Kyle Busch was the NASCAR news of the day on Tuesday with his #RowdyReturns announcement via Twitter, complete with video. He’ll make his return to his seat in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Saturday night in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with his first points-paying race the following weekend, the Coca-Cola 600, also at Charlotte.
Busch was still the talk of NASCAR Nation on Wednesday with NASCAR’s announcement that Busch would be granted a waiver, allowing him to compete for one of the 16 spots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup 10-race championship post-season, despite missing the first 11 points-paying races of the season.
NASCAR rules regarding entry into the Chase state that drivers must attempt to qualify for all 26 of the “regular season” races, be in the top-30 of the drivers points standings after the 26th race and either win at least one race or be high enough in the points standings to claim one of the final Chase spots after the race-winning drivers are put into the 16-driver field.
The waiver doesn’t automatically put Busch in the Chase. He’ll still have to be in the top-30 after race 26 (Sept. 12 at Richmond International Racey) and win at least a race. Realistically, there’s probably no chance Busch could get into the Chase on points, alone.
Getting into the Chase, period, is going to be a tough row to hoe for Busch. Everyone else has, basically, an 11-race head start over him. Tony Stewart is 30th in points right now with 179 points. That’s more than three-and-a-half races’ worth of points. And while Busch gets his season off the ground, Stewart will still be racing. Also, there are a lot of other drivers who already have been racing that Busch will have to leap-frog to get to Stewart and 30th. Granted, a lot of the drivers in the points basement aren’t drivers normally running up front, except for maybe at Daytona and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, and there’s not another race at Dega until after the Chase starts.
There also are other things to consider. Busch has yet to drive a car under the 2015 rules package. Sure, he did run the Sprint Unlimited and a Budweiser Duel race before his injury, but the new rules package wasn’t in place at Daytona. Of course, reports have the new cars running much like an Xfinity car, and Busch is the all-time winningest driver in that series. But, Busch has been out nearly three months, and he recently suffered serious injury, so isn’t it reasonable to expect some kind of adjustment period? He also does have a new crew chief, as far as Sprint Cup Series racing goes, but that crew chief is Adam Stevens, and it’s no secret what this driver/crew chief pairing did last year in the Xfinity (then-Nationwide) Series, so I’m not sure that’s a hurdle. I just thought it was worth mentioning.
Whether Busch makes the Chase or not, the great NASCAR debate du jour is whether or not Busch should have gotten a waiver. The debate has seemed heated, at times, this morning on SiriusXM NASCAR radio.
Personally, I’m not in agreement with this waiver. Why? Because Busch has missed 11 races. I think a line should be drawn on the number of races a driver can miss and still be considered Chase-eligible, and I think that line should be drawn somewhere before 11th. I’m not sure exactly where that line should be drawn, but I’m thinking three may be a good number. It’s the number missed by Tony Stewart last year and Kurt Busch earlier this season before receiving waivers. I think that’s reasonable.
Again, Busch isn’t locked into the Chase, yet, so this may end up being a moot point. I’ll reference my tough row to hoe comment from above.
I don’t think the stipulation of attempting to qualify for all races should be eliminated, despite waivers being granted, even for 11 races missed. Some of the callers on SiriusXM this morning who are against Busch getting a waiver, I think, are taking things too far by saying that NASCAR should do away with the stipulation, since it seems to hold no wait with waivers being granted right and left.
I think that may be taking the arguement a little too far. With no waiver, what’s to keep a part-time driver (part-time by choice or financial circumstance, not by injury) from winning a race and getting into the Chase after an intentional partial schedule. Here’s an example: What if a road course ringer won at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International or Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway? Okay, that’s never happened at the Sprint Cup level, but don’t you just get the feeling that if NASCAR did away with the stipulation of needing to attempt to qualify for all the races, that would be when Boris Said comes over and finally wins a Cup race.
I also see the need for waivers. I have no desire to see injured drivers gingerly getting into their cars to keep championship hopes alive. But, again, I think there needs to be a line drawn somewhere before 11 races.
What do you think about Busch’s waiver? Voice your two cents in an online poll, here.
Talk to us on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner