Sunday, November 27, 2022

Kurt Busch, 2004 NASCAR Cup Champion, Announces Retirement From Full-Time Competition in 2023

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Kurt Busch made the announcement that he will officially retire from driving full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series after an illustrious 23-year career. Busch was the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion. Photo Credit: Gavin Baker, LAT Images, Courtesy of Toyota Racing.

Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion who scored 34 wins over a legendary career, officially announced his retirement from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition in a social media statement on Saturday morning and followed that up with a press conference at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Fittingly, the native of Las Vegas, Nevada announced the news at his home track. For Busch, the decision comes as he still is recovering from a concussion sustained in a NASCAR Cup Series crash at Pocono Raceway back in July.

“I know I’m not 100 percent in my ability to go out and race at the top level of the NASCAR Cup Series,” Busch stated fighting off tears. “These are the best of the best drivers, and lately, I haven’t felt my best. The doctors have come to the conclusion that it’s best for me to shut it down for this season, and even though I have made solid gains and have been working with all of the top specialists and the team at the Toyota performance center. I’m still not 100 percent and I’m still not cleared to race.”

The decision made by Busch, who has spent the last 23 years of his life racing at the NASCAR National Series level, marks the end of the full-time career for one of NASCAR’s most fierce and tenacious competitors.

While Busch will target a return to the NASCAR Cup Series part-time in 2023, Tyler Reddick will take over the No. 45 entry for 23XI Racing next season, according to a statement on Twitter from Busch.

Here is the full four-page statement from Busch, which he recited, while attempting to hold back emotions during his press conference:

Richard Childress Racing confirmed that Reddick has been released from his contract with their team and that he will move to 23XI Racing for the 2023 season.

RCR’s statement read, “Richard Childress Racing has agreed to release Tyler Reddick to drive for 23XI in 2023. With Kyle Busch coming to RCR next year, we believe it is in our mutual best interest to focus on building successful programs for the future. RCR and Tyler have enjoyed a great deal of success together, and everyone at RCR wishes him well.”

23XI Racing issued a statement as well stating that, “Kurt has made us better. This season took an unexpected turn with his injury. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Kurt has not stopped being 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.”

Here is 23XI Racing’s complete statement:

Following Kurt Busch’s retirement from full-time racing announcement, NASCAR President Steve Phelps issued a statement calling Busch a true ambassador for the sport.

“For more than two decades, we have been privileged to watch Kurt Busch compete. He has proven himself a champion on the racetrack, but perhaps just as importantly, he has grown to become a true ambassador for the sport. Kurt’s drive to improve the future of motorsports has set him apart. We are thrilled that he’ll remain in our sport as a leader and trusted resource. Kurt’s unparalleled passion for racing gives us hope that we will see him in a race car again,” Phelps said in his statement.

Busch won at least one race in 19 different seasons of his NASCAR Cup Series career, which is impressive for a driver that ran for one team their entire career. Busch didn’t have that luxury.

The driver, who was very rough around the edges in his early career, competed for seven different teams (RFK Racing, Team Penske, Phoenix Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, and 23XI Racing), five of which he won for, throughout his illustrious NASCAR Cup Series career.

Busch has scored NASCAR Cup Series wins driving for four different manufacturers including current NASCAR-approved manufacturers Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota as well as former NASCAR manufacturer Dodge.

In his announcement, Busch announced that he will remain a part of the 23XI Racing and Toyota Racing family in 2023 and that he hopes to be cleared medically in an effort to return to a part-time schedule next season.

“Next year, my contributions to racing may look a little different but I will continue to give my best to this sport,” Busch said. “And if I’m cleared, maybe you’ll see me at a few select races.”

The early years of Busch’s NASCAR Cup Series career were defined by aggressive driving and a notoriously short temper. However, in recent years, Busch had truly found more of a Zen in his career and had become a veteran driver in the sport that had gained respect from his competition and the fanbase alike.

“To all the NASCAR fans, I can’t thank you enough for your support through the journey this year and all of the years,” Busch said. “Your notes and words of encouragement have meant a lot to me.”

While Ryan Newman has never officially announced his retirement from the NASCAR Cup Series, he has not been actively competing in the series this season. Busch was the last remaining active full-time driver that had started a NASCAR Cup Series race in the year 2000, or earlier.

Busch, 44, scored a win in the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway back in May to lock his spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, or so it appeared.

When the circuit reached the 21st race of the season at Pocono Raceway in July, Busch’s chance at a second NASCAR Cup Series championship came to a crashing halt as Busch’s No. 45 23XI Racing machine backed into the outside wall during his qualifying run.

Busch was diagnosed with a concussion and was not cleared for returning to the racecar and Ty Gibbs would slide into the car as Busch began his recovery. Sunday’s South Point 400 will mark the 13th consecutive race that Busch has missed due to lingering symptoms from the concussion sustained at Pocono three months ago.

However, Busch doesn’t feel his health issues lay solely on the crash at Pocono.

“…there’s not one moment or one circumstance that has led to this decision it’s a layer of things. And to be frank and to smile a little bit, I’ve wrecked a lot of shit in my life,” Busch joked. “Old cars, new cars. And so, over the years, things add up. Different wrecks this year have made it tough and the grind to get back each week to 100 percent.

“That was starting to get tough this summer. And then with the accident at Pocono, it’s again part of everything that has kind of added up. It’s not one circumstance more than the other. And the new car. This Next Gen car, we need to continue to make it safer. We have to learn from each of the circumstances. Whether it’s mine. Whether it’s Chastain’s, whether it’s Bowman’s, whether it’s Cody Ware. There’s been a ton of hits.”

For Busch, in addition to his long-term health, he also factored in the future of 23XI Racing as he made his decision.

“This is more of being unselfish,” Busch explained. “And respecting what has to happen in this industry and that’s knowing how to make a team move forward. I believe in 23XI and everyone here. For me, I will get back to 100 percent, I promise. I have a great team of specialists. Toyota Performance Center has been wonderful and I will keep pushing myself and my health to get that priority back first and then we can decide about racing afterward.”

Toby Christie
Toby Christie
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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