RICHMOND, Va.—NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France couldn’t have been more emphatic when he met with the Associated Press Sports Editors on Thursday in New York City.
Safety remains the sanctioning body’s number one priority, France said, and with that assertion came a ray of hope for Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch, who was sidelined at Daytona International Speedway in February after a crash that broke his right leg and left foot.
Busch’s No. 54 Toyota slammed nose-first into a concrete wall unprotected by SAFER barriers during a NASCAR XFINITY Series race the day before the Daytona 500. Because Busch’s injuries resulted from what France considers a safety lapse, NASCAR will try to find a way to give Busch a path to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
“Depends on when he comes back, of course,” France told the Associated Press, “but it’ll be more likely than not that we’re going to try to figure out how to accommodate him, which is the beauty of our playoff system.
“What happened to him was on us. We’ll balance a lot of things at that point, when we have to make a decision, but we’re inclined to want to figure that out for sure.”
For Busch to be eligible for the Chase, NASCAR would have to grant a waiver—and perhaps more. Already this year, NASCAR has granted waivers to Kurt Busch, who was suspended for three races, and to Kyle Larson, who missed the Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville after fainting during an autograph session the day before.
Beyond that, a driver who receives a waiver must win a race and finish the 26-race regular season in the top 30 in the series standings to remain eligible for the Chase.
Busch may need NASCAR to give him a pass on the top 30 rule, as well. Last year, David Gilliland was 30th after 26 races with 407 points, and with each passing race Busch misses, a comparable total would become more elusive.
Drivers can score a maximum of 48 points in a race, a number that includes three bonus points for winning, one point for leading a lap and another point for leading the most laps.
Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service