Concussion, Health Issues Force Kurt Busch into Early NASCAR Cup Retirement

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Health Issues Force Kurt Busch to Retire from CupJames Gilbert - Getty Images

Kurt Busch had always planned to retire at the end of the 2023 season, but the concussion he suffered during a qualifying lap accident at Pocono Raceway caused him to step out of the car a year early. He maintained hope he would recover and return to the track in NASCAR’s Cup Series.

However, Busch said Saturday at Daytona International Speedway that hope, that dream of returning as a NASCAR Cup driver no longer exists.

“My body is having a battle with Father Time,” says the 45-year-old Busch. “I’ve had arthritis ever since I can remember. My gout has flared up so much that I can barely walk on some days, just pushing to get through physical therapy and to continue the workouts.


“I remember last summer I was trying to not show that emotion and I barely could even walk to the car at Dover because I had to have some shots pre-race just so I could move my knee and move my feet. Those are those moments where things were starting to add up before things happened at Pocono.”

In a video Busch released on X (formerly Twitter) about an hour before his Daytona press conference, he said, “My incredible team of doctors and I have come to the conclusion that at this point in my recovery there are just too many obstacles for me to overcome and get back to 100 percent. So, after 23 years behind the wheel and 45 years of living and breathing this dream, I’m officially announcing my retirement from NASCAR Cup Series competition.”

Busch didn’t rule out returning to some form of racing but emphasized he’s still not 100 percent. His problems occur when his heart rate is elevated.

“It’s not as bad as it was last summer and last fall,” Busch says. “I genuinely feel good about the improvements throughout, call it three months at a time. Then we’ll push harder to find other things to help with my vestibular movements and to balance out my core strength. So, that way, everything is stronger within my system to be able to react at top level speed.”

Busch says he will remain as an advisor at 23XI Racing, where he finished his stellar racing career “as long as they’ll allow me.”

“I made up my official title this year – CFD,” Busch says. “That’s coefficient of drag, really that’s what CFD stands for, but I’ve renamed it ‘Captain of the Fun Department.’ So that’s been a good role.”

Busch has now revised his title because “I wanted to become slightly more professional within the group, so I named myself CVO – Chief Vision Officer.”

“I enjoy working with all the departments and being that extra set of eyes and helping our team advance so that we can win more races, be more competitive and have shots at winning championships, because that’s the person I am,” Busch says. “I want to give back to our team.”

Those attending Busch’s press conference included his younger brother Kyle Busch, 23XI Racing drivers and teammates Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick, various 23XI Racing crew members, and NASCAR and Toyota executives. The NASCAR executives included Mike Helton, who Busch texted earlier in the week and said, “I didn’t really think I was gonna get out of 2002 with as many arguments as we’ve had.”

The 2004 Cup Series champion recorded 34 victories, 161-top five and 339 top-10 finishes along with 28 poles in 23 years in NASCAR’s premier series. During his NASCAR career, Busch also added five victories to his racing resume in the Xfinity Series, four in Craftsman Truck and seven in the Southwest Tour. He executed the Memorial Day double in 2014, finishing sixth in the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport and then placing 40th in the Coca-Cola 600 due to engine failure in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

In 2003, Busch won an International Race of Champions event at Talladega, finished third in the 2008 Rolex 24 co-driving with Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves for Penske-Taylor Racing, won the 2010 All-Star race, and was victorious in the Budweiser Shootout and the first Daytona 500 qualifying race in 2011.

Busch also competed briefly in the NHRA’s Pro Stock division. He made his debut in March 2011at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida. His best run in that event was 6.532 seconds to give him the No. 12 seed in the elimination round. In Busch’s debut, he faced fifth-seeded Erica Enders in the opening round of the 16-car field.