NASCAR Cup Series

Kurt Busch drops out of playoffs

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Credit: Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

Kurt Busch is officially out of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. On Thursday, Busch announced he will withdraw the waiver that guaranteed him a spot in the postseason as his concussion is preventing him from running the first playoff race.

“As much as I wanted and hoped to be able to get back in the #45 car to make a playoff run with our team, it’s still not the right time for me,” said Busch. “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 (Racing) continue the success we have had this season.”

Busch has not driven a Cup race since his Pocono qualifying crash in July. Ty Gibbs has taken over the #45 Toyota for the remaining six regular season races and will continue to do so for the playoffs. Gibbs has finished sixteenth (Pocono), seventeenth (Indianapolis), tenth (Michigan), thirty-sixth (Richmond), and twenty-sixth (Watkins Glen) in substitute duty.

“My prayers continue to be with Kurt,” Gibbs commented. “It’s tough that he’s going to miss the start of the playoffs, but I’ll do the best job I can filling in for him as long as I’m asked to. I know Kurt will be our biggest supporter. I appreciate Michael (Jordan) and Denny (Hamlin) giving me this opportunity to fill in and hopefully we can continue to do well as we compete for the Cup owner’s championship for 23XI Racing. My thoughts are with Kurt as he recovers, and I know he will continue to do everything in his power to get better.”

A playoff spot had been acquired with Busch’s Kansas victory, though his withdrawal means he will not be in the playoff grid for the first time since the bracket system’s introduction in 2014. It will also be just the third year that he is not in the postseason since its début in 2004.

“Kurt has elevated our entire organisation this year,” stated 23XI president Steve Lauletta. “Although Kurt will not be competing for a championship this season, he will continue to play a vital role in the organization as he works with our competition group to keep improving and strengthening the team.”

Toyota Racing Development head David Wilson added, “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.”

With Busch’s exit, the scramble to make the playoffs with one race to go becomes slightly easier as two spots are now available rather than just the sixteenth and final seed. This is good news for Ryan Blaney who sits third in the standings despite being winless, while Busch’s Toyota ally Martin Truex Jr. (sixth) also gets some breathing room. Of course, Truex would be knocked out if a first-time winner who’s in the top thirty in points occurs.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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