NASCAR: The Kyle Larson U-turn is outrageously hypocritical

The same people who anticipated Kyle Larson would embarrass the IndyCar field in the Indy 500 are now claiming he should be ineligible for the NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren, Hendrick Motorsports, Indy 500, IndyCar
Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren, Hendrick Motorsports, Indy 500, IndyCar / James Gilbert/GettyImages

Kyle Larson's Memorial Day Double attempt did not go according to plan on Sunday. Instead of becoming the fifth driver to run both IndyCar's Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day, he became the second driver to see a Memorial Day Double attempt feature only one of the two crown jewel events.

After the Indy 500 was delayed by four hours due to rain, Larson opted to remain at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Speedway, Indiana oval for the 200-lap race. Afterward, he flew to Charlotte, but by the time he arrived, the 400-lap race around the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) Concord, North Carolina oval had been red flagged due to rain after 249 laps.

The Coca-Cola 600 was ultimately called after 249 laps, and Larson never go the chance to compete. Justin Allgaier had filled in for him behind the wheel of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and finished in 13th place.

As a result, there is apparently a debate over whether or not Larson should receive a NASCAR playoff waiver.

He is already locked into the Cup Series playoffs thanks to his two wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway, but drivers must compete in all 26 regular season to remain eligible.

The entire debate is laughable.

First and foremost, when, under any circumstances, has NASCAR denied a driver a waiver in recent years? The 26-race rule is to prevent drivers from skipping races at will. Think of it as a load management safeguard.

There is no reason to believe that Larson, who led the point standings prior to the Coca-Cola 600, won't remain championship eligible.

But what is even more laughable is the complete U-turn that some of the media talking heads, plus a contingent of fans, have done in light of Larson's ill-fated Memorial Day Double attempt.

If you would have predicted a few weeks ago that Larson would finish the Indy 500 in 18th place, you would have been ridiculed and labeled a "hater".

After all, "generational talent".

"Best in the world".

"Better than Max Verstappen".

Heaven forbid you didn't sing his praises at every turn.

And this isn't to say that Larson isn't great, but think about it. His betting odds skyrocketed from +2500 to +700, moving him ahead of reigning race winner Josef Newgarden, following the April Indy 500 open test, when he literally finished second behind Newgarden.

Newgarden got less praise for beating Larson than Larson did for almost beating Newgarden -- in an unofficial practice session. We saw how that turned out on Sunday, with Newgarden becoming the race's first back-to-back winner since 2002.

The same people who actually thought Larson was going to walk in and dominate the Indy 500 are now advocating that he not even remain eligible to win the NASCAR Cup Series championship -- five and a half months before a champion is scheduled to be crowned at Phoenix Raceway.

It's effectively like he is being disowned.

Upon realizing that the Indy 500 is, in fact, more than an amateur event, now they want Larson penalized for running it.

How bizarre is that? What's even crazier is the fact that it's not just one or two individuals with a "hot take" on this matter.

It's a significant percentage of the very same people who just bent over backwards trying to justify their pick that Larson would show up the likes of Newgarden, Alex Palou, Scott Dixon, and other IndyCar legends by winning the biggest race in the world.

And without explicitly referencing a certain situation from Talladega four summers ago, it's fairly obvious that failing to "tow the party line" can have major consequences when it comes to the views expressed by the NASCAR media.

Hopefully the general public is clued in enough to see the obvious groupthink. You have to wonder how many of these opinions are actually believed by the people giving them.

The idea that giving Larson a waiver sets a bad precedent is an even bigger joke.

It's the Indy bleeping 500.

It's not like he's skipping Charlotte for a Taylor Swift concert.

It's also not some local go-kart tournament or some local dirt track race. Heck, it's not even some random IndyCar road course race.

It's the biggest single-day sporting event in the world. Is the fact that that event isn't a NASCAR race really surprising news to some?

Until half the Cup Series field shows up to Indy 500 Bump Day in Dale Coyne Racing Hondas, there is no "precedent" even remotely close to existing.

It's an inferiority complex-inspired, half-baked excuse in an attempt to pretend that a NASCAR race is more important than the Indy 500.

If Larson had won the Indy 500, I guarantee this isn't even a discussion.

And it's not like the plan was for Larson to skip the Coca-Cola 600. NASCAR vs. IndyCar is not the debate that many in the NASCAR world initially wanted it to be, and it never has been.

Tough decisions had to be made on Sunday, and those decisions needed to be made for one reason and one reason alone: bad weather. At the end of the day, isn't bad weather uncontrollable?

Let's not forget that Larson was present and ready to run the final 151 laps of the Coca-Cola 600, even though he would not have been eligible to score points or playoff points at that point. With the "Hendrick 1,100" off the table, he very well could have decided not to even show up.

But after qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 on Saturday and running 500 miles at Indy on Sunday, he was there. Because unlike the individuals trying to diminish what he's doing and effectively exclude him from the NASCAR ranks for the rest of 2024, he's a racer.

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Now it's on NASCAR to make the overwhelmingly obvious decision. Let's hope they make it.