INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Newman was medically cleared by NASCAR on Monday to return to racing as soon as the series returns next month. The aim is to resume the season on May 17 at the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina and we now know that Newman can return to his No. 6 Ford after missing the last three races.
He was severely injured in a last lap crash of the season opening Daytona 500. Newman, suffered a head injury and despite having no recollection of the frightening accident, the Indiana native tested at Darlington last month for NASCAR and a team of doctors and was deemed healthy enough to return to racing.
A day later, both he as well as Matt Kenseth each received playoff waivers from NASCAR too and are able to compete for a NASCAR Cup Series championship this season as well. So long as each get into the top 30 of the Cup Series points standings and can also win a race during the regular season too, both would be playoff eligible.
Newman, still sits 29th in the standings, so he’s in good shape. Kenseth, has yet to compete in a race this year but will take over for Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Chevrolet at Chip Ganassi Racing.
Kenseth, 48, is only 36 points out of 30th in the points, so being in a Ganassi car that’s capable of winning, there’s no reason to doubt that Kenseth can’t make up that many points and have a realistic shot at a playoff berth.
For each, they haven’t visited victory lane since the 2017 season though — coincidentally enough both coming at Phoenix that year to. Newman, is riding a 105 race winless streak as he won in March of 2017 in the Arizona desert while Kenseth, riding a 16 race winless streak, won in November.
Newman’s organization (Roush Fenway Racing) also hasn’t won a race since the 2017 season as they were victorious in the No. 17 Ford with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at the Daytona International Speedway. So, while Newman made the playoffs last year, he and RFR are going to have to end three year winless droughts in order to make it happen.
Kenseth’s car won at Dover last Fall ending a long winless drought for Larson. But, that car is obviously more than capable of winning any time any place.
Newman, has won 18 times in his Cup career including the 2008 Daytona 500 while Kenseth has won 39 times including twice in the Daytona 500 (2009, 2012) as well as the 2000 Coca-Cola 600, 2013 Southern 500 to go along with the 2003 series championship.
Despite all of this, it may be time to eliminate the waiver rule. Everyone that’s applied has been granted one. Why have it in place when it’s handed out like Halloween candy on October 31.
Kyle Busch was the first awarded it during the 2015 season when he was involved in a crash in the season opening NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona and would miss the first 11 Cup races of the season as a result. He’d end up returning in June of that season and not only win a race, but made up enough ground to get into the top 30 of the standings. That propelled him to the playoffs and allowed him to earn his first career Cup title too.
I get why this rule is in place, as they don’t want to penalize anyone for missing time due to medial circumstances. They also don’t want to encourage teams to win a race in the regular season then pack it in until the playoffs. But, with playoff points on the line for all races, teams can’t afford to do that anyways.
So, what’s the use of a waiver system when everyone is qualifying for the postseason anyways. Just make it so long as you’re in the top 30 in the points, you’re playoff eligible.