As of press time, Chase Elliott has not yet been granted a playoff waiver after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident last week. If NASCAR does grant him a waiver, the sport’s most popular driver would join an illustrious list of competitors who have been granted one for a menagerie of reasons.
Before we take a look at some of those reasons, let’s first address what a playoff waiver is.
NASCAR requires drivers to attempt to compete in every scheduled race in order to be eligible to win the championship that season. Thus, every Cup driver needs to try and qualify for all 36 events, while those in the Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series need 33 and 23 attempts, respectively.
If a driver can’t meet these requirements, they can request that NASCAR grant them a waiver. NASCAR can choose whether to grant or deny the request. This is why the conversation about Elliott’s waiver status is so important, as he will miss at least six weeks of competition.
There has been much polarization and ambiguity centered around waiver qualifications. That said, Elliott’s situation would fall under the stipulations of waivers issued for other drivers, which have included on- and off-track injuries, age limitations, and even suspensions (stay tuned).
Elliott hopes to do what Kyle Busch accomplished in 2015. In the highest-profile case of a waiver being issued, Busch was injured in an undercard event before the start of the Cup season. The Nevada native was granted a waiver after missing the first 11 races of the season, but made the playoffs after winning and earning enough points in the regular season once he returned. Busch progressed through the postseason and won the championship.
It is the only time a driver has been crowned a champion after using a waiver earlier in the season. Still, if a waiver is issued to Elliott, he would not be the only driver this season vying to become the second to do so.
Craftsman Truck Series drivers Taylor Gray and Jake Garcia have already been granted waivers in 2023. Gray and Garcia had not turned 18 at the start of the 2023 season and thus were forced to miss multiple events until their respective birthdays. Coincidentally, Elliott served as Garcia’s substitute driver at Daytona International Speedway earlier this season.
This is a relatively common occurrence as Justin Haley (2017), Todd Gilliland (2018), and Tyler Ankrum (2019) were granted waivers for the same reason.
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