Kurt Busch steps away from full-time NASCAR competition

NASCAR Cup Series veteran Kurt Busch announced Saturday that he will step back from fulltime competition immediately, paving the way for an early arrival of Tyler Reddick to the 23XI Racing organization in 2023.

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Busch, 44, has been sidelined from competition since he suffered symptoms from a concussion in a July 23 accident during qualifying at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.

“I’m still not 100-percent and I’m still not cleared to race,” Busch said Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

As a result Busch said he will not race again this season and could not commit to compete for a championship in the No. 45 Toyota in 2023 for 23XI Racing.

“This is more of being unselfish and respecting what has to happen in this industry,” Busch said. “I will get back to 100-percent I promise.”

Reddick to the No. 45

In a statement, 23XI Racing said it had reached an agreement with Richard Childress Racing to allow Tyler Reddick to join the organization a year earlier than planned and step in for Busch in the No. 45 beginning next season.

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

“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.”

A Hall of Fame career

In 776 career Cup starts, Busch has 34 wins, 161 top-five and 339 top-10 finishes. He’s won 28 poles and the 2014 series championship. He also has five wins in 30 Xfinity starts and four wins in 28 Truck starts.

Busch’ has also shown interest in other forms of motorsports including sports cars (he was third in the 2008 Daytona 24 Hours) and the IndyCar Series (he finished sixth in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 in his lone series start).

“Kurt’s decision to step away from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition next year is certainly not something anyone expected when we started the season together and celebrated in victory lane at Kansas Speedway earlier this year. Unfortunate circumstances led Kurt to a difficult decision, but we know that he will continue to contribute to the entire program at Toyota, TRD and 23XI Racing,” said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development.

“He brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and firsthand championship experience to his team and fellow Toyota competitors. We’re here to support Kurt in this next chapter of his career and look forward to continuing to work alongside him.”

A look back

Busch’s tenure in NASCAR has included good and bad moments as vastly wide-ranging as perhaps any top-level driver in series history.

What has been most evident is that whatever off-track issues Busch has had during his career, his talent has been exceptional enough to warrant repeated opportunities. His car knowledge and experience have improved race teams wherever he has driven.

He joined what is now Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing in 2000, making his NASCAR national series debut in the Truck Series. He won four races and finished second in the series standings in his first year.

Busch’s talent was obvious and Roush wasted no time promoting him to the Cup series in 2001 without a single start in the Xfinity Series, a typical stepping-stone in NASCAR’s driver career ladder. Despite getting off to a rough start in Cup competition – he went winless in his first season and finished 27th in the standings – Roush’s belief in Busch soon paid off.

He won 11 times over the next three seasons and claimed the series championship in 2004 – the first year of NASCAR’s playoff system. But just as Busch’s NASCAR career seemed to skyrocket, it looked like it could end.

He was fired by Roush in November 2005 after being cited in an alcohol-related incident in Avondale, Ariz., for criminal recklessness and missed the final two races of the season.

Busch, though, was still able to land on his feet, joining Team Penske beginning with the 2006 season. He was a solid contributor to organization, winning 10 races over the next six seasons, including a fourth-place finish in the series standings in 2009.

In December 2011, however, Penske released Busch, who had been fined $50,000 by NASCAR for a profanity-laced interview with a TV reporter and using an obscene gesture during the season finale race at Homestead, Fla. Again Busch’s future seemed uncertain but, again, he clawed his way back.

First, it was a season with owner James Finch and fledgling Phoenix Racing in 2012. His season was interrupted when he was suspended one race by NASCAR after verbally threatening a reporter following an Xfinity race at Dover, Del.

In the off-season, he moved to Furniture Row Motorsports, where he gave the upstart single-car team its first top-10 finish in the final series standings in 2013. Next, Busch was tapped as driver for a new Cup team at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, where he won six races over five seasons.

In 2019, Busch and sponsor Monster Energy moved to Chip Ganassi Racing, where he won at least once each season during his tenure.

The team’s sale to Justin Mark’s Trackhouse Racing put Busch’s future up in the air once again, but he was 23XI Racing’s first choice as driver when they planned an expansion to a two-car team this season.

Less than two months after securing his first victory for 23XI – taking his 34th career win in May at Kansas Speedway – Busch was side-lined with the concussion following his July 23 accident in qualifying at Pocono and has not raced since.

“I am at peace with where I am at,” Busch said. “This changes the course just a little bit. Plenty of things to keep that passion alive and write that final chapter.”

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