Kurt Busch retires from full-time racing; Tyler Reddick joining 23XI Racing early
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
LAS VEGAS — Kurt Busch, whose racing career started as a young boy growing up in Las Vegas, announced in his hometown that he won’t race full-time next season.
The 44-year-old Busch — who has had a Hall of Fame-worthy career, with 34 Cup wins and the 2004 Cup title — stopped short of saying that he was retired, as he hopes to run select races next year. He has not raced since a July 23 crash at Pocono Raceway left him with a concussion, and since then, he has battled vision, hearing and balance issues.
"This isn't the end," Busch said Saturday morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "It's just a step in my future direction. Yeah, it is emotional to not run for a championship. But there's still more races to be raced."
With a contract through next year (and an option for 2024) to drive for 23XI Racing, Busch will remain at the organization, with his exact duties still to be determined. He will be replaced in the No. 45 car by Tyler Reddick, who had signed with 23XI Racing effective in 2024 but will leave Richard Childress Racing a year earlier than initially announced.
23XI Racing co-owner Denny Hamlin said the team could field a third car for Busch in select races next year if Busch does get cleared to race. Busch said 90 to 95 percent of normal life is fine for him now, but he isn’t ready to race.
"Mainly the vestibular movements — so with head movements and torso movements with my heart rate elevated, that's when things move quick in my peripheral back to right up front," Busch said.
"So it would be like looking in the mirror and then being back toward the windshield and around competitors, checking the dash, like just things are moving quick. Things are slowing down. Things are coming back to me. I just know I'm not 100 percent."
Busch and Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman have missed races due to concussions this season, the first season of NASCAR’s Next Gen car, which has come under fire from drivers who say they are absorbing more of the energy of accidents, especially when it comes to rear impacts such as the one Busch had at Pocono.
"There's not one moment or one circumstance that has led to this decision. It’s a layer of things," Busch said Saturday. "And 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.
"And so over the years, things add up, and different wrecks this year have made it tough to grind and get back each week to 100 percent. That was starting to get tough this summer, and with the accident in Pocono, everything has kind of added up."
If Busch doesn’t race again, he has enjoyed a successful career based on incredible racing tenacity combined with knowledge of how a race car works to be able to diagnose issues quickly and make recommendations to crew chiefs on how to improve a car.
His me-against-the-world attitude didn’t always win him friends, and he has driven for seven organizations in his career: Roush Racing, Team Penske, Phoenix Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing and 23XI Racing.
His Roush and Penske stints 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 due to domestic violence accusations that ended with a prosecutor deciding not to press charges.
But Busch was able to keep racing because he won and was someone who could lift an entire organization with his knowledge of the race car and ability to communicate about improvements.
That knowledge has also helped make him a strong television analyst, as he has worked several NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races in the booth for FOX Sports, educating viewers from the driver's perspective. He said he is interested in more television work in the future.
"I'm so appreciative of all the teams that have embraced me and my tenacity — the cockiness that I had early on, and then it turned into confidence," he said. "And, yeah, it was a maturation process.
"I was very raw when I first started out, and I have a lot of thanks to give to Jack Roush and that whole program. But each owner, it seemed like I adopted a lot of their personality. And each one has been ones that built me up to who I am today."
Busch's replacement is considered one of the sport's top young prospects. The 26-year-old Reddick has three victories this year but was eliminated after the first round of the playoffs. 23XI Racing getting Reddick out of his contract a year early ends a relationship with RCR that turned bitter in July, when Reddick gave the team less than an hour's notice that he would be leaving after the 2023 season.
RCR announced last month that two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch (Kurt’s Brother) would join the organization to replace Reddick starting in 2023, getting Reddick’s crew. The team said it would fulfill its contractual obligations to field a car for Reddick.
"I would have accepted and taken on any challenge that comes my way," Reddick said. "As a driver, that’s part of my job.
"I'm really glad that ... RCR and 23XI were able to make that work out so that I could start the journey with them a year early."
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.