Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Surely Kyle Larson Gets That Waiver, Right?

Mother Nature just had to rain on Kyle Larson‘s parade in both Indianapolis and Charlotte.

When it was announced that Larson would be staying in Indy to complete the Indianapolis 500, the prevailing thought was that Larson would get a waiver to remain eligible for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. HMS and Larson had spent years and millions of dollars to prepare for his Indy 500 debut. There’s no way that Larson — the 2021 series champion and one of sport’s most popular drivers — would be denied, right?

But as of Thursday (May 30) night, there was no news on whether Larson’s waiver request has been approved or denied. He is no longer displayed on NASCAR.com’s playoff standings and his championship hopes are currently in limbo, right in the hands of NASCAR and its upcoming decision.

What’s complicated the process for HMS and Larson is that no one knew he would be missing the start of the Coke 600 until Sunday morning (May 26), and a surprising rain-shortened ending to the Coke 600 prevented him from seeing a single lap in the No. 5 car (more on that ending later).

Furthermore, Hendrick hadn’t started the process for requesting a waiver until midway through the week after the race.

A decision that seemed like an afterthought and a no-brainer is now one that might have lasting implications — not just for Larson, but for NASCAR and all of its drivers as a whole.

“It’s a little bit unchartered waters for us, because in the past, the waivers have mostly been given for a medical reason,” said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition. “This one is a little bit different from that aspect.”

Whether you feel that Larson deserves a waiver or not, this whole situation feels like making a mountain out of a molehill. The only reason that waivers exist are because of the win-and-you’re-in format, as the points penalty for missing a single race prior to 2014 was too much for any driver to voluntarily skip a race. Larson himself dropped from a 30-point lead in the regular season standings to third place after missing the Coke 600, which is already a big penalty in the battle for the regular season championship and those coveted 15 playoff points.

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

That’s not to mention that in the 11-plus years of the elimination format, there have been egregious waiver requests that have been granted, far more so than Larson’s.

Kyle Busch missed a whopping 11 races (nearly one-third of the season) with a broken leg in 2015, and he went on to win the title after being granted a waiver. Chase Elliott missed six races last year due to injuries from a snowboarding accident, and he was granted a second waiver three months later after earning a one-week vacation for rear-rearing Denny Hamlin in the tri-oval at the Coke 600 last May.

Hell, Matt Kenseth was retired for nearly two years, and he was granted a waiver as a mid-season replacement for Larson in the final 32 races of the 2020 season.

If coming out of retirement, missing a third of the season, a suspension and injuries sustained outside of racing are deemed worthy of a waiver, why is it even a question for Larson? He had every intention of starting in the 600 if rain hadn’t interfered, and he would’ve taken laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway if rain … er, humidity didn’t cancel the final 151 laps.

Now, even though I don’t think it’s the right decision, I do understand why NASCAR is hesitating. Larson had the choice between racing in Indy or bailing back to North Carolina, and he chose to forego the start of the Coke 600 to race in another series.

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

But it’s Indy. There’s nothing like it, and in a week of bad press for NASCAR in the aftermath of the Coke 600 ending, denying a waiver for Larson would ignite a firestorm.

First, Hendrick Motorsports has an absurd amount of leverage as NASCAR’s most successful and popular team. If that request gets denied, they will not be a happy bunch. Second, NASCAR needs Larson more than he needs them. Larson loves racing anything and everything, and if he’s told he’s ineligible for the 2024 title, there is a chance (albeit a small one) that he’d take a sabbatical and go dirt track racing the rest of the year.

Finally, Larson’s attempt at Double Duty has brought so much publicity to NASCAR across the board, and NASCAR has done everything it can to capitalize on it. If Larson is denied a waiver, it’ll be no different than Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s $75,000 fine for punching Busch while said punch is blasted all over social media. And if Larson is denied a waiver, well, you can kiss any future attempts at Double Duty goodbye.

Perhaps a “Kyle Larson rule” should put in place for waivers in 2025, if NASCAR deems it necessary. But right here and right now, the stakes are too high for Larson to be rendered ineligible for the entire championship.

2. Should NASCAR’s crown jewels run to the scheduled distance, no matter what?

What was supposed to be one of NASCAR’s most hyped-up events on the Cup schedule instead ended with a quiet whimper. Only 373.5 of the 600 miles were completed of the Coke 600, which made the race shorter than the 400-mile distance for all the other 1.5-mile tracks on the schedule.

A rainstorm had passed through the area around 10 p.m. ET, stopping the action on lap 249. But the radar was all clear once the storm had past and NASCAR had waited out the rain to continue drying. The rain passed, and it looked like we were all in for another 151 laps of action. Then out of nowhere, the race was declared official. Everyone was sent packing at 11:30 p.m. despite a clear weather radar the rest of the night.

