Friday, April 24, 2015

COMMENTARY: For Kyle Busch, A NASCAR Waiver Is Only Half The Battle

The clock is ticking on Kyle Busch’s hopes to salvage something from the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said this week that he would like to “figure out how to accommodate” Busch’s desire to race in the 2015 Chase when he returns from injuries suffered at Daytona International Speedway on February 21. And while the sanctioning body has the leeway to overlook Busch’s absence from the 2015 starting lineup so far, there are other requirements the Joe Gibbs Racing driver will be hard-pressed to meet.

Busch suffered a compound fracture of his right tibia and fibula – along with a broken left foot – in the NASCAR XFINITY Series season-opener at Daytona, and will miss his ninth consecutive race this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. He is still weeks away from a competitive return, and when he does come back, he will need a NASCAR waiver to exempt him from the rule requiring Chase contenders to take part in every race. In addition, he will need to fight his way into the Top-30 in championship points and win at least one of the season’s first 26 races.

No matter how NASCAR rules, Busch will have his work cut out for him.

Just 17 races remain in the 2015 regular season, and Busch is still weeks away from a return to the cockpit. He admitted recently that there is no timeline for his damaged leg to fully heal, and said he will not press for an early return.

"I have to please my doctors," he said Busch, who still carries a rod and steel plates in his right leg, along with several screws in his left foot. "I have to go step by step and do everything they ask. They say my recovery is going faster than expected but… they won't release me a timetable."

France made it clear this week that he feels some degree of responsibility for Busch’s injuries.

''What happened to him was on us,'' said the NASCAR chairman, pointing to Busch’s impact with a concrete wall unprotected by an impact-absorbing SAFER barrier. “'You can't say, `Safety is our No. 1 priority’ and get that stuff wrong.''

Even if NASCAR awards Busch a waiver, however, the numbers are stacked steeply against him making the Chase. If the M&Ms Toyota driver is unable to return until July – and sources say that is likely the best-case scenario – he will have only 10 races left to fight his way into both the Top-30 and Victory Lane.
Even for a driver of Busch’s ability, that’s a tough row to hoe.

Last season, Michael McDowell was 30th in the championship standings at the end of 26 races, with a total of 407 points. For Busch to eclipse the 400-point mark in just 10 starts, he will need to average a fourth-place finish. That’s a lot to ask of a driver that is in peak physical condition and operating at 100% of his ability with no “racer’s rust.”

Busch will be none of those things.

For now, Busch will continue to focus on his rehabilitation. It’s all he can do, while eye
ing a possible return in time for the 57th annual Coke Zero 400 at Daytona on July 5.  


  1. I think the original reason for the must participate rule was to keep some small team from doing a one race gamble on a road course with a road course ringer to get into the chase. Clearly given the prior rulings health issues are a fine reason for a waiver particularly when that driver's car is still in the races.

    I think it is academic at this point given the points needed, but I just don't get the controversy. It doesn't hurt the sport and it might bring some needed positive publicity when he comes back - just waive it.

  2. If and when he does come back Kyle Busch needs to forget about the Chase entirely and just focus on winning races. Even when healthy there's simply no point to trying for the Chase.

  3. Anonymous10:42 AM

    Unrelated; I'm sorry to bring this up on this story. Did anyone understand how Kurt Busch staying out on the lead lap this past weekend had still allowed I think it was 17 cars to go around him and the pace car to get back on the lead lap? I understand if it was just the pace car but with Kurt staying out I thought for sure everyone had to stay behind him under caution.

  4. Anonymous9:30 PM

    Not sure about this one.......Kyle needs to rehabilitate....he's young and has plenty of next years in him.....hate to see him pushed to early into a doubt he is capable of winning.....but he will have to take a lot of chances to get into the top 30.
    I would think he is capable....but at what risk?
    Brian France is a stand up guy...he wants to make it right....but he might not be doing him a favor.

  5. Anonymous9:34 AM

    I didn't understand the controversy of Kyle possibly be given a waiver until Alan Cavana said that it could possibly eliminate someone who ran the season and acquired enough points to get into the Chase. On that point, I'm against a waiver. Ellen, JJ's grlfrnd

  6. A waiver for this and a waiver for that. I'm a Tony Stewart fan, and I didn't think he should get a waiver! Everybody thinks that they are guaranteed something. No waivers for anybody! And NASCAR says this one is on them? What? If you drive a race car, you understand there is a possibility of getting hurt. What's the point of setting conditions to make the chase and then changing the rules as you feel like it? NASCAR constantly shoots themselves in the foot with some of these rules. What about "we will always throw the caution if there is a danger to the competitors", except in the Xfinity race at Bristol when Hamlin was up against the wall on a 15 second per lap race track, and the caution flag was not thrown right away. Cmon NASCAR, make rules and stick with them. Of course when you have to have a rule that the competitors must give 100% during the race, maybe our sport has become a joke.