JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour
William Sawalich Claims Wild CRA Jegs Win at Winchester
Oct 15, 2022
This isn’t good bye, it’s not even a retirement, as Kurt Busch told everyone on Saturday morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that he would see us later.
Most immediately, later is seemingly a broadcast television role with FOX Sports or a future executive role at 23XI Racing but it very well could be back behind the wheel of a NASCAR Cup Series ride down the road.
Ultimately, Busch has decided to step away from full-time competition, at least for next season, to focus on fully recovering from the concussion that has sidelined him since a qualifying crash on July 23 at Pocono Raceway.
"From where I was after the accident to where I am now, I’m feeling really good," Busch said during a press conference at his hometown track. "Everyday life is 90-95 percent. It’s just that last bit of being 100 percent and performing at the top level in the Cup Series is what I still know I’m not attaining."
Busch said he reached this decision for the good of 23XI Racing, allowing the team to buy out the final year of Tyler Reddick’s contract at Richard Childress Racing so he could join the organization a year early, especially with the uncertainty looming over the No. 45 team.
"The timelines seemed to have shrunk up as far as what’s going to happen next year," Busch said. "It’s like, ‘well, I should be better by now and I haven’t been cleared.’ So, this is more of being unselfish and respecting what has to happen in this industry, and that’s to know how to make a team move forward.
"I believe in 23XI and everyone here. For me, I will get back to 100 percent. I promise. I have a great team of specialists. Toyota Performance Center has been wonderful. I will keep pushing myself and my health to get back that priority first, and then we can decide about racing afterward."
It’s not just the crash at July that has sidelined Busch, either.
Busch is aware of his own mortality, and a 44, his inability to heal as quickly as he once did. It’s no secret that isn’t the only crash that has given him concussion like symptoms during his 25 year NASCAR career either.
"It’s a layer of things, and to be frank and to smile a little bit, I’ve wrecked a lot of [expletive] in my life," Busch said. "Old cars. New cars. So, over the years, things add up. Different wrecks this year have made it tough, and the grind to get back each week to 100 percent, that was starting to get tough this summer.
"Then, with the accident at Pocono, it’s, again, part of everything that’s kind of added up. It’s not one circumstance more than the other. The new car, the Next Gen car, we have to continue to make it safer. We have to learn from each of the circumstances. Whether it’s mine, [Ross] Chastain’s or [Alex] Bowman’s or Cody Ware. There have been a ton of hits that we’re all learning from and finding the areas that we need to improve. This is more of a look-out-the-windshield type moment."
Busch, the 2004 Cup Series champion, had hoped to return in time to compete in the playoffs as he had a guaranteed spot due to his victory at Kansas in May. He said that he pushed himself as far as doctor would allow to be cleared to compete but just couldn’t get there.
Making the decision to withdraw his request for a playoff waiver from the sanctioning body was incredibly difficult.
"That emotional week was really tough," Busch said. "The emotions of this are something that I wasn’t prepared for. Nobody is prepared for anything like this."
Specifically, Busch says his biggest obstacles have been in relation to balance and the inner ear when moving around.
"So, with head movements and torso movements with my heart rate elevated, that’s when things move quick in my peripheral back to right up front," Busch said. "It would like looking in the mirror and then being back toward the windshield and around the competitors and checking the dash. Just things are moving quick and things are slowing down, and things are coming back to me.
"I just know I’m not at 100 percent, so, the vestibular side is really where I’m focused on with my concussion."
So for now, Busch is interested in doing television work while he fully recovers, and plans to reach out to FOX Sports over the weekend at Las Vegas. Busch said he would still like to enter select Cup races, maybe as early as next year, with one being mentioned as Michigan. Busch has won at the track closest to the Motor City with Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge, and would like to do so with Toyota as well.
Busch cited a desire to race at Le Mans. He hopes to keep certain commitments to his sponsors during this phase of his life and career too.
All told, no matter what comes next, Busch also has no regrets.
"I’m at peace with where things are," Busch said. "I was close to the end of my contract and that full drive for a championship run. I was real close to that anywhere. It just happened a little sooner. But to race part-time and to enjoy things with a little less pressure, I think that will help fulfill things and close that door.
"But to pursue a championship and to run 36 races weekends week in and week out, it was getting tough for my body to go through it no matter what. So, this just changed the course a little bit, but I’m happy with where things are. My family, with the race team, with Monster [Energy], with Toyota — there’s going to be plenty of things to do to keep that passion alive and to write the final chapter."