Larson focused forward as waiver uncertainty remains

Fans, teams, drivers and media alike have entered the NASCAR Cup Series race weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway eager to see if Kyle Larson is granted a playoff eligibility waiver.

Larson himself says everything is business as usual.

“I don’t know why it wouldn’t be,” he said after Saturday’s qualifying session.

Larson took center stage amid auto racing’s biggest day last week, attempting to complete starts in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600. But rain throughout the country made the effort impossible, pushing back the start at Indy and ultimately ending the Cup race prematurely.

The 2021 Cup champion woke up on race day praying for a rainout.


“I was hopeful that it would rain long enough to where they would cancel (Indy),” Larson said Saturday. “I knew rain was coming, but I just didn’t know how long it would last. I was pretty optimistic that we would get rained out there, and then as it was getting closer, I realized it was probably not going to happen.”

That forced him to make a difficult decision. Should he take in the rare opportunity to compete in the 500 or fly to Charlotte to fulfill his NASCAR duties?

Larson ultimately stayed in Indy, finishing 18th in his first Indy 500 after being derailed by a late speeding penalty. The Californian tried to make it to Charlotte to finish out the 600, but he’d only just gotten to the track when rain brought the action to a race-ending halt.

The choice was a lose-lose. Some group was always going to be left disappointed, and Larson didn’t feel good about it. It wasn’t until a call from Cup crew chief Cliff Daniels that he felt better about his choice.

“I was just sad that I didn’t get a chance to get into the car and get going (in Charlotte),” Larson said. “In my heart and in my mind, I thought that I was letting the (5 team) guys down. I didn’t get to talk to them before the race, so I didn’t know what they were thinking. I didn’t want them to think that I chose something else over them.

“But after talking to Cliff, everybody was in great spirits and proud that I was at Indy representing their team. That made me feel better. I just didn’t really know, so I felt depressed for a night or two.”

With the difficult decision behind him, Larson is working to get back into the swing of things. But his arrival to the St. Louis area comes amid uncertainty about his championship hopes. Without making the Charlotte start, Larson requires a waiver from NASCAR to retain his championship eligibility. Hendrick Motorsports submitted the waiver request during the week, but NASCAR has yet to announce its decision.

Larson’s fellow drivers generally came to his defense on Saturday.

As for Larson himself, he’s staying coy on any waiver discussion. Instead he’s been keeping busy, participating in a midweek test at Cup newcomer Iowa Speedway before taking a Friday win in the High Limit Racing sprint car series he co-owns at Lawrenceburg Speedway.

One might think the messy situation he’s in would keep Larson from considering future attempts at the Indy-Charlotte double. But Larson’s taken the opposite mindset.

“I would like to do it again, just because I can’t imagine the weather could get any worse or screw up the plans any worse,” he said. “I think if I was to do it again, it would go smoother.”

Decisions on a future Indy effort will come later. In the meantime, Larson will get back to the business of trying to win a Cup championship — whether he has a chance as a driver or the opportunity only remains for his team.

“It’s not up to me,” Larson said of the waiver decision. “I’ll be here every weekend.”

Story originally appeared on Racer