Busch Declines Medical Waiver, Will Miss Start of Playoffs

The 23XI Racing No. 45 remains owner championship eligible.


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Still recovering from the lingering effects of a concussion, Kurt Busch will not return in time to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and has declined the medical waiver that would have made him a playoff driver starting next week at Darlington Raceway.

"As much as I wanted and hoped to be able to get back in the No. 45 car to make a playoff run with our team, it's still not the right time for me," Busch said on social media. "In addition to not being cleared to return to racing, I know that I am not ready to be back in the car."

Busch has been out of the 23XI Racing No. 45 car since a crash in time trials at July 23 at Pocono Raceway. Ty Gibbs, the 19-year-old grandson of the eponymous owner of Joe Gibbs Racing has taken over that seat since the injury.

Per NASCAR regulations, an injured driver can request a medical waiver and retain their playoff eligibility as long as they meet the requirements (points or wins) and remain in the top-30 of the championship standings.

Busch met the requirements with his victory at Kansas Speedway in May.

Had the injury not occurred, the 2004 champion would have participated in the playoffs for the 15th time in 19 seasons. By declining the waiver, 23XI Racing gives fellow Toyota team JGR a chance to make the playoffs with Martin Truex Jr., who holds the final spot but would be eliminated if there is a new winner and if he doesn’t make up the 25 points he trails Ryan Blaney by.

"I respect the sport of NASCAR, my fellow drivers and the fans too much to take up a playoff spot if I know I can't compete for a championship this season," Busch said. "The decision was not an easy one, but I know it is the right thing to do."

Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson said the manufacturer will still lean on Busch throughout the playoffs. Gibbs will continue driving the No. 45 as it also remains eligible for the owners playoffs.

"Toyota's priority for Kurt Busch since the moment the accident took place at Pocono has been his health and recovery. Not his recovery to get back in a race car, but his recovery overall," Wilson said. "While we're disappointed that he won't get the chance to compete for the 2022 championship by missing the start of the playoffs, his well-being is the only thing that matters to us."

Through a statement, NASCAR praised Busch for how he handled the decision to decline the playoff waiver.

"Kurt Busch has managed this difficult situation like the champion that he is," the statement read. "Working closely with his doctors, every decision made has been in the best interest of his health, his competitors and the sport. Kurt has NASCAR’s full support as he continues to heal, and we look forward to seeing him return to the race car."

Busch was well within his rights via NASCAR regulations to retain the waiver, even if if meant not returning in time to compete in the first handful of races in the upcoming playoffs. A return timetable for Busch has not been outlined.