See also
The Big 6: Questions Answered After NASCAR Makes Fans Wait For Nothing

The news was just as much of a shock to me in the media center as it was to all the fans attending and watching on TV. The longest race of the year — one of NASCAR’s crown jewels — just ending like that?

It wasn’t fun for anyone involved (except Christopher Bell and the No. 20 team, perhaps), and Toby Christie of TobyChristie.com proposed an idea that NASCAR’s biggest races of the season should always be run to the full distance, no matter how long it takes.

While I agree with the overall sentiment, I wouldn’t go that far. In some extreme cases, that would mean waiting until Tuesday, even Wednesday, to race when everyone has to get prepped for the next weekend. It would also be a logistical nightmare to wait that long to run so few laps, and most of the fans themselves wouldn’t have the time or money to wait out the weather for several days when a majority of laps are completed.

Instead, I believe that NASCAR’s crown jewel races must reach 75% of the scheduled distance to be rendered official. That would be lap 150 for the Daytona 500, lap 300 for the Coke 600, lap 276 for the Southern 500 and lap 120 for the Brickyard 400.

It just felt like too much was missing to end the Coke 600 at 249 laps. Ending it at lap 350, however? It wouldn’t be ideal, but it would feel far more like a completed race than the one we got last weekend.

3. Which IndyCar stars should cross over to NASCAR for Memorial Day Weekend?

The history of Double Duty has been dominated by stars in the NASCAR ranks crossing over to run the Indianapolis 500. Will we ever see an IndyCar star crossover to NASCAR to run the Coke 600?

Even if nothing materializes, there are plenty of drivers in the IndyCar field that would love to try it.

“I want to,” Josef Newgarden said. “So bad. I want to, terribly badly, and that’s not just a me thing. I think if you ask a lot of the drivers in the field, they would all relish in the opportunity to do the Double.”

As the first back-to-back Indy 500 champion in more than two decades, there’s arguably no one better for the job than Newgarden. He’s always been great on ovals in IndyCar tenure, but he’s turned it up to 11 in the last two years, with eight wins in his last 11 starts on ovals.

Yes, you read that right. Eight wins in 11 oval starts. And in the two races where he crashed out, he won both poles and led a combined 246 laps.

RaceFinish
2022 Texas1st
2022 Indianapolis13th
2022 Iowa 11st
2022 Iowa 224th (crash)
2022 Gateway1st
2023 Texas1st
2023 Indianapolis1st
2023 Iowa 11st
2023 Iowa 21st
2023 Gateway25th (crash)
2024 Indianapolis1st

It’ll be a challenge for any driver to adapt to NASCAR, just as it is for any driver to adapt to Indy. But with Newgarden having the rest of the IndyCar field’s number on ovals, he’d be one the best drivers to adapt to stock cars if he ever got the opportunity.

4. Does Parker Retzlaff have a future with Richard Childress Racing?

A photo of a Next Gen car with Parker Retzlaff’s name on it was found in the Richard Childress Racing shop on May 24.

Flash forward less than a week later, and while Retzlaff will not run a Cup race with RCR itself, he will make his Cup Series debut in Beard Motorsports’ No. 62 machine at Daytona International Speedway this August.

Beard has a technical alliance with RCR, and RCR Xfinity Series driver Austin Hill ran a part-time Cup schedule with the No. 62 team in 2023.

None of this should come as a surprise, as Retzlaff is currently racing full-time in Xfinity for Jordan Anderson Racing, which also has an alliance with RCR. Retzlaff has impressed with three top fives and 10 top 10s in 45 starts with JAR, and when you put all the pieces together, it’s clear that more is in store for Retzlaff within that ladder.

While nothing has been said about Retzlaff’s 2025 plans (or anyone in Xfinity, for that matter), it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get a promotion of some sort for next season in light of these recent developments.

About the author

Thanksgiving Photo

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch and is a three-year veteran of the site. His weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” He also writes commentary, contributes to podcasts, edits articles and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage.

Can find on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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18 Comments
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Bill B

Well this should shut up all the know-it-all people assuming it’s all been prearranged. YOU ALL WERE WRONG!!!
It isn’t in the bag. And that’s why it’s being discussed

I will be shocked if he isn’t granted a waiver but that will pretty much set a precedent that makes the waiver rule a joke. Perhaps only in the case of a suspension will waivers not be granted in the future.
What happens if someone decides to run a race that’s not as prestigious as the Indy 500? And who decides what qualifies as a prestigious race?

Echo

lololol so now you actually believe what Nascar is saying so you can call all us know it alls wrong . So funny. Were we wrong, is Nascar play acting to keep the speculation and suspense in the news ! Do you really think Rick is stupid enough to gamble on this, or is it you getting suckered in ! Maybe we will never know but thanks for the chuckle.

