NASCAR made the obvious decision to grant Kurt Busch a playoff waiver after it was announced that he would miss Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway.
23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch advanced to the second round of Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session for Sunday afternoon’s M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway, but when making his qualifying attempt, the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion crashed his #45 Toyota.
On Sunday, it was announced that Busch had been experiencing concussion-like symptoms, and the call was made for him to sit out the 160-lap race around the three-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Tricky Triangle in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.
23XI Racing confirmed that Ty Gibbs, who competes for Joe Gibbs Racing full-time in the Xfinity Series, would replace Busch for this race. Gibbs had never before competed in a Cup Series race.
Busch hadn’t missed a start since March 2015, ending a 269-race streak.
Gibbs finished the race in 16th place, though he is ineligible for Cup Series points as a full-time Xfinity Series driver, and Busch did not score any points because he did not compete.
However, as they usually do in cases like this one, NASCAR made the obvious decision to grant Busch a playoff waiver, meaning that his missed start won’t count against him in terms of his playoff eligibility.
This doesn’t mean that Busch is locked into the playoffs; he still needs to qualify, and things could get interesting with where he currently sits in the point standings.
Busch did win the race at Kansas Speedway back in mid-May, but the regular season has produced a total of 14 different winners so far. This means that with five races left on the schedule before the playoffs, including two road course races and a superspeedway race, there is still a chance that the regular season could see more than 16 winners.
With 16 playoff spots available no matter what, a scenario which produces more than 16 winners means that at least one winner will fail to qualify for the playoffs. All of the multi-race winners are safe, but in this scenario, the tiebreaker to determine which single-race winners secure the remaining open spots becomes points.
Following his missed start, Busch sits in 17th place in the point standings, making him the lowest ranking of the nine single-race winners. He sits two points behind the next lowest, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe, in 16th.
Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick and Team Penske rookie Austin Cindric, who sit in 14th and 15th place in the point standings, are both within striking distance, sitting just 24 and 10 points ahead of Busch, respectively.