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NASCAR grants Kyle Busch waiver, making him eligible for Chase despite missing 11 races

05/13/2015 10:34 EDT | Updated 05/13/2016 05:59 EDT
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Kyle Busch is eligible to compete for the NASCAR championship despite missing the first 11 races this season.

NASCAR announced Wednesday it has granted Busch a waiver that would allow the Joe Gibbs Racing star to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Busch, who is returning to racing this weekend for the exhibition All-Star race in Charlotte, needs a victory in one of the remaining 15 points races and be 30th or better in the standings to qualify.

"I think the top-30 rule makes a lot of sense," Busch said Tuesday in anticipation of the waiver. "In my mind, it was intended for someone in my situation that has a car, sponsor and team that was set to run the entire year for a championship."

NASCAR requires drivers to start every points race to be eligible for the Chase. But the sanctioning body has granted waivers to several drivers — including Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers — after they missed events for different reasons.

Busch has been sidelined since a Feb. 21 crash in the Xfinity Series opener in which he broke his right leg and left foot in an accident that spurred safety reviews throughout NASCAR.

"On behalf of everyone at NASCAR, it's great to have Kyle Busch back racing," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's executive vice-president and chief racing development officer. "Our decision to grant Kyle a waiver that allows him to continue running for a championship is one we discussed extensively. The spirit of the rule never was designed to punish drivers who are unable to compete due to extenuating circumstances such as recovering from a racing accident.

"We wish Kyle the best of luck in the balance of the season, and look forward to his return to the car this week for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway."

Busch will run in Saturday night's event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, less than three months after suffering serious injuries when he crashed into a concrete wall at Daytona International Speedway.

Busch credited therapy sessions that sometimes spanned six hours for being able to heal ahead of schedule. His accident late in the race one day before the Daytona 500, left him with a rod in his right leg and plates and screws in his left foot.

His injuries were more severe because he hit a wall that lacked an energy-absorbing SAFER barrier at 90 mph. Busch has said his car left the racing surface and headed toward the wall at 176 mph, and even though he was able to slow it, he knew the impact was likely going to break one leg.

Busch's No. 18 Toyota was driven by Matt Crafton at Daytona, then David Ragan for nine events and 18-year-old Erik Jones drove it Saturday night at Kansas.

There was speculation that Busch was close to returning when Jones said two weeks ago JGR officials had only discussed the Kansas race with the development driver. Gibbs confirmed Busch had tested a late model car, suggesting he would be back for the two Charlotte race weeks.

The Coca-Cola 600, the longest race on the NASCAR schedule, runs May 24 and the All-Star race is the perfect warmup event. At just 110 scheduled laps split into segments, Busch felt the pace would be right for his return.

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