Kurt Busch Retires from NASCAR Cup Series Competition

At age 45, with 23 years in NASCAR Cup Series competition, Kurt Busch has nothing to prove: Anne Proffit photo
Kurt Busch raced the No. 45 for 23XI Racing: Anne Proffit photo

Kurt Busch has been absent from NASCAR Cup Series competition since his qualifying accident at Pocono last year. There’s been much conjecture about the driver’s future in the sport, even as he came to races, assisted teammates Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick from the garage area and pit lane, waiting and hoping for the opportunity to return to what he does best: wheel a car.

“After decades spent at a race track, with helmet in hand, preparing to compete, I was forced to take a step back and focus on my health,” Busch declared. While it’s been tough for a driver who has spent 23 years in NASCAR Cup Series competition to be on site while others were racing and not to be able to compete, Busch acknowledged this change has “provided me with a different perspective and given me more time to focus on my recuperation and reflect on all of the sport has given me and all I have still to give back to it.

“Racing at NASCAR’s highest level requires every last bit of focus, heart, stamina and determination. I know, right now, I can’t give what is required to compete at that level, week in and week out,” he said. “So I’m officially announcing my retirement from NASCAR Cup Series competition. I guess it is fitting at age 45, my 23 years as a full time driver in NASCAR would culminate in working with 23XI, Monster Energy and the Toyota Racing family and I want to do all that I can to continue making this race team one of the best in motorsports.”

At age 45, with 23 years in NASCAR Cup Series competition, Kurt Busch has nothing to prove: Anne Proffit photo

The timing of Busch’s announcement of relinquishing his place on NASCAR’s biggest stage didn’t come as an “aha” moment. “My body is just having a battle with Father Time,” he said. “I’ve had arthritis ever since I can remember, my gout has flared up where I can barely walk some days… just pushing to get through physical therapy and continuing to work out.” He has battled an elevated heart rate, as well. “I remember last summer I was trying not to show that emotion, and I could barely walk to the car in Dover. I had to have some shots pre-race just so I could move my knee and move my feet. Those were those moments where things were starting to add up before things that happened at Pocono. I’m happy; there is nothing that I look back on with regret about having this opportunity at the top level of NASCAR.”

Busch believes NASCAR is going in the right direction with regard to head injuries like the one he sustained. “I believe NASCAR is doing all the right things to improve the safety of the car and made quick, prompt changes after collecting data on my incident and many others,” he said. Even though the driver has stated he will give up NASCAR’s Cup Series, that doesn’t mean, once he gets permission from his physicians, that he won’t be in a car, on a grid somewhere.

In his 23 years at the top of stock car motorsports, Kurt Busch has 776 NASCAR Cup Series starts and accumulated 34 wins, 161 top five results, 339 top-10s, 28 pole positions, led 10,292 laps and earned a single NASCAR Cup Series championship and a single Daytona 500 victory. He has won in all of NASCAR’s top-three divisions, in trucks, Xfinity and Cup Series and has gone back and forth between them.

Busch’s career isn’t limited to NASCAR; he raced the Indianapolis 500 in 2014, finishing sixth: Anne Proffit photo

Busch is one of the few NASCAR drivers to find success with both stock cars and open wheel machines; in 2014 Busch did the “double”, racing in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coke 600 the same day. While he finished sixth at Indy from 12th on the 33 car grid and earned Rookie of the Year honors in that race, a blown engine at Charlotte ended his day after completing 271 of 400 laps in the longest NASCAR race of each season.

As he starts his NASCAR Cup Series retirement, Kurt Busch intends to continue to work with the 23XI team, supporting both drivers in the upcoming playoffs. Tyler Reddick qualified the No. 45 Toyota in the 10th spot while Bubba Wallace in the No. 23 was the final driver to get into this exclusive, 16 car field. He intends to continue with the team in an advisory capacity. “I made up my official title this year. I was called CFD; that is coefficient of drag, really, I nicknamed it ‘captain of the fun department’.”

Busch is waiting for his physicians to state that he is physically, mentally ready to race again outside NASCAR’s top division, but in the meantime he will “keep pushing with the physical therapy, the workouts, doctor visits and tests.There is no timeline. I just know I need to feel from right here that I feel good, and I can look the doctor in the eye and he will tell me that I’m good to go. That was the struggle. Mentally, emotionally… the push last summer to try to get back for the Playoffs, and I wasn’t able to make it. That was the toughest. Now everything is settling in, and whether I drive again or not, there is so many other things for me to do and there is no real timeline.”

About Anne Proffit 1264 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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