NASCAR: Will Chase Elliott be granted a playoff waiver?

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Chase Elliott is set to miss the next several NASCAR Cup Series races after suffering a fractured left tibia while snowboarding.

For the first time since becoming a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver back in 2016, Chase Elliott missed a race last weekend. Josh Berry replaced him behind the wheel of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in Sunday afternoon’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Causing Elliott to miss this 271-lap race around the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) Las Vegas, Nevada oval was a leg injury he suffered on Friday in a Colorado snowboarding accident. He underwent a three-hour surgery for the injury on Friday night, when it was confirmed that he had fractured his left tibia.

It was first reported that Elliott would be out for “several weeks”, and Hendrick Motorsports have since estimated that he will miss roughly six races.

With Elliott set to miss at least a few more races after seeing his 254-race streak of consecutive starts, which had dated back to the 2016 Daytona 500, come to an end, the subject of NASCAR potentially granting him a playoff waiver has been brought up on multiple occasions.

Will NASCAR grant Chase Elliott a playoff waiver?

While there will inevitably be a contingent of individuals who claim that NASCAR granting Elliott a waiver would be favoritism toward the five-time Most Popular Driver, the real abnormality would be if NASCAR didn’t grant him a waiver, given the very long list a drivers who have received waivers in the past, and for a variety of reasons.

Playoff waivers have been all but automatic for drivers unexpectedly forced to miss races in recent years, to the point where going through the process of having NASCAR approve one really seems to be just a formality.

Hendrick Motorsports have already applied for one, but NASCAR is not expected to make an official decision until Elliott is medically cleared to return, which is when everyone will have a much better idea of how much time he will actually miss.

If he ends up missing six races, it’s hard to see him not getting one.

Keep in mind, a waiver doesn’t lock a driver into the playoffs; it simply means that driver is still eligible to qualify, despite missing a race or races. That driver still scores no points or playoff points during his absence and must either win or qualify on points to get in — and with fewer opportunities to do so.

Several drivers who have been granted waivers in the past haven’t been able to do that, including Jimmie Johnson in 2020.

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Berry is set to replace Elliott in the oval races until he returns, while Jordan Taylor is set to fill in during the road course race at Circuit of the Americas.