An early morning presser at his hometown race track is sadly where Kurt Busch’s full-time trek in the NASCAR Cup Series comes to a close. After missing close to the last two months with concussion issues, this wasn’t out of left field. On top of the fact that Tyler Reddick’s current deal with RCR is confirmed to be bought out early by 23XI after being rumored earlier in the week.
The 2004 NASCAR Champion pound-for-pound may be one of the best pure talents to ever step foot in a stock car period. From making every team he went to better, to the several crown jewel race wins, playoff births, and everything in between, there will never be someone like Busch in the Cup Series ever again. And his full-time career is now over due to NASCAR rushing an imperfect next-generation car off the production line.
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) October 15, 2022
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On His Own Terms
While Busch is no longer set to compete in a full 36-race tilt ever again, this isn’t a complete goodbye just yet. The door is open for Busch to end his Hall of Fame career on his own terms on a select basis moving forward should he be medically cleared. Busch said that he is “Back to 90-95 percent, but that’s not the level to perform well enough in a Cup Series Car“. Whether that is with 23XI or otherwise remains to be seen, but Denny Hamlin spoke glowingly about Busch earlier today. Would think that they would be more than willing to give him a shot to end things if they can make things work. Wouldn’t be a bad move to bring him on in a team management role either if you’d ask me.
Denny Hamlin on Kurt Busch’s decision to not race full time next year and how Busch has handled the last few months trying to recover from a concussion. pic.twitter.com/ykTEQU5lGg
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) October 15, 2022
Kurt Busch: Wheelman
For my money, to be considered one of the best race car drivers ever, you can’t be a one-trick pony. Meaning that I could put you in just about any kind of race car and you could give me an above-average result. Not only that, but you have to be willing to expand your horizons and not just stick to one kind of car. This is not me saying Busch is a Mount Rushmore-level racer, guys like his brother Kyle, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Fernando Alonso, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon, etc, have him beat under that criteria. With that said, the gap back to the elder Busch Brother isn’t substantial.
The best example of this would be the leadup and race weekend of the 2014 Indianapolis 500. Busch was the first NASCAR driver to go for the Memorial Day Weekend Double in a decade since Robby Gordon did it three years straight from 2002-2004. After missing out on the Fast Nine shoutout by 0.067 MPH over four laps, junked his primary car just two days later, forcing him to a backup. Busch then proceeded to tie a double attempt best Indy 500 finish of sixth….in a backup car. Had he not backed it into turn two on that Monday, who knows what would have happened. That result however showed that Busch can hang with the best just about anywhere in the world.
End of an Era
Busch’s retirement also marks the end of a significant stretch in NASCAR history. Before today, he was the last active full-time driver who had run in the Cup Series with Dale Earnhardt Sr. Some fans may know/remember that Busch had a moment with the Intimidator in the 2001 Daytona 500 where he flipped off Busch, but sadly never found out why for obvious reasons. Ironic that this announcement comes on the day that Sr won his 76th and final race of his storied career at Talledega as well.
22 years ago today Dale Sr stormed the beaches of Alabama to score his last Cup win. pic.twitter.com/f2MxsrSiuI
— Racing RoundTable (@RacingRT1) October 15, 2022
Furniture Row Racing likely never wins a Championship with Martin Truex Jr had they not first brought in Busch for the tail end of 2012 and all of 2013. Only a handful of drivers in NASCAR put a Phoenix Racing car in contention to win a road course race. Even fewer do so with a broken track bar down the stretch. And only a few drivers can say they’ve won a Cup Championship, Daytona 500, and Coke 600, along with over 30 wins. You can say a lot of things about Kurt Busch, both good and bad, over the course of his career. Undeniably though, regardless of if he ever steps in a car again or not, he’s one of the best motorsports talents ever. Dale Jr. summed it up nicely earlier today.
I appreciate how @KurtBusch made every team he went to more productive. Not many drivers could do that. Hell of a talent. Excited to see what he does from here as he steps away from full time driving.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) October 15, 2022
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images