BS to get handed a waiver.

Don Cowie

If waiver is not granted then I have attended and watched my last NASCAR race!

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