NASCAR might just be in a position to which it has grown accustomed – changing the rules on the fly. Only this time, it would be warranted as long as it is done right.
When Kyle Busch crashed with just 10 laps to go in the first NASCAR Xfinity Series race of the season at Daytona, it looked as if his season might be over. After all, he suffered a compound fracture in his lower right leg and a fracture in his left foot and underwent operations on each injury. But it looks like the season may not be over for Busch. When meeting with the media on Wednesday, Busch said that he is eyeing a possible return to the track in July. That would be less than five months after the wreck.
And his return would put the pressure on NASCAR to make a decision on whether Busch would be able to gain eligibility for the Chase for the Sprint Cup if he can pull off a win before the beginning of the Chase.
If Busch can indeed return at Daytona for the race on Fourth of July weekend, it would give him 10 races to try to earn a win before the Chase begins. At the 10 tracks where he would be racing before the Chase, Busch has won at eight of them, with five wins at Bristol, four wins at Richmond and two wins at Watkins Glen. Altogether, he has 16 wins combined at the 10 tracks. So the possibility of him picking up a win seems like it would be pretty good.
A win in one of those 10 races would normally qualify him for the Chase. However, there are more stipulations than just finding victory lane.
To qualify for the Chase, a driver has to be one of the 16 drivers with the most wins (or basically at least win one race in the season’s first 26) and be inside the top-30 in the points standings. The other way to qualify is if there are not 16 different winners in the first 26 races, the Chase field is filled out by the drivers with the most points and zero wins. The driver must also at least attempt to qualify for each race in the Sprint Cup Series season.
Since Busch will miss significant time, he would not be able to make up enough points to put himself inside the top-30 in points, nor will he have enough points to qualify without a win. But because NASCAR is NASCAR and it has a history of bending the rules at a moment’s notice, it stands to reason that NASCAR could waive the top-30 requirement for Busch should he find his way into victory lane.
And while I am usually against the constant changing of the rules, I think NASCAR should give Busch a special exemption from having to finish inside the top-30 to make the Chase. With one stipulation – should he make the Chase, he would be an additional Chase member along with the original 16 drivers who earned their spots. Then instead of four drivers eliminated after the “Challenger Round,” NASCAR could eliminate five drivers and still have just 12 advance.
NASCAR added a spot for Jeff Gordon at the last minute in 2013, so why not do so in advance for Busch here just in case?
The main reason I believe NASCAR should grant the waiver to Busch is that the driver was injured in an event in one of the top three series in NASCAR as he was injured while racing for a win in the Xfinity Series. It isn’t like he was out messing around during some down time and got injured outside of the track.
While I have made it clear how much I hate that NASCAR allows (and probably encourages) the regulars from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to participate in Xfinity Series races, this is a situation where I have to back the driver. NASCAR allows the drivers to participate in the Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series, so they should also take that into consideration if the driver is injured in one of the races and not able to run the entire Sprint Cup Series schedule.
While this would be the biggest adjustment NASCAR has made for a single driver in the new concept of the Chase, it is one that should be done. Kyle Busch should be Chase eligible if he comes back from that wreck and somehow finds his way to a win before the Chase.
NASCAR should just do what it does – make up the rules on the fly. At least this time it would make sense.