Kurt Busch officially retires from NASCAR due to concussions

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kurt Busch’s storied NASCAR full-time racing career has come to an end as the 2004 Cup champion said Sunday that he hasn’t 100 percent recovered from concussions suffered last year.

Busch crashed July 23, 2022, in qualifying at Pocono Raceway and hasn’t raced since then. The 23XI Racing driver has continued to rehabilitate and be OK in normal life.

“Racing at NASCAR’s highest level requires every last bit of focus, heart, stamina and determination,” Busch said Saturday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.

“I know right now I can’t give what is required to compete at that level week-in and week-out. So I’m officially announcing my retirement from NASCAR Cup Series competition.”

The 45-year-old Busch will end his almost-certain Hall of Fame career with one Cup title and 34 Cup wins, including the 2017 Daytona 500 and the 2010 Coke 600. He finished in the top-5 in more than 20 percent of his races with 161 top-5s in 776 starts.

The Pocono crash was the last of a series of hard wrecks for Busch in NASCAR’s new Next Gen car that debuted last year. He suffered nine crashes of at least 15 G’s during his 20 race weekends in 2022.

“I can just tell you all the different things that added up and it’s like lasagna: You got this layer [after a wreck], and it’s still there, you got that layer, it’s still there,” Busch said earlier this year. “I was getting fatigued, just trying to get back to the car.”

Busch had lingering issues into this year that when his heart rate got elevated, he had vestibular issues. He didn’t rule out potentially racing in some form again if his recovery improves.

“It’s not as bad as it was last summer and last fall,” Busch said. “I genuinely feel good about the improvements throughout — call it three months at a time — and then we’ll push harder to help 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 react at top-level speed.”

While the Next Gen car is safer in certain aspects, NASCAR has spent much of the first two seasons working on improving the amount of energy a driver absorbs in a rear impact.

“We just need to be frank and just smile a little bit — I’ve wrecked a lot of s— in my life, old cars, new cars,” Busch said last October when he announced he was stepping away from full-time racing.

“And so over the years things add up, and different wrecks this year have made it tough and grind to get back each week to 100 percent. “

Where does Kurt Busch rank among all-time greats?

Where does Kurt Busch rank among all-time greats?

Busch drove for seven organizations during his career — Roush Racing, Team Penske, Phoenix Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing and 23XI Racing.

“There were plenty of stories and funs and wins and losses,” Busch said Saturday. “I have a bunch of cool trophies at the house and lots of memories.”

It wasn’t an easy road. His Roush and Penske stints early in his career ended in controversy over behavioral incidents and he was suspended by NASCAR twice — for one race in 2012 for threatening a reporter and for three races in 2015 over domestic violence accusations that ended with a prosecutor determining not to press charges.

Busch has continued to work with 23XI Racing drivers and the plan is to continue in that role.

“I named myself CVO — chief vision officer,” Busch said. “Whatever it means is whatever it means. But 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.

“That’s the person who I am. I want to give back to our team.”

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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