NASCAR grants Kyle Larson Playoff waiver

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 22: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, sits in his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on September 22, 2023 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

NASCAR officials Tuesday granted Kyle Larson a waiver restoring his eligibility for the Cup Series Playoffs.

Hendrick Motorsports applied for the exception after Larson missed the Coca-Cola 600 on May 26, with his arrival at Charlotte Motor Speedway delayed by rain at the Indianapolis 500, where he finished 18th in his IndyCar debut. Larson has qualified for the Cup Series’ 16-driver postseason field as a two-time winner this season.

The NASCAR Rule Book covers eligibility in Section, which states: “Unless otherwise authorized by NASCAR, driver(s) and Team Owner(s) must start all Championship Events of the current season to be eligible for The Playoffs. If a starting position was not earned, then the driver(s) and Team Owner(s) must have attempted to Qualify, at the discretion of the Series Managing Director, for the Race.”

Larson earned the 10th starting spot for his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on May 25 at Charlotte in the Cup Series qualifying session, then flew to Indianapolis as he attempted to become the fifth driver to run both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. When storms delayed the Indianapolis event by roughly four hours, Larson stayed to begin the 500-mile race, and standby driver Justin Allgaier suited up to start the 600 in Charlotte for the No. 5 team.

Allgaier, an Xfinity Series regular, dropped to the rear for the green flag but worked his way up in the running order when rain and lightning halted the action at Charlotte with 249 of a scheduled 400 laps complete. Larson flew in from Indianapolis and arrived at the No. 5 team’s pit box when the race was stopped. He prepared to enter the car for the remainder of the 600-mile event, but after the progress of the track-drying efforts had slowed, the race did not resume.

As the official starter of record, Allgaier was credited with 13th place in his first Cup Series start since 2022. Larson did not earn any championship points for the race, and he fell from the lead in the Cup Series standings. After Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway where Larson finished 10th, he was second in the points standings, 21 points behind Denny Hamlin.

Larson has won twice in the Cup Series this season, first with a dominant victory in March at Las Vegas. Two months later, he prevailed at Kansas Speedway by 0.001 seconds in the closest finish in series history, notching his 25th career win in NASCAR’s top tour.

“We ultimately landed at giving Kyle a waiver,” NASCAR SVP of Competition Elton Sawyer said. “Essentially our decision-making was, although we had the inclement weather in Indianapolis as well as Charlotte, Kyle made every attempt to get to Charlotte. He was standing in the pitbox with his helmet on ready to go. Unfortunately, we had weather in Charlotte as well and were unfortunately not able to get the race going again. That’s how we landed on our decision.”

Greg Engle