Chase Elliott had the NASCAR nation on its ears last week when it was revealed he had broken his left leg in a snowboarding accident.
While accidents obviously happen, this has sparked an age-old debate about what is expected of drivers during the season, and ultimately whether NASCAR should be in the business of issuing series waivers playoffs when these types of incidents occur?
In this week’s episode of 2 Headed Monster, Vito Pugliese and Joy Tomlinson discuss the subject.
Hard Pass on the Hall Pass
With the Playoff/Chase formats of the last decade, missed races in the first half of the season present a solution that simply wasn’t available in previous years.
The principle of the game being “win and you’re in”, this allowed Kyle Busch the luxury of recovering for four months before his return in 2015. Granted, Busch was fortunate to receive a waiver for being injured in a NASCAR race – despite it being a race in a lower level series.
Busch also managed to score four wins in the first five races upon his return, and despite missing the first 15 races, he found himself tied for the championship lead to begin the 2015 playoffs.
Does all this seem incongruous to be crowned champion of the season?
Before KFB fans said GFY, that wasn’t an indictment of Kyle; he was simply following the rules and waivers issued by the sanctioning body. Chase Elliott eventually will be too. But is there a reason we need a waiver in the first place?
Yeah, sometimes things happen, people get hurt and you don’t win a title.
Can’t that be enough?
I always bristle at comparisons to other sports, but that’s the path we took when we decided to have a playoff to begin with. Let’s take a look at the NFL last season.
Take the case of Matthew Stafford, after winning the Super Bowl a year prior, the Rams were naturally a solid choice to contend for back-to-back titles. Unfortunately, Stafford suffered season-ending injuries, including a concussion and spinal cord contusion. Should the Rams have gotten a pass for a few games since they were essentially short their star driver?
Of course not, it’s ridiculous. He therefore also misses 25% of the season but remains 100% champion.
Before everyone stands up and prepares a half-hearted retort in the comments section, this is not to say that he should just forfeit the season and not race the rest of the year, or even to suggest that he won’t win any races. .
I’d be shocked if Elliott didn’t win at least four races this season, considering how quickly the Hendrick Chevrolets were the first two support tracks the series visited. I’m just saying that getting a free pass to continue contending for a championship only waters down what championships represent.
Sure, you can make the argument that the playoff format allows anyone with a pulse and a single eligible win to do the same thing — but you have to break the line somewhere.
Furthermore, the nature of the injury must also be taken into account. Busch, as I mentioned, although he wasn’t racing in a Cup race, he was at least racing in a NASCAR race the day before his crash that left him with a broken leg in 2015.
If this were a case of negligence – for example, allowing the field to race through Turn 1 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the middle of a rain shower – then surely this driver will be able to get a pass from NASCAR to continue if he risks being eliminated. or miss the playoffs because of this incident.
Bad luck, whether it’s a concussion from hitting a wall or tripping over the cat near the stairs, shouldn’t be the asterisk next to a championship or mentioned in parentheses in subsequent years.
Yes, it’s a star-driven sport, but it’s also a sport that languishes far longer than even MLB, from Valentine’s Day to Thanksgiving. Drivers must maintain their physical and mechanical well-being during this time.
And curb the “but they’re human, they have to live their lives!” » hysterical.
Absolutely, they do. That’s what the low season is for.
If Dale Earnhardt fell from a tree stand while deer hunting the week before the season finale in Atlanta in 1990, would Bill France, Jr. have looked away, delayed the race a week so that he can… okay, bad example. If Kyle Larson navigates one of his 800 hp garden tractors down a Kansas dirt road and twists his shoulder, why should he take a few months off when every other driver has de-risked the series they’re on are supposed to concentrate? –Vito Pugliese
Injuries can happen anywhere and at any time
Why shouldn’t NASCAR grant playoff waivers for off-track injuries?
I mean, really, waivers have been granted for almost everything over the years, from injuries occurring on the track to drivers getting sick and missing a race. The sanctioning body even gave one to Matt Kenseth in 2020 when it was not initially planned to run all the races.
Chip Ganassi Racing scored it for Larson’s former race after Larson was suspended from NASCAR competition during the COVID-19 pause.
As my colleague mentioned above, Kyle Busch won the 2015 Cup championship after missing several races due to a broken leg and ankle.
Additionally, some drivers are not old enough to compete on the biggest circuits and receive waivers at age 18 (particularly in the Craftsman Truck Series).
Already this year, Taylor Gray was obtained an exemption for this reason, since he will not turn 18 until March 25 and will miss the first three races of the season. There are only 16 truck events during the regular season, so missing three is actually a pretty big chunk of the year.
“But those cases aren’t like Elliott’s case,” you might respond. You’re right, Elliott’s injury happened off the track.
However, there is precedent for this; Tony Stewart had an off-road accident before the start of 2016 where he broke his back and NASCAR granted him a waiver for the playoffs.
Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, mentioned this instance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio earlier this week.
He also said: “I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be granted a waiver, but we will follow that process and make sure we check all the boxes.” »
Even if it’s on a case by case basis, I don’t see why Elliott’s situation would be any different than Stewart’s.
Even Kyle Petty commented on the topic on NASCAR on NBC podcast. “We applaud Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson and all those guys who go out and race six nights a week in winged sprint cars and karts and midgets, but God forbid you can’t go snowboarding and get hurt.” , Petty said. “He should get a waiver.” I don’t care how you get hurt. This is what the medical exemption is for.
Additionally, several Cup drivers shared their thoughts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last week, including Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney And Bubba Wallace. Harvick And Blaney both pointed out that you can get hurt at any time, whether it’s from falling on your cat or something else.
Plus, it’s not like Elliott is doing anything crazy or that he’s inexperienced; he grew up snowboarding. He once hit the slopes with Olympic gold medalist Red Gerard in 2016.
I doubt NASCAR wants its most popular driver not to challenge for another championship if he wins his way to the playoffs. —Joy Tomlinson
Subscribe to the Frontstretch newsletter
A daily email update (Monday – Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone.