Race Weekend Central

Dropping the Hammer: NASCAR Saves Itself From Self-Immolation

Missed it by that much,” – Maxwell Smart, “Get Smart”

Usually the preceding quote from Agent 86 — the protagonist of the famous 1960s spy sitcom and its 2008 movie adaptation — meant Smart had almost accomplished a task but failed in hilarious fashion.

In the case of NASCAR this week, it’s the opposite.

The folks in Daytona, thankfully, did what they should have done in the case of Kyle Larson and the playoff waiver.

However, the way they went about it was hilariously unnecessary and potentially harmful to NASCAR’s brand.

On Tuesday (June 4), NASCAR finally confirmed — nine days after the runnings of the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 — that Larson would indeed remain playoff-eligible.

See also
Kyle Larson Receives Playoff Waiver From NASCAR

That was five days after it was confirmed Hendrick Motorsports had submitted its request for Larson to receive the waiver.

It was two days after The Athletic’s Jordan Bianchi said on The Teardown that there was “serious” consideration within NASCAR to not giving out the waiver.

The fact there are people in the sanctioning body who would be willing to make a decision that would — in one fell swoop — discourage NASCAR drivers from ever attempting The Double again is astounding.

But on Tuesday, NASCAR official Elton Sawyer told reporters in a zoom press conference the fact that Larson made the effort to get to Charlotte Motor Speedway was enough to earn a waiver.

So why did it take until after the Sunday’s (June 2) race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for the decision to come down?

It kind of feels like NASCAR successfully grabbed the golden idol from the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but, on its way out of the temple, left behind its whip and fedora and has a few arrows in its back.

This should have been simple.

Larson did nothing wrong.

Everything he did was for the betterment of not just NASCAR, but motorsports in general.

There’s always going to be another Coca-Cola 600 in his future. But you only get to compete in your first Indy 500 once.

While Hendrick Motorsports released its PR-friendly statement, Larson showed his approval in a more succinct way.

Ok, now about the waiver system.

Larson aside, let me be clear.

There needs to be firm lines — drawn in concrete — when it comes to playoff waivers being given out. NASCAR has distributed them like candy.

It should be limited to injuries sustained in or out of racing, illness, family emergencies and very special motorsports events like The Double.

That’s it.

I dove into this last year when it came to Chase Elliott‘s one-race suspension for intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

If you intentionally use your car as a weapon to wreck someone else at speed on anything above a short track, and that results in a suspension, I don’t believe you should get a waiver.

If you missed a race because you happened to be stuck in a jail somewhere after doing something foolish/illegal, you definitely shouldn’t get a waiver.

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

But trying to be the first NASCAR driver to attempt The Double in 10 years — especially the driver that’s been the most-hyped one to ever try it — we should never even been having that conversation.

But really, maybe it’s time to get rid of the waiver.

For something that’s been given out all but a few times, it’s turned into being more of a headache than anyone ever wanted.

About the author

danielmcfadin
 | Website

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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Steve

Trouble is Nascar wants all the drivers at all the races. If you get rid of the waivers system, guys will miss races intentionally, especially if they have already won a race during the season.

If there was a rule in place that suspended drivers couldn’t get a waiver, do you think Nascar would suspend someone like Elliott? Good luck with that.

You guys keep looking at the sport as a competition. If it was all about the competition, the rule book would not be in pencil. No, Nascar is a money making business first disguised as an auto racing league. That’s why they make the inconsistent decisions they do. Their decisions are based on how much money they bring into the sport. Exibit A: Stenhouse gets fined heavily for something that other drivers have done before but were not fined. Larson gets a waiver even though he never got in the car at Charlotte and despite what the waiver rules say.

The Hendrick stable knew Nascar was going to give them a waiver long before Indy. Nascar just dragged the announcement out to keep people talking $$$$.

Last edited 17 days ago by Steve
Carl A

If Nascar didn’t have the waiver rule it would become similar to the NBA. The players sit out games just to rest and therefore disrespect the fans who buy the tickets.

Charlie

I just don’t see this happening. The sponsor agreements and contracts are not going to let their spokesperson just sit out and not be racing.

There were a number of times pre-playoffs the champion had things wrapped up before the final race. They didn’t just stay home because they didn’t need to be there.

By the same token, the drivers who miss the playoffs don’t all just sit out the end of the year since there is no championship value to it.

DoninAjax

NA$CAR backed itself into a corner when they said “Win and you’re in” and then laid out a bunch of exceptions which don’t apply to certain owners. The Law of Unintended Consequences bites the Brain Trust in their butts…Again!

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