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NASCAR explains Kyle Larson playoff waiver decision

NASCAR has provided an answer to a question that has lingered since Kyle Larson attempted to compete in both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

NASCAR has granted the 2021 Cup Series champion a waiver that will keep him eligible for the playoffs and detailed the reasons that factored into this decision.

"Kyle made every attempt to get to Charlotte," Elton Sawyer, NASCAR SVP of Competition, told media members Tuesday morning. "He was standing in the pit box with his helmet on, ready to go."

The reason Larson required a waiver was that he missed the start of the Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26. Rain delayed the start of the Indy 500 by four hours, thus removing the built-in time buffer that Larson would have used to travel from Indianapolis to Charlotte.

Hendrick Motorsports and Larson made the decision to remain in Indianapolis, so Justin Allgaier started the Coca-Cola 600 in the No. 5 Chevrolet. Allgaier became the driver of record for the event.

And while Larson made it to the Concord, North Carolina, track during the third stage of the Cup race, he was not able to complete any laps due to a thunderstorm in the area. NASCAR never restarted the race and declared Christopher Bell the winner. Bell was in the lead at the time of the red flag.

Larson will now have back his 17 playoff points gained by winning two races and seven stages, and he will be able to pursue the regular-season championship once again.

Why did this decision take so long for NASCAR? Sawyer explained by saying that they were in uncharted waters with this situation.

"In the past, those waivers have been given mostly for medical reasons or situations where drivers were suspended from our event, and those waivers were granted fairly quickly," Sawyer said.

"This one, again, was unprecedented in the fact that we had a driver miss one of our races -- one of our Cup races, a championship event -- to be at another event. So that's why it took as long as it did."

While Larson made every attempt to get back to Charlotte Motor Speedway to close out the race, he still prioritized a competing series. NASCAR would have been within its right to deny the waiver or potentially grant the waiver and issue a points penalty to Larson and Hendrick Motorsports.

NASCAR did not go this route for multiple reasons. The first is that the Rule Book says NASCAR can either grant or deny a waiver. Sawyer said that they would have had to dive deeper into the Rule Book, something that "didn't feel right" to the sanctioning body.

The other reason NASCAR didn't issue a points penalty is that Larson has already left points on the table.

"There was an opportunity there for the 5 car and Kyle to gain roughly eight playoff points by winning the race and winning each stage," Sawyer said. "And also padding his point lead in the regular season that would ultimately get him 15 additional points.

"Time will tell if those potential 23 points that were on the table that he didn't get, how that will unfold as we go through the playoffs."