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NASCAR Saves Itself From Self-Immolation

2024 Cup North Wilkesboro All-Star Race Kyle Larson (Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images via NASCAR Media)

Missed it by that much,” – Maxwell Smart, “Get Smart”

Usually the preceding quote from Agent 86 — the protagonist of the famous 1960s spy sitcom and its 2008 movie adaptation — meant Smart had almost accomplished a task but failed in hilarious fashion.

In the case of NASCAR this week, it’s the opposite.

The folks in Daytona, thankfully, did what they should have done in the case of Kyle Larson and the playoff waiver.

However, the way they went about it was hilariously unnecessary and potentially harmful to NASCAR’s brand.

On Tuesday (June 4), NASCAR finally confirmed — nine days after the runnings of the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 — that Larson would indeed remain playoff-eligible.

That was five days after it was confirmed Hendrick Motorsports had submitted its request for Larson to receive the waiver.

It was two days after The Athletic’s Jordan Bianchi said on The Teardown that there was “serious” consideration within NASCAR to not giving out the waiver.

The fact there are people in the sanctioning body who would be willing to make a decision that would — in one fell swoop — discourage NASCAR drivers from ever attempting The Double again is astounding.

But on Tuesday, NASCAR official Elton Sawyer told reporters in a zoom press conference the fact that Larson made the effort to get to Charlotte Motor Speedway was enough to earn a waiver.

So why did it take until after the Sunday’s (June 2) race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for the decision to come down?

It kind of feels like NASCAR successfully grabbed the golden idol from the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but, on its way out of the temple, left behind its whip and fedora and has a few arrows in its back.

This should have been simple.

Larson did nothing wrong.

Everything he did was for the betterment of not just NASCAR, but motorsports in general.

There’s always going to be another Coca-Cola 600 in his future. But you only get to compete in your first Indy 500 once.

While Hendrick Motorsports released its PR-friendly statement, Larson showed his approval in a more succinct way.

Ok, now about the waiver system.

Larson aside, let me be…

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