DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR champion who stepped away from racing last season following a significant concussion, officially retired Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.
Busch, 45, held back tears as he called it quits while sitting on the same stage where he celebrated one of his most memorable Cup Series victories — the 2017 Daytona 500.
“My body is just having a battle with Father Time,” Busch said, adding he has dealt with arthritis and gout while trying to recover from a rear-impact collision he says rattled his brain.
“I’m very happy, complacent,” he said. “There’s nothing I look back on and regret about having this opportunity at the top level of NASCAR.”
His younger brother, Kyle, sat at the back of the media center during the announcement. NASCAR executives Jim France, Ben Kennedy, Steve O’Donnell and Mike Helton also were on hand along with countless Toyota brass and 23IX Racing drivers Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.
“It’s time for a new journey, and I’m excited to get started,” Busch said.
The Las Vegas native suffered a life-changing concussion during a qualifying crash at Pocono Raceway last summer. After slamming into the wall backward, the front end of his Toyota smacked it at a G-force that raised safety concerns about the Next Gen cars.
NASCAR spent much of the offseason tweaking its car to try to limit the effects of rear-impact collisions that wreaked havoc on drivers in 2022. Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman missed five races with a concussion, and multiple other drivers complained about the violence of routine hits and wondered if they too had suffered head trauma.
Busch said at the Saturday announcement that he continues to show incremental improvements and intends to return to racing one day but has no timetable for getting back behind the wheel.
“It’s not as bad as it was last summer and last fall,” he said.
Busch won 34 races in 776 starts over 23 years in the Cup Series. He landed as a consultant for his old 23XI Racing and Toyota. He counseled Travis Pastrana at last year’s Daytona 500 and has thrown his arms around anyone in the garage who needs advice.
“Racing at NASCAR’s highest level requires every bit of focus, heart, stamina and determination,” Busch said. “And I know right now I can’t give what’s required to compete at that level week in and week out.”
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