Kurt Busch knows better than anyone what NTT IndyCar Series driver Simon Pagenaud is going through after a concussion prematurely ended the open-wheel ace’s season.
Pagenaud suffered a suspected brake failure on the back straightaway at Mid-Ohio in late June, sending his Meyer Shank Racing Honda off the course and barrel-rolling through the gravel. It came to rest against the tire barriers.
— INDYCAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) July 2, 2023
Although the former series champion and 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner was checked and released by the IndyCar medical team, lingering concussion symptoms kept him from the final eight races of the season. Pagenaud is still not cleared to race.
“His marketing agency and scheduling agency are the same as mine,” Busch said Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway when asked about Pagenaud. “I was able to get his phone number very quickly and I’ve communicated with him. Texts, phone calls, even things with his wife just to add in where I can help and to offer different doctors that I’ve seen and different procedures that I’ve gone through. His [injury] is very similar.”
Busch, the 2004 Cup Series champion, was forced into retirement sooner than he anticipated after being sidelined by a concussion in July 2022. A rear impact from a qualifying crash at Pocono Raceway took Busch out of his 23XI Racing Toyota for the second half of the season as he struggled to get clearance to race again.
Kurt Busch crashes HARD in qualifying at @PoconoRaceway!
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 23, 2022
Hopeful to return to racing, he said he wouldn’t be full-time in 2023 as 23XI Racing welcomed Tyler Reddick into the fold, and Busch continued to work with his doctors. Last month, Busch officially retired.
There is no way to determine a timeline for Pagenaud to return.
“At the end of the day, working with different neurologists, I’ve learned there are six different major types of concussions, and then there are 20 to 30 variants of each,” Busch said. “Age can come into play. The violent accident that was the final one of you couldn’t pass the concussion protocol. Then there is quantity of wrecks and other things over time that add up.
“It’s not just a playbook that says, ‘Hey, you broke your arm, and you’re going to be back in three weeks or six weeks.’ A guy like Aaron Rodgers just tore his Achilles tendon, and is his schedule the same as a young guy that would tear and have that same injury? We don’t know.”