Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Kurt Busch Still on the Mend, Out for Cup Series Playoff Opener

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

Since Kurt Busch has been on the sidelines recovering from concussion-like symptoms, he has had a medical waiver from NASCAR to remain eligible for the Playoffs should he be back behind the wheel when the postseason starts.

However, as the weeks have gone on since his saga started after a crash during qualifying at Pocono, Busch’s status for the 16-driver chase for a championship has been up in the air.

On Thursday, ahead of the regular season finale at Daytona, 23XI Racing provided some clarity on the situation, announcing that he would not be back to regular driving duties in his No. 45 Toyota when the Playoffs start at Darlington, forcing the team to withdraw the medical waiver that had been in place for the 2004 Cup champion.

“As much as I wanted and hoped to be able to get back in the No. 45 car to make a playoff run with our team, it’s still not the right time for me,” said Busch. “In addition to not being cleared to return to racing, I know that I am not ready to be back in the car.

“I respect the sport of NASCAR, my fellow drivers and the fans too much to take up a playoff spot if I know I can’t compete for a championship this season. The decision was not an easy one, but I know it is the right thing to do. I will continue to take time to heal and strengthen as I prepare to be back in the car and will do all I can to help 23XI continue the success we have had this season.”

After the news broke, both NASCAR and Toyota wished Busch well on his recovery and commended him for putting his health first in such a crucial time during the season.

“Kurt Busch has managed this difficult situation like the champion that he is,” NASCAR said in a statement. “Working closely with his doctors, every decision made has been in the best interest of his health, his competitors and the sport. Kurt has NASCAR’s full support as he continues to heal, and we look forward to seeing him return to the race car.”

“Toyota’s priority for Kurt Busch since the moment the accident took place at Pocono has been his health and recovery,” added Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson. “Not his recovery to get back in a race car, but his recovery overall. TRD has been working directly with Kurt to support him on his recovery journey, but ultimately this decision was Kurt’s and we support him completely.

“While we’re disappointed that he won’t get the chance to compete for the 2022 championship by missing the start of the Playoffs, his well-being is the only thing that matters to us. We know Kurt will still be a big part of our championship efforts this season through his support and his extensive racing knowledge that he can share with his team and fellow Toyota drivers.”

As Busch continues his recovery, Ty Gibbs will remain as the team’s relief driver, a position he has held since July 24.

With Busch now no longer eligible for the Playoffs, his spot is now freed up for another driver to grab this weekend at Daytona, where Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex, Jr. currently hold the 15th and 16th place positions in the Playoffs.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.