Saturday, 22 June 2024

Kurt Busch announces retirement, leaves behind a Hall-of-Fame NASCAR legacy Featured

Posted On Sunday, 27 August 2023 22:23 Written by
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Kurt Busch celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 15, 2022. It would be his final career victory, as he has announced his retirement from Cup racing. Kurt Busch celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 15, 2022. It would be his final career victory, as he has announced his retirement from Cup racing. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It’s hard to choose a favorite moment from the two decades-plus that I’ve watched Kurt Busch compete on the racetrack in NASCAR’s top levels.

Perhaps it's the famous battle to the checkered flag at Darlington vs. Ricky Craven.
Or Kurt being given the bird by Dale Earnhardt Sr. during the 2001 Daytona 500.
Or his running the NASCAR/Indy double and finishing 6th in the Indy 500.
Or his leadership at so many teams, from Roush and Penske to Phoenix Racing to Furniture Row to Stewart-Haas to Ganassi and finally 23XI
Or his winning the 2004 Cup series title in dramatic fashion after a close call, losing a tire as he was entering pit road during the race

I could go on, but you get the drift. The man did just about everything you could in this sport since entering the NASCAR ranks as a very young man in the late 1990s.

I say all this because we heard an emotional farewell this weekend from Kurt Busch at Daytona. He said he’s officially done with Cup racing as he continues to focus on his health after a qualifying crash at Pocono in 2022.


This reality was no doubt in the back of most fans’ minds already, but it’s a tough pill to swallow for a guy who has always overcome obstacles in the past, and for whom the end of his career came in large part to factors out of his control. Looking back at that crash, it’s hard to believe that it was a career-ender.

Busch could have been angry at the circumstances, as many have questioned the safety of the Next Gen car in rear-end crash situations, but he was not, instead praising NASCAR for their efforts to improve driver safety.  

It’s kind of a Hollywood story style ending, so to speak. I was going for pole on my last race – going out on top, and yes, I think NASCAR is doing all of the right things to improve the safety of the car and made quick prompt changes after collecting data on my incident and many others,” he said. “It’s always something in life where you are trying to improve things and make it better for everyone. I think NASCAR and the teams and the collaboration that I see between the DAC, the RTA, NASCAR, everyone is moving in the right direction.”

In his emotional press conference — spoken to a room full of NASCAR leaders and current and former team members of Busch, as well as his brother Kyle — Kurt explained the rationale for officially announcing his retirement.

“While stepping away from full time racing for the 2023 season, it has been difficult, but it has provided me with a different perspective and gave me more time to focus on my recuperation and reflect on all the sport has given me and all I have still to give back to it. Racing at NASCAR’s highest level requires every last bit of focus, heart, stamina and determination, and 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.”

“Over the last several months, being out of the car, I’ve appreciated the opportunity to remain actively involved with 23XI, Monster Energy and the Toyota Racing family and want to do all that I can to continue making this race team one of the best in motorsports. … As I transition out of the driver’s seat, I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed to have spent the amount of time as I did as a driver in NASCAR, and I could have never imagined it growing up as a blue-collar kid in Las Vegas. … It’s time for a new journey, and I’m excited to get it started.”

Kurt has been through a lot in life, both personally and professionally, but it’s clear that he has grown a lot as a person throughout his 23 years in the Cup series. 

He first gained attention on a national level at age 20, competing in Winter Heat races at Tucson Raceway Park in 1997, battling fellow future racing legends like Kevin Harvick, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Greg Biffle.

Just as there were highs, there were also lows — such as his tirade against Dr. Jerry Punch that led to his firing at Penske, and other questionable actions with media members — but nobody can deny what Kurt was able to do on the track. He was, as the saying goes, a true wheelman; always willing to do whatever was needed to succeed in racing. He (like his brother Kyle) is a driver who actually knew how the car worked and could provide solid feedback, something that’s hard to find in today’s NASCAR, and will no doubt continue to be a very valuable asset for 23XI Racing in the playoffs and hopefully for years to come.

I remember watching Kurt race back in the truck series alongside Greg Biffle, and knowing instantly he was going to have a solid career. I remember him wearing out his welcome at Roush and landing safely at Penske Racing. I remember the low days after his rant against Dr. Punch, followed by the joy of his nearly winning for James Finch at Sonoma in the 51 car. I remember his battles with Jimmy Spencer on track, which ended with Busch getting punched by his rival at Michigan. I remember the Kurt Busch who matured by leaps and bounds and became a team leader that helped a team like Furniture Row grow on its path toward an eventual Cup title with Martin Truex Jr. 

With a total of 34 wins, 161 top-5s, 339 top-10s, and 28 poles, Kurt has Hall of Fame numbers, and I have no doubt that he’ll soon be enshrined with the rest of our sport’s finest competitors.

I will miss seeing Kurt on track, but it’s good to know he plans to remain part of the sport, whether it be continuing as an advisor at 23XI and helping drivers Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace develop, or other areas of the sport where his expertise might come in handy, such as broadcasting, an area where he has shown promise in his guest appearances.

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Follow AutoTechReviews on Instagram at @autotechreviews, and on Twitter @AutoTechReview. Follow Matt Myftiu on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

 

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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