NASCAR: Kyle Larson currently ineligible for playoffs, championship

Unless NASCAR finally decides to take action, Kyle Larson officially remains ineligible for the 2024 Cup Series playoffs and championship.
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR / Sean Gardner/GettyImages

Though NASCAR could still opt to grant Hendrick Motorsports' Kyle Larson a playoff waiver after he decided to stay at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and compete in IndyCar's Indy 500 two weekends ago, that decision has not yet been made.

Larson was attempting to complete the Memorial Day Double, but the four-hour rain delay at Indianapolis threw a wrench into those plans, causing him to be late for NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Larson's decision to stay at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Speedway, Indiana oval led to him showing up to Charlotte Motor Speedway while the Coca-Cola 600 was red flagged due to rain. It was halted after 249 of the 400 scheduled laps around the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) Concord, North Carolina had been run.

The Coca-Cola 600 ultimately did not get restarted, and Larson did not get to compete in it at all. Justin Allgaier filled in for him and finished in 13th place. Larson finished in 18th in his first ever Indy 500 attempt, driving for Arrow McLaren through a partnership with NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick.

Larson had already locked up a spot in the 2024 Cup Series playoffs by winning the races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway earlier this year, and he entered the Coca-Cola 600 weekend as the points leader.

But drivers are required to compete in all 26 regular season races to remain eligible for the playoffs and thus the championship, unless they are granted a playoff waiver.

Will Kyle Larson get a playoff waiver?

Given the fact that the 26-race requirement is designed (a) to prevent drivers from "resting" and targeting select races to win and (b) to prevent part-time drivers (i.e. A.J. Allmendinger and Jimmie Johnson) from "stealing" a playoff spot with a victory, it was believed that Larson being granted a playoff waiver would be nothing more than a formality.

Playoff waivers have been granted for a variety of reasons in years past, many times on the same day the requests were made.

Though missing a Cup Series race for a race in another series has never been of those reasons, that was never Larson's intention.

The fact is that he did show up at Charlotte with more than enough time to spare; it was the weather which ultimately prevented him from having the chance to compete on a day when he promoted motorsport in a way that no driver had done since Kurt Busch in 2014.

The Indy 500 also isn't just "another race", and driving 500 miles before hopping on a plane to Charlotte to drive 600 more is anything but "load management". It's not like he sat out one of NASCAR's crown jewel events to run some local go-kart event.

But more than a week later, that waiver has not yet been granted, a bizarre development considering the fact that another Cup Series race has already been contested at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway -- with Larson behind the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet.

As of this moment, Larson is ineligible for the playoffs and the championship, and the only way for that to change is if NASCAR effectively forgives his absence.

Eight days later, there is no timetable for that decision.

Larson could very well already be eliminated from postseason contention, or he could still be locked into the playoffs, like everyone believed he was all the way back in March -- and like everyone initially believed he'd be after the events of last Sunday unfolded.

Nobody knows.

Should NASCAR not grant Larson a waiver, it would leave one of their top drivers excluded from the championship in a season during which he had already done more than enough to qualify for the playoffs.

IndyCar: A.J. Allmendinger rules out Indy 500 return. IndyCar: A.J. Allmendinger rules out Indy 500 return. dark. Next

Such a shambolic decision would also effectively create a situation in which the 16th and final driver to lock into this year's playoffs would arguably not be deserving of the spot. Perhaps it would even lead some media outlets to share "would-be" playoff pictures including Larson, leading up to and during the four-round, 10-race postseason.