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Kurt Busch to miss start of Cup playoffs

Rick Allen, Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton, and Dale Jr. react to Kurt Busch's decision to withdraw his waiver to still be eligible for the playoffs and detail the scenarios for drivers like Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr.

Kurt Busch has withdrawn his waiver for the Cup playoffs and will miss the start of the playoffs, 23XI Racing stated Thursday morning.

That means that Martin Truex Jr. holds the final provisional playoff spot going into Saturday night’s race at Daytona International Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock). Fourteen drivers have clinched a playoff spot by winning this season. Ryan Blaney and Truex are the only drivers in a playoff spot without a victory this season. Blaney leads Truex by 25 points.
The waiver NASCAR provided allowed Busch to remain eligible for the playoffs despite missing the last five races because of concussion-like symptoms suffered in a July 23 crash in qualifying at Pocono Raceway. Busch will miss Saturday’s Cup race at Daytona.

No timetable has been given for Busch’s return.

“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 a statement. “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.”

NASCAR stated: “Kurt Busch has managed this difficult situation like the champion that he is. 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.

“23XI Racing has informed NASCAR that it is withdrawing Kurt’s medical waiver request. Per the NASCAR rule book, a spot has been made available for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. The No. 45 car will continue to compete for the 2022 Owner Championship.”

Busch, the 2004 Cup champion, was eligible for the playoffs based on his May 15 win at Kansas Speedway.

Ty Gibbs will continue to drive the No. 45 car, which will remain eligible for the owners title.

David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, stated: “Toyota’s priority for Kurt Busch since the moment the accident took place at Pocono has been his health and recovery. 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.”
Thirteen drivers could move into a playoff spot with a win Saturday. Seven of those 13 have won a Cup race at Daytona: Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Justin Haley, Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski.

Of the six remaining playoff-eligible drivers who have not won at Daytona, Bubba Wallace has finished second there and Chris Buescher’s best finish is third. Others who could make the playoffs with a win Saturday night are Cole Custer, Harrison Burton, Ty Dillon and Todd Gilliland.