Bill B

My only point is that no one on the fan side actually knows what is happening. It’s all assumptions and they talk like it’s a fact.

Now if I had to bet on it, I’d bet the waiver is a certainty but NASCAR still has to grant it.

WJW Motorsports

C’mon Bill – you are one of the best and savviest posters on here. You can’t tell us you believe any of that waiver nonsense – unless you’ve been kidnapped and held against your will? Blink twice if so. The funniest thing about it is Larson couldn’t care less.

Bill B

Y’all get that I think he should get a waiver and I think he will get a waiver and I want him to get a waiver.
I’m just not willing to ASSUME anything until I see some reliable source says a waiver has been granted.

That’s the only thing we differ on. I don’t count on NASCAR at all. They go out of their way to do stupid things. that defy logic and rational thinking.

WJW Motorsports

No, we agree on NASCAR stupidity. I’m a Larson and HMS fan and I believe the correct choice – easily – is no waiver at all. Not granting it would actually legitimize a little bit the joke that is the playoffs. But I would not have given one to Kyle (Busch) either.

Last edited 18 days ago by WJW Motorsports
Bill B

I also like the fact that NASCAR has painted itself in a corner with the playoffs and waiver requirement. The very purpose of the “must run every race” rule is to ensure that drivers don’t cherry pick the most lucrative races or worse, run in a rival series instead.
And here they are having to go against one of their basic tenets that has been in place since Winston became the series sponsor. Nothing like having to swallow your pride in the name of common sense. I like seeing them squirm at their own ineptness. Wallow in your own mess NASCAR!

Tony

Larson drives for NASCAR’s house team who gets every possible break so of course he gets the waiver. Were this ten years ago & he’s driving for Ganassi, probably not. Only blind/deaf people or Gordon/Johnson cultists doubt that Hendrick has a different set of rules.

sb

As I recall, Indy used to start around 11 am, making the possibility of ‘doing the double’ more reasonable. Something to consider. Then perhaps more drivers would consider trying it. as for the ‘not quite 600’, since Monday was a holiday and people didn’t need to worry about going to work, it seems silly that they didn’t call the race earlier and have it continue Monday morning. there were enough laps left to run that would have made for an interesting sprint to the finish. Seems such an easy solutions.

DoninAjax

It was 11 am local time, noon on the East Coast. The Daytona 500 telecast started at 12:40 pm and the race started at 12:45 pm. Monaco used to start at 8 am East Coast time, 2 pm local..

DoninAjax

ENOUGH ALREADY with the waiver!!!! The NA$CAR brain trust will drag it out as long as they can to get the publicity.

Michael Latino

Maybe if Larson gives Nascar $75000. they will give him the waiver. Nascar seems to be all about money after screwing the CA fans and getting rid of the AAA speedway.

Marshall

Maybe NASCAR has finally realized that the whole system is stupid and their championship is completely meaningless if drivers can just skip races at will. Regardless of Kyle Larson’s intent to compete in both races, when he was actually forced to make a choice he chose a rival series. If I were NASCAR I would definitely be pissed that one of their stars decided one of their second biggest races could just be skipped.

Honestly I don’t care if Larson gets a waiver or doesn’t because I don’t give a damn about the playoffs anyway. Once the regular season champ gets his trophy to me the actual championship has been settled. The weird invitational tournament for lots of money makes for some drama to be sure, but it’s not a championship race. So give him a waiver or don’t, I’m good with either. Kinda hoping the answer is no just because NASCAR always does the dumbest thing possible, and I want to see what they do to squirm out of this one.

JD Brewski

The waiver should just go away. The Chase/playoffs too. Championship = 36 races. Run the chase as a $10 million bonus round instead. If a driver can miss a race or two and feel that they can stay in hunt based on # of wins or top 16 without wins (and not more than 16 different winners), then go for it. Maybe the only exception is if you are injured in a cup level event. This puts more risk on running Xfinity or Trucks too. Absolutely right that NASCR benefited from Kyle running the 500.

Last edited 18 days ago by JD Brewski
JD Brewski

Also I am OK doubling points, for the last 10 races, to give everyone a shot to really advance their position at the end of the year, if they have figured things out. A late season push could add some excitement to for the whole field.

Last edited 18 days ago by JD Brewski
Ellenjay

Doubling points sounds great, but only for the top half of the field. That way, a bad finish would cost you.
Kyle Busch being eligible for his injury championship waiver made waivers nonsense. Were they thinking he was David Pearson?

Bobby DK

My guess is Kyle and Hendricks can have a waiver for a nominal 25 point reduction (penalty).

George R Munroe

If Nascar is not smart enough to give Larson a wavier they will lose so much of the now fans it will so bad of of a money thing for them they will the one s losing, me

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