Kurt Busch was made available to media prior to the NASCAR Cup Series event at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday:
KURT BUSCH, 23XI Racing
Can you talk about your announcement today?
“I have a statement that I wrote, and then we can go into questions. Last year, in Las Vegas, where my racing career began, I set in front of many of you and it was one of the toughest and hardest things I’ve had to do in my racing career, and that was to talk about not being behind the wheel of a race car. After decades spent at a race track, with helmet in hand preparing to compete, I was forced to take a step back and focus on my health. While stepping away from full time racing for the 2023 season, it has been difficult, but it has provided me with a different perspective and gave me more time to focus on my recuperation and reflect on all of the sport has given me and all I have still to give back to it. Racing at NASCAR’s highest level requires every last bit of focus, heart, stamina and determination, and I know, right now, I can’t give what is required to compete at that level, week in and week out. So, I’m officially announcing my retirement from NASCAR Cup Series competition. Over the last several months, being out of the car, I’ve appreciated the opportunity to remain actively involved with 23XI, Monster Energy and the Toyota Racing family and want to do all that I can to continue making this race team one of the best in motorsports. I guess it is fitting at age 45, my 23 years as a full-time driver in NASCAR would culminate in working with 23XI to impart the knowledge that I have for our drivers and our team. As I transition out of the driver’s seat, I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed to have spent the amount of time as I did as a driver in NASCAR, and I could have never imagined it growing up as a blue-collar kid in Las Vegas. So many people have been a part of my journey. I want to thank the fans, my family, friends, sponsors and team members. Thanks to everyone who has taught me those different things around the motorsports world and also for those who have had to put up with me. I just want to thank everyone again who continues to push me to achieve success in this sport. It’s time for a new journey, and I’m excited to get it started.”
Can you talk about what your journey is right now and what is your future plans?
“It’s difficult to know which avenues will lead to what in the short-term futures. I’m still wanting to get doctor approval and get cleared. That’s the first step. That’s what I need to do personally. Then I will have opportunities to talk to different motorsports teams and sponsors on doing other races, but the perspective and taking a little step back from being in the car every week, the joy that I’ve found is that everything has slowed down for me to help analyze the data, to give advice to Bubba (Wallace), to give advice to Tyler (Reddick), the engineering staff, the team members at 23XI. It’s really neat to have all of this current knowledge and having the opportunity to digest it and give back to this team. That’s the short-term goal.”
Can you talk about the timing that led to the announcement today?
“it’s not one moment that led to this. It’s a few different factors. My body is just having a battle with father time. I’ve had arthritis ever since I can remember, my gout has flared up where I can barely walk in some days. Just pushing to get through physical therapy and continuing to work out. I remember last summer I was trying not to show that emotion, and I could barely walk to the car in Dover. I had to have some shots prerace just so I could move my knee and move my feet. Those were those moments where