NASCAR announced on Wednesday that Kurt Busch has regained his NASCAR eligibility, effective immediately, so I think it’s pretty safe to say he’ll be back behind the wheel of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet this weekend for the Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
This past weekend, Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas publicly questioned when Busch would be reinstated and whether or not he would be allowed to compete for one of the 16 spots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship postseason.
NASCAR, with its announcement on Wednesday, answered Haas’ questions. In addition to announcing his immediate eligibility, NASCAR also stated that Busch will receive a waiver regarding the Chase eligibility rule that stipulates drivers compete in all 26 races prior to the start of the Chase.
I have to admit, the Chase waiver surprised me. When I heard about Haas asking about Busch’s possible Chase eligibility last weekend, I thought he was in some kind of dream land. Busch allowed to compete for a Chase spot this year after missing races because of a NASCAR suspension? Really!?!
Boy, I was sure wrong.
I completely agree with Busch’s reinstatement, but I admit, I have mixed feelings about the waiver.
As I’ve mentioned in this space before, I didn’t agree with the suspension. I thought NASCAR should wait to see if charges were going to be filed instead of basing the suspension on the opinion of a court commissioner that something may have happened.
Then, when the word came down from the Delaware Attorney General’s Office last week that Busch wouldn’t face charges, I thought Busch should’ve been reinstated immediately, i.e. prior to the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That didn’t happen.
Boy, I sure haven’t been on the same page as NASCAR through much of this, have I?
Anyway, back to the whole waiver thing.
Since charges were never filed, if NASCAR had seen things the way I did and waited until an announcement of charges, there never would’ve been a suspension, because charges weren’t filed.
But NASCAR did suspend Busch. The fact that his fellow-competitors got a three-race head start does penalize Busch, somewhat, regarding getting into the Chase, but maybe not all that much since he retains Chase eligibility. Case in point, Brian Vickers missed races at Daytona and and Atlanta, running only one race so far at Las Vegas. Still, he’s already higher in the standings than Tony Stewart, who has competed in all three races so far. Plus, Busch still has 23 races to get a win or two. He won once last year. One way you could look at it is that Busch only managed one win in 36 races in 2014, but you could also look at it as it didn’t take him 23 races to get that one win, as his victory didn’t come that late in the season.
The real sticking point for me regarding the waiver, though, is that Busch’s waiver kind of weakens the eligibility requirement of needing to run all the races. I’m glad there is a stipulation for extenuating circumstances. On top of that, I agree with waivers granted to Stewart last season following the tragedy in Upstate New York and to Vickers this season while he sat out two races as his recovery from offseason heart surgery continued. But a waiver for races missed because of a NASCAR suspension?
I realize that NASCAR probably can’t come up with an exact written standard to describe what is waiver worthy and what isn’t, but it’s beginning to look like waivers may be issued for any reason for missing a race or races. If that’s the case, what’s the point of the rule?
Also, does the waiver for races missed because of suspension mean that the suspension was a mistake? It’s perplexing to me.
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