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Kurt Busch’s recovery continues; he retains hopes to race again

Nate Ryan harkens back to the first NASCAR race that was broadcast in full, and a snowstorm that created a captive audience for Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough's Daytona fight.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The races are much the same for Kurt Busch these days – with one big exception. He isn’t inside the race car.

“This is my second week being here at the track, and there isn’t a question now where my role is,” Busch said Friday at Daytona International Speedway. “It’s everywhere within the team. It’s like I’m doing everything the same, except I’m putting on a radio instead of a helmet.”

Busch, the 2004 Cup Series champion, hasn’t driven a race car since he suffered a head injury July 23 when his car hit the wall during a qualifying lap at Pocono Raceway. The long process of recovery began a few days later, and it continues, even as Busch serves as a consultant with the 23XI Racing team and fulfills various sponsor commitments.

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Busch’s accident and other issues with the new Next Gen car led to NASCAR addressing the structure of the car and its ability to absorb hard hits, particularly in rear-end contact.

Busch said Friday that he and his doctors believe he will have a full recovery, but doubts remain if he will race again and, if so, at what level.

“I just know I’m not 100% to race with these guys at this level,” he said. “Could I go do a (Sports Car Club of America) club race next week? Probably not wise. Just when I have my head in the headrest and with that movement, that bothers me. I’ve made progress since August, and I believe there will be a full recovery. But the balance and eye movement now are getting interest.”

Busch said he had been working seven days a week with physical therapists but has trimmed that schedule to every other day.

“Everyday life is normal,” he said. “The physical therapists have switched my workouts up a little to a balance type of pad. Has to do with core strength. It’s fatiguing. I notice things that bring me up and then break me down. I have to do a day on and a day off now.

“In all honesty, I took December off. It was an emotional time, and that’s part of this process, as well.”

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Although Busch, 44, clings to the idea that he could race again, he also seems to have accepted the possibility that his career on the fast asphalt might be over.

“I’m fine with the way that everything has gone,” he said. “I’d just like to go and race cars. We’ll see where things pan out. Whether it’s my decision or somebody from up above, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m very happy and complacent. To have had this opportunity to race in this sport for 23 years and to hit all the high notes and low notes -- I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

“It’s a Hollywood ending -- going for a pole on your last lap ever. I’m smiling about it. I’m happy with it.”