NASCAR’s Kurt Busch steps away from racing to focus on health

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NASCAR champion Kurt Busch will miss the remainder of this season with a concussion and will not compete full-time in 2023.

The 44-year-old made his announcement Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his home track and where he launched his arena career as a kid. He choked up when he said doctors told him “it’s better if I ‘shut it up'”.

“I know I’m not 100 percent in my ability to go out and race at the highest level in the NASCAR Cup Series,” Busch said. “They are the best of the best drivers, and lately I haven’t felt at my best.”

Busch said Tyler Reddick will replace him in the No. 45 Toyota at 23XI Racing next season. Reddick has been signed to the team for the 2024 season but is no longer needed to complete his contract at Richard Childress Racing as RCR have signed Kyle Busch, Kurt’s younger brother and two-time Cup champion, for next season .

“If I’m allowed, maybe you’ll see me at a few select races” next season, Busch said.

Busch was injured in a routine crash in July that exposed a design flaw in NASCAR’s new Next Gen car. He has so far missed 13 consecutive races. Driver Alex Bowman, who has also been injured this year, has missed two straight games and said this week he will miss at least three more.

Busch is the last active driver to take part in a Cup race against the late Dale Earnhardt, and the last driver to take part in the first 10-driver race for the Cup in 2004, the year he upset the Hendrick juggernaut Motorsports and won his only title.

Busch’s retirement leaves Kevin Harvick as the last active driver to race when NASCAR’s top series was called the Winston Cup Series.

23XI praised Busch’s contributions to the sophomore team.

“From the day Kurt Busch joined our team, we knew he was going to elevate our organization in so many ways,” the team said. “From earning 23XI our first playoff berth with his decisive victory at Kansas Speedway to the many hours spent off the track to help grow our program, Kurt has made us better.

“This season took an unexpected turn with his injury. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Kurt has not ceased to be a true professional and a trusted teammate. We fully support Kurt’s decision to focus on his health and are grateful for his guidance as our team builds a strong foundation for the future.

He is in his second season with 23XI Racing and team co-owner Denny Hamlin said the organization and Toyota want Busch to stay with the team. He is under contract until next season with 23XI.

“Kurt’s decision to retire from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition next year is certainly not something anyone expected when we started the season together and celebrated in the victory lane at Kansas Speedway earlier this year,” said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development.

“Unfortunate circumstances led Kurt to a difficult decision, but we know he will continue to contribute to the overall program at Toyota, TRD and 23XI Racing. He brings a huge amount of knowledge and championship experience to his team. and other Toyota competitors. We are here to support Kurt in this new chapter of his career and we look forward to continuing to work alongside him.

Busch made his Cup debut in 2000 with Roush Racing in a Ford, then raced all season as a rookie in 2001. He was let go after five tumultuous seasons with Roush – a stint that included his 2004 title – and joined Team Penske to drive a Dodge in 2006.

His relationship with Penske also ended badly after the 2011 season and Busch moved to Phoenix Racing to drive a Chevrolet for James Finch for one season, then went to Furniture Row Racing in 2013 where he revitalized his career – and began to show maturity on and off the track with his notorious temperament.

Busch joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 and was suspended by NASCAR for the first three races of 2015 for domestic violence allegations made by an ex-girlfriend. He then landed with Chip Ganassi Racing and finally 23XI to race a Toyota in 2021.

He is one of the few drivers to compete in all NASCAR constructors. Busch and his brother join Bobby and Terry Labonte as the only siblings to win Cup titles.

Busch won 34 races in 776 starts over 23 years, including the Daytona 500 in 2017 with SHR and sponsor Monster, which has stuck with him to this day.

“For more than two decades we have had the privilege of watching Kurt Busch compete. He has proven himself to be a champion on the tour, but perhaps just as important, he has become a true ambassador for the sport,” said said NASCAR President Steve Phelps “Kurt’s drive to improve the future of motorsport has set him apart. We are delighted that he remains in our sport as a leader and trusted resource. Kurt’s unparalleled passion for racing gives us hope that we will see him again in a race car.

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