Saturday, March 2, 2024

Kurt Busch announces NASCAR retirement

After a decorated NASCAR Cup Series career spanning twenty-three years, Kurt Busch has officially closed that chapter of his life. Citing that he has yet to fully recover from the concussion that ended his full-time career in 2022, he announced his retirement on Saturday via a video posted on social media.

“Dreams: we all have them. Those beautiful things that scare us and excite us and drive us forward,” began the video. “Sometimes, dreams change all the time, and sometimes, they take a lifetime to achieve. But me, I only ever had one dream, and I chased mine with 100 percent of who I am every single day. Racing at NASCAR’s highest level was always my dream. Just ask the blue-collared kid from Las Vegas who only ever wanted a shot. I’ve spent twenty-three years living my dream and it’s been a hell of a ride for that kid from Nevada.

“There were crashes, big emotions, and big wins over time, and chapters full of blessings that I will never take for granted. To the people who are woven into the moments of my dream, thank you for riding with me. My friends, crew members, my sponsors, and most of all, my family. Racing requires 100 percent of focus, heart, stamina, and determination, and I’ve never raced a day without all of that in mind.

“But sometimes, Father Time can catch up to your dreams. 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. After twenty-three years behind the wheel and forty-five years of living and breathing this dream, I am officially announcing my retirement form NASCAR Cup Series competition. To the fans, to my sponsors, to my family, and to the million moments that made my dream come true: thank you. And may we all remember dreams really can come true.”

Busch graduated directly from the Craftsman Truck Series to the Cup Series in 2000 at the then-absurdly youthful age of 21. He quickly developed a reputation as one of the sport’s most polarising drivers, beloved and reviled for his driving style and attitude both on and off the track. He won the championship in 2004, only to lose his ride at what is now RFK Racing before the following season was even over. A tenure with Team Penske produced up-and-down results and more drama before he became a journeyman, nicknamed “The Outlaw” as his career entered shaky and rather controversial waters.

He eventually landed on his feet at Stewart-Haas Racing, where he returned to form as the 2017 Daytona 500 winner. Entering his late thirties and early forties, Busch shed his previous moniker and instead became one of NASCAR’s most respected veterans, later driving for Chip Ganassi Racing and 23XI Racing. At the time of his career-ending crash at Pocono last year, he had thirty-four wins in 776 career starts, the last coming at Kansas that season, and is one of a few drivers to have visited a Cup Victory Lane with each current manufacturer (Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota; he also won with Dodge).

Tyler Reddick replaced Busch in the #45 23XI Toyota for the 2023 season, while Busch stepped back from full-time competition while leaving the door open for a return if possible. Although he was never able to return to the driver’s seat, he has remained involved with the team and sport since as an ambassador for Monster Energy, advisor to 23XI, and colour commentator for FOX Sports’ broadcasts. In March, Busch was in the booth when Reddick won his first race with the team at COTA.

His career achievements earned him a place on NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers list created to celebrate the sanctioning body’s diamond anniversary. He is one of forty driver swith wins across all three national divisions and even earned Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 2014.

“Proud to have a front row seat for your career from the very beginning working on your cars, racing against you to watching you become a NASCAR Champion and appreciating all your accomplishments,” tweeted his brother and fellow Cup champion Kyle Busch. “I will miss you out there every Sunday!”