MADISON, Ill. — NASCAR, how does this make sense?
If you slept under a rock, this week, NASCAR parked Chase Elliott, after he intentionally wrecked Denny Hamlin, Monday, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was nakedly blatant and the SMT data of the wreck reinforced that.
NASCAR handled it, correctly. After it suspended Bubba Wallace, last season, for doing the same thing to Kyle Larson at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it couldn’t not give Elliott the same penalty, without inciting a mutiny in the garage.
But then NASCAR shot itself in the foot by giving him a waiver.
So let me get this straight: Elliott’s actions in the Coca-Cola 600 (correctly) warranted a one race suspension, but he’s still playoff-eligible?
The only real penalty, effectively, is he gets one less race to make the playoffs.
And he’s not the first.
Johnny Sauter got a waiver, after NASCAR parked him for wrecking Austin Hill under caution at Iowa Speedway in 2019. And while not a wreck, NASCAR suspended Josh Williams for parking his car on track at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March.
Both received waivers.
OK, I get that there’s more to a race team than the driver. The pit crew, the crew chief and spotter didn’t put Hamlin in the wall. Furthermore, it’s probably not good for sponsorship, if you penalize the whole team for the actions of one individual.
And if NASCAR approved all waiver requests, I’d respect that point more.
With that said, however, the league’s denied waiver requests.
In fact, at press time, the league’s denied just three request for a playoff waiver.
Spencer Gallagher’s denial makes sense, but Kaz Grala and Grant Enfinger’s don’t. They were circumstances beyond their control.
Yet according to the heads in Daytona, substance abuse and missing a race for lack of sponsorship are stronger grounds for a waiver denial than intentionally wrecking another driver.
So I ask again, NASCAR, how does this make sense?
For as much flak as NASCAR (rightfully) gets for inconsistent officiating, granting playoff waivers to drivers suspended for intentionally wrecking others is one precedent NASCAR should break.
And if this isn’t grounds for a waiver denial, then waivers are a joke.
But at the end of the day, as the late Ed Coombs told me, “It’s their show to **** up.”
That’s my view, for what it’s worth.