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Kurt Busch stepping away from full-time NASCAR Cup racing

Rick Allen, Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. analyze Kurt Busch's announcement to not race full-time in Cup next year, as well as discuss the ways he'll continue to contribute moving forward.

LAS VEGAS — Kurt Busch, continuing to recover from a concussion suffered in July, will not race the rest of this season and said Saturday that he will not race full-time in Cup next year.

“I know I’m not 100% in my ability to go out and race at the top level in the NASCAR Cup Series,” Busch said in a statement he read. “These are the best of the best drivers, and lately, I haven’t felt my best.”
But Busch is not retiring, leaving the option open to race in the future.

“I will get back to 100%, I promise,” Busch said.
The 44-year-old Busch has been sidelined by a concussion since a July 23 crash at Pocono Raceway. He and Alex Bowman continue to miss races this season because of concussions. NASCAR will make changes to the rear of cars for next season to address rear-end impacts, such as those that injured Busch and Bowman.

Busch explained Saturday what he’s experienced and why he’s not ready to race yet.

“Mainly the vestibular movements,” Busch said, referring to the vestibular system located within the inner ear that responds to movement and contributes balance, equilibrium and maintaining a stable visual field.

“So with head movements, and torso movements with my heart rate elevated, that’s when things move quick in my peripheral ... So (it would) be like looking in the mirror, and then back towards the windshield and around the competitors, checking the dash like just things are moving quick. And things are slowing down. Things are coming back to me. I just know I’m not 100% So the vestibular side is really where I’m focused on with my concussion.”

As for where he is in everyday life, Busch said: “Everyday life is 90-95%.”
Busch, a Las Vegas native, made his announcement at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Co-owner Denny Hamlin, teammate Bubba Wallace and Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson attended.

“Kurt’s decision to step away from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition next year is certainly not something anyone expected when we started the season together and celebrated in victory lane at Kansas Speedway earlier this year,” Wilson said in a statement.

“Unfortunate circumstances led Kurt to a difficult decision, but we know that he will continue to contribute to the entire program at Toyota, TRD and 23XI Racing. He brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and firsthand championship experience to his team and fellow Toyota competitors. We’re here to support Kurt in this next chapter of his career and look forward to continuing to work alongside him.”

Said NASCAR President Steve Phelps in a statement: “For more than two decades, we have been privileged to watch Kurt Busch compete. He has proven himself a champion on the racetrack, but perhaps just as importantly, he has grown to become a true ambassador for the sport. Kurt’s drive to improve the future of motorsports has set him apart. We are thrilled that he’ll remain in our sport as a leader and trusted resource. Kurt’s unparalleled passion for racing gives us hope that we will see him in a race car again.”

Busch said he’s unsure of his path moving forward. He said he will talk with Fox Sports this weekend. He has done broadcasting work for that network previously. Hamlin said he’ll field a third car for whatever races Busch wants once he’s healthy. Hamlin also stated that Busch has a home with 23XI Racing.

“I told Kurt, in this decision, never feel like you owe the team anything. If anything the team owes you,” Hamlin said.

“We don’t know exactly what his future and exact role is with our team, we just know that we want him again, and we want to figure out something that is very good for him.”
While there is another driver in Cup with the same last name — younger brother Kyle — there is nobody quite like Kurt Busch.

Busch’s tenure in NASCAR has been marked by an immense talent and a temperament that nearly sidetracked his career a decade ago. In his final full-time Cup seasons, he has become a statesman for the sport and a mentor to young drivers.

Busch’s career is worthy of future Hall of Fame enshrinement. He won the 2004 championship — the first year the title was determined by a postseason instead of a season-long format. This would have been his fourth year in the playoffs, but he gave up the spot because of his injury.

Busch also has 34 Cup victories, including at least one in each of the last nine seasons. He was victorious in the 2017 Daytona 500 and the 2010 Coca-Cola 600. Busch won a race in 19 of the 22 Cup seasons he was a full-time driver.

Busch has scored 161 top fives and 339 top 10s in 776 career Cup starts. He ranks 12th on the all-time career Cup start list.

Busch made his Cup debut in 2000 at age 21, finishing 18th in the fall Dover race. He ran seven races that year before moving to Cup full-time in 2001 after only one season in the Truck Series.