(SportsNetwork.com) - Now that Kyle Busch has been medically cleared to race, the big question is whether NASCAR should give him both a medical and top-30 in points waiver to become eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Busch, the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the Sprint Cup Series, announced on Tuesday he will return to competition in this weekend's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway after suffering injuries in an accident at Daytona International Speedway nearly three months ago. He sustained a fractured right leg and left foot when his car slammed head-on into an inside retaining wall during the Xfinity Series season-opening race. Busch has been sidelined for the first 11 Sprint Cup races this season.
The all-star race is a non-points event, and it's divided into five segments -- 25 laps in each of the first four segments and 10 laps in the final. Busch felt the all-star race was the right event for his return because it is shorter in length than a points-paying race. Busch has recently tested a Late Model car in preparation for his return, and NASCAR medically cleared him to race again on Monday.
"I was cleared a couple of weeks ago to test my Late Model, and that test went really well," Busch said during a teleconference on Tuesday. "I was able to test again last week at Hickory (Motor Speedway in North Carolina), and my medical team was there with me. They cleared me to get back into the car for this weekend's all-star race.
"I think it's a great race to come back to. It's shorter, and it's a non- points event. There's mandatory cautions after every 25 laps. So it gives you an opportunity to take a rest."
Busch became eligible for this year's all-star race when he won at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, on March 23, 2014 -- his most recent Sprint Cup victory.
NASCAR officials did not immediately announce if they will issue waivers to Busch for eligibility into the Chase. The sanctioning body most likely will grant him a medical waiver. It has given non-medical exemptions to drivers in the past, including Kyle's elder brother, Kurt, who was suspended for the first three races this season due to domestic violence allegations. Kurt Busch, currently 14th in the point standings, is all but assured of making the Chase after winning last month's race at Richmond.
When NASCAR revealed radical changes to the playoff format for its top series prior to the 2014 season, it noted the top-15 drivers with the most wins over the first 26 races (regular season) will become eligible for the Chase, provided they have finished in the top 30 in points and attempted to qualify for every race, except in rare instances (like a medical issue). The 16th position in the Chase will go to the points leader following the fall race at Richmond if he or she does not have a victory.
During a question-and-answer session with the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) last month, NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France addressed the possibility of Chase waivers for Busch, saying, "Depends on when he comes back, of course, but it'll be more likely than not that we're going to try to figure out how to accommodate him, which is the beauty of our playoff system."
The wall that Busch hit at Daytona did not have an energy-absorbing (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier installed on it. NASCAR has taken part of the blame for Busch's incident and has since worked with its sanctioning tracks to improve safety measures.
"What happened to (Busch) was on us," France added. "We'll balance a lot of things at that point when we have to make a decision, but we're inclined to want to figure that out for sure."
It's not known yet how NASCAR will handle the top-30 rule waiver for Busch if he were to win any one of the remaining 15 races in the regular season. The next points race in Sprint Cup is the May 24 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte -- NASCAR's longest event of the season.
"I know there's been some good dialogue on the subject, but I'm not aware there has been a decision made at this point," Busch said of the possible Chase waivers. "I would love to race for a win and a spot in the Chase. I think the top-30 rule makes a lot of sense.
"For me, in my mind, it was intended for someone in my situation that has a car and sponsor and team set to run the entire year for a championship. I think it was set up to try to keep guys from being able to just grab a win at a road course or restrictor plate track or something like that. So, we'll see what happens. That's in their (NASCAR) hands. We'll see what the decision is."
Simply put, Busch will have to win a race before the Chase begins on Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway if he has a chance of making it into the playoffs.
Tony Stewart is currently 30th in the standings, with 179 points accumulated for the season. Standings leader Kevin Harvick has 437 points.
The maximum amount of points a driver can score in a single race is 48, which includes two bonus points for leading the most laps.
Busch has appeared in the Chase seven times in the last nine years, including the past two seasons.