NASCAR removes championship favorite from playoff standings

Kyle Larson is listed with zero playoff points, despite having earned 17 so far in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR / Logan Riely/GettyImages

Hendrick Motorsports' Kyle Larson won the NASCAR Cup Series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway earlier this year, presumably securing his spot in the four-round, 10-race postseason for the fourth consecutive season.

However, after he opted to remain at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and compete in IndyCar's rain-delayed Indy 500, he missed the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Drivers are required to compete in all 26 regular season races in order to retain playoff eligibility, unless they are granted a playoff waiver. More than a week after Hendrick Motorsports requested a waiver for the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet, a decision has not yet been made.

Kyle Larson ineligible for NASCAR Cup Series playoffs?

At first, it was thought that a waiver being granted to the 2021 Cup Series champion was a foregone conclusion, given how many other drivers have been granted waivers in years past. Waivers have been granted for a variety of reasons.

Plus, the whole 26-race rule is in place for two reasons. Most importantly, it is used to prevent part-time drivers (i.e. Jimmie Johnson or A.J. Allmendinger) from "stealing" one of the 16 playoff spots with a victory.

For example, Allmendinger did not qualify for the 2021 playoffs, despite winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

It is also in place to prevent full-time drivers from picking and choosing which events to run; there is no "load management" in NASCAR.

The rule is not designed to screw over a full-time driver and a perennial championship favorite who dealt with bad weather.

Keeping Larson out of the playoffs would basically amount to exactly that, since he did indeed qualify for the Coca-Cola 600 and he did show up to Charlotte before the race had officially ended; NASCAR simply opted to call it, an inexplicable decision in itself since the track was, in fact, drying.

But the longer this situation drags on, it is starting to seem like there is a very real possibility that Larson's championship upside for 2024 is 17th place, despite the fact that he sits second in points with two victories.

Fox Sports' Bob Pockrass shared the points report following this past Sunday's race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and despite Larson's two wins and series-leading seven stage wins this season, he is listed with zero playoff points.

He has actually earned 17.

While the following statement could change if Larson is finally granted a playoff waiver, the fact is that Larson is not currently eligible for the playoffs or the championship.

Will NASCAR make the right decision? Will they make any decision, one way or another, without allowing this situation to needlessly drag on, week after week?

UPDATE: NASCAR has decided to grant Kyle Larson a playoff waiver.

Next. NASCAR: 3 teams most likely to buy a Stewart-Haas Racing charter. NASCAR: 3 teams most likely to buy a Stewart-Haas Racing charter. dark

The next Cup Series race is scheduled to take place at Sonoma Raceway this Sunday, June 9. The Toyota/Save Mart 350 is set to be broadcast live on Fox starting at 3:30 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don't miss it!