It’s the end of an era.
NASCAR veteran and 2004 Cup Series champion Kurt Busch announced this morning that he’s stepping away from full-time racing and will not return for the 2023 season.
Busch has been sidelined since suffering a concussion after a hard crash at Pocono in July, with Ty Gibbs filling in for him in his 23XI Racing Toyota.
In a statement released on Twitter, Busch says that he knows he’s not 100% in his ability to race, and says doctors have advised him it’s best not to return to the car this season. But Busch also says that he feels that stepping away from full-time competition is in the best interests of his health:
“I know I’m not 100% in my ability to go out and race at the top level in the NASCAR Cup Series. 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 is best for me to “shut it down” for this season. Even though I have made solid gains since I have been working with top specialists, and the team at Toyota Performance Center, I’m still not 100% and I’m still not cleared to compete.
As I continue to focus on my health and work towards being cleared, I will be stepping away from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition in 2023.
My long-term health is priority number one, and I don’t feel committing at this point to compete for a championship next year is in my best interest or the best interest of the team.”
Busch also announced that he would be replaced next year in the #45 by Tyler Reddick, who had previously announced that he had signed with 23XI Racing for the 2024 season. But given the open seat, 23XI bought out the remaining year of his contract from Richard Childress Racing to allow Reddick to join the team a year earlier than anticipated.
Kurt Busch made his NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2000, and began racing full time in NASCAR’s top series in 2001 – making Busch the only remaining full-time Cup Series driver who had competed against Dale Earnhardt.
Before becoming one of the series’ most loved drivers, Busch began his career as one of the biggest villains in NASCAR. He had a run-in with fellow driver Jimmy Spencer during a race at Michigan that ended with Spencer punching Busch in the nose. He was also suspended for a race at Pocono in 2012 after threatening to “beat the shit” out of a reporter while on probation.
But in recent years, Busch managed to rehab his image and become a fan favorite and a well-respected veteran of the sport, one who was brought on to help an up-and-coming team at 23XI Racing and a mentor to his teammate Bubba Wallace.
Busch earned his final win this year at Kansas, and was eligible for the Cup Series playoffs before being sidelined with the concussion after Pocono and stepping away from the car.
A tearful Busch also thanked his fans at a press conference:
“To all the NASCAR fans, I can’t thank you enough for your support through the journey this year and all the years. Your notes and words of encouragement have meant a lot to me.”
But he also didn’t completely rule out a return behind the wheel for select races if his health allows for it.
Busch, who has dabbled in broadcasting work in recent years, also told reporters that he plans to reach out to Fox Sports about the potential for a spot on their television broadcasts:
Whatever the future holds for Kurt, it’s unfortunate that his two-decade career ended due to an injury and without the proper send-off that a 20-year veteran of the support deserves.
Gonna be strange not seeing Kurt Busch out on the track on Sundays, but it doesn’t sound like he’s going to be stepping away from the sport entirely.
Here’s to hoping that Kurt continues to recover from his injuries and that he’s around the NASCAR track for a long time to come – even if it’s not behind the wheel.