LAS VEGAS – In his own estimation, Kurt Busch holds a “PhD” when it comes to the world of NASCAR.
How else can you describe the comprehensive knowledge base that comes with having competed in NASCAR since 2000, earning a Cup championship, 43 wins across all three national series and doing so with four different manufacturers and six different Cup organizations?
That’s a lot to cram into 23 years.
And it’s a lot to have to close the door on, at least when it comes to racing on Sundays.
Three months after a wreck in qualifying at Pocono Raceway sidelined him with concussion symptoms, and 28 years after he took a “glamour shot” with his first racecar in the Las Vegas desert, the 44-year-old Busch put a period on a chapter of his life.
Early Saturday morning (Oct. 15) in the Las Vegas Motor Speedway media center, Busch read from a prepared statement. Due to continued issues with his vestibular movement as a result of his concussion, and at the recommendation of doctors, Busch will never again race full-time in NASCAR.
“Because I continue to focus on my health towards being cleared (by doctors), I’ll be stepping away … from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition in 2023,” Busch said with a quiver of emotion. “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.”
However, Busch added a caveat. He still plans to put his NASCAR PhD to good use.
“Next year, my contributions to racing may look a little different,” Busch said. “But I’ll continue to give my best to this sport. And if I’m (medically) clear, maybe you’ll see me at a few select races.”
Even though nothing is set in stone, the last driver remaining in NASCAR who can say they raced against Dale Earnhardt has ideas about where he’d like to pop up. Like Jimmie Johnson, he has a bucket list both in and outside of NASCAR.
“My passion is what will continue to push me to find the other things that are still missing, whether it’s a win at Darlington. I never won at Darlington. That slipped through my fingers a bunch of times,” said Busch, who famously lost to Ricky Craven at Darlington in 2003 in one of the most famous finishes in NASCAR history.
“Watkins Glen, that was a tough one to not race there this year because that was a big one on my list,” Busch added. “Because I’ve never won up there. I finished second to (Juan Pablo) Montoya (in 2010). Michigan, this might sound weird, but I’ve won there with Chevy. I’ve won there with Dodge. I’ve won there with Ford. I wanted to win there with Toyota this year, I didn’t get that chance and we had a really good car. And so there’s just those little moments, little tracks of things that I want to accomplish still.
‘Then it’s like the bucket list items of going around the world, going with Monster and going with Toyota, whether it’s Le Mans, whether it’s Australia, racing in Asia. That’s still my push and that was going to be the goals once I was done with full time Cup. Things are just happening a little sooner.”
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) October 15, 2022
And if Busch does get cleared to drop the hammer in NASCAR competition again, fully expect it to be with 23XI Racing.
Owner Denny Hamlin said the team “owed” it to Busch to field a third car for him.
“What he’s done for our team, I’m just so indebted to him and and everything he’s done for us,” Hamlin said. “I told Kurt in this decision, ‘never feel like you owe the team anything. If anything the team owes you’ and we do feel owed to Kurt. So any race he wants to participate in, I will certainly build a third car.”
Beyond racing himself, Kurt Busch isn’t going anywhere.
Even before his first season with 23XI Racing and Toyota, Busch expressed a desire to continue on with both organizations in some capacity once he hung up his helmet.
What exactly that would entail was never spelled out. Even Saturday, it wasn’t.
“Just in the short amount of time he was part of our organization, he made it better,” Hamlin said. “He did what we expected and beyond really quickly, and so I think we’re gonna continue to reap the benefits of him being part of our team, even if it’s outside, being a racecar driver.”
Busch also views himself as a member of the 23XI Racing and Toyota family going forward.
“To be a mentor with Bubba (Wallace), I mean the kid’s great and the strides that he’s made since my accident, his average finish is up in the top five since my accident and the way he’s carried himself and this team, we’re going to the next level,” Busch said. “Tyler Reddick is a two time Xfinity champion that’s coming in. And that’s the quality of effort that I’m going to continue to push for as well and it’s a matter of just seeing what the schedule looks like.”
Whatever he does going forward, Busch’s presence has already been felt by Toyota even if his full-time racing career with the manufacturer only lasted 20 races.
“It’s hard to focus on one thing,” said Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson. “But one of the things that Kurt brings to the table is his perspective, relative to the other manufacturers that he’s worked with. He’s been able to give us feedback relative to some of the tools that we have this year to support our drivers. He’s asked a lot of questions. I think just giving us some validation in terms of what we’re doing, and some direction, and some areas that we can focus more on.”
Over the last few years, Busch has made regular guest appearances and shined as an analyst for Fox Sports’ NASCAR Camping World Truck Series broadcasts.
Busch has already approached them about continuing to share his knowledge with race fane in the future.
“There could be things in the TV booth,” Busch said. “There’s things with the race team, sponsorship. ..
“I mean, there’s so much that’s out there, I really have to zero-in on the different possibilities.”
About the author
Daniel McFadin is a 7-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He's currently a freelancer and lead reporter and editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR show "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" on YouTube and in podcast form.
You can email him at email@example.com.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.
My only surprise is that it took this long to make the announcement. Given the length & success of his career, the chance of further serious consequences if he were to suffer another similar injury, plus the post career position waiting for him at 23XI.
Maybe Kurt just wanted to be really sure of a career-ending decision. Also, there were negotiations between 23XI and RCR concerning Reddick going on. Still, I agree that everybody saw this coming.
Perhaps the immensely talented Kurt could replace Earnhardt JR. in his role of narrating races, which Jr. is not qualified to do. Jr. is pathetic and just keeps rambling on about trivial matters just to keep his mouth moving and make himself feel important. Sorry Jr. fans but that’s the truth. He sound like some hick with an 8th grade education.
Funny, I think Steve Letarte just keeps on talking and talking.
You would be welcome down here in Australia Kurt, come on down for The Bathhurst 1000.
He’d have to re-learn how to drive a real race car.