The White Zone: Waivers in NASCAR are a joke

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 13: Matt Kenseth speaks to the media as one of the 16 drivers eligible to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship during the 2017 NASCAR Playoffs Production & Media Day at NASCAR Hall of Fame on September 13, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)

At this point, waivers in NASCAR are on par with Oprah Winfrey giving everyone in her audience a car.

If you missed it, NASCAR announced Tuesday that Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth were granted waivers to be eligible to qualify for the playoffs.

I’ve got no problem with it in Newman’s case, as he was injured in a NASCAR-sanctioned event. I do, however, have one in Kenseth’s case.

Kenseth didn’t run the first four races of the season. He had no intention of running any of the events. By NASCAR’s own rules, he’s done nothing to warrant waiver eligibility.

A more cynical person could say it’s a nakedly transparent way for NASCAR to get a big name into its playoff format. Although, a more skeptical person might say NASCAR didn’t want to punish Chip Ganassi Racing, who lost sponsors over their former driver, Kyle Larson, dropping an N-bomb.

Full disclosure: I’m in the former camp.

Either way, neither should factor into granting a waiver to a driver.

But this is NASCAR we’re talking about. It’s going to do what it wants, even if it’s to the detriment of what little integrity its joke-of-a playoff format still has.

Why does NASCAR bother to have a rule requiring drivers to attempt to qualify for every race to be playoff eligible if it’s just going to give a waiver to anyone for any reason?

At this point, what does a driver have to do to not get one? Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if NASCAR grants a waiver to a driver who doesn’t feel like racing one week.

Why shouldn’t it? If NASCAR’s not going to enforce its rules in Kenseth’s case, it can’t credibly enforce the rule on attempting to qualify for every race in the situation it was intended for.

If NASCAR wants to just give a waiver to whomever, fine. But then it shouldn’t require drivers to attempt to qualify for every race.

That’s my view, for what it’s worth.

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I've been a fan of NASCAR since I was five years old. My passion for it, and auto racing in general, inspired me to pursue a career in it. For four years, I covered NASCAR and IndyCar for I'm currently studying at the University of Tennessee to pursue a career in sports writing. As a student at the University of Tennessee, and a native of Knoxville, Tenn., I'm a diehard fan of Tennessee Volunteers football. If covering NASCAR doesn't kill me one day, watching Tennessee football will. I'm also a fan of the Atlanta Braves, the Nashville Predators and the NFL. Outside of sports, I watch anime, read manga and watch a lot of films.


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