If Kyle Busch manages to win a Sprint Cup championship despite missing the first 11 races of the season, don’t expect much backlash from his peers.
NASCAR granted Busch a waiver Wednesday morning that will allow him to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup if he can be ranked in the top 30 in points with a victory by the regular-season finale Sept. 12 at Richmond International Raceway. Busch has been sidelined since breaking his right leg and fracturing his left foot in a Feb. 21 crash in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway. He will return this weekend for Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
During a break from testing Wednesday at Dover International Speedway, Joey Logano said there’s “a good chance” that Busch will make the Chase.
“It’s well deserved,” Logano told reporters during a break from testing. “If we race him for a championship at the end of the year, that’s great. I’m not going to say he shouldn’t have won (the title). Those are the rules we’ve got this year with the Chase and last year, too. Really, in any other sport, it doesn’t happen. It’s cool we get to do that.”
Six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson also had no qualms with the move.
“We don’t have sick days in our sport,” said Johnson, who also was testing at Dover. “If you get injured in our industry, the repercussions are so big. Even though he is granted a waiver, you look at what the team has been through with a couple different drivers trying to develop the equipment and get it going (with) missed opportunities to win races.
“It’s a huge penalty to have an injury. If you can come back and win a race, you deserve to be in the Chase. I don’t have a problem with it.”
Logano said Busch wasn’t abusing the intent of the rule that requires drivers to start every race in order to be Chase eligible.
“It’s not like he chose to skip races,” he said. “I think that’s the difference. They don’t want to see someone win a race and say, ‘Oh I’m good, I’m going to take four to five weeks off and enjoy it and not drive a race car.’ They don’t want to see that.
“But Kyle is getting back in the car as soon as he possibly can to make the Chase, so letting him do it is fine. That’s the way it should be. It’s not his fault he got hurt in the first place.
David Ragan, who replaced Busch for eight races in the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, said Busch still wasn’t getting a free ride. In addition to a victory, he would need to average at least an 18th-place finish in the other 14 races remaining in the regular season.
“A waiver is he’s just eligible,” said Ragan, who was testing the No. 55 Toyota that he will drive for Michael Waltrip Racing the rest of the season. “He’s still got to have a great season to make the Chase. He’s got to win a race, which isn’t easy to do. And he’s got to score some good points to get in the top 30.
“NASCAR made the right call, Kyle should be happy with that, and if he can meet that criteria, and make the Chase, he deserves to be in the Chase.”
Ragan said Busch was returning to JGR as the team’s cars were starting to hit their stride.
“Every team goes through cycles,” Ragan said. “The Gibbs folks worked really hard, and they’re on the front side of the cycle. They have really good stuff in the pipeline. The 18 is one of the top four to five cars in the garage. Kyle is one of the top four to five drivers. That combination has been successful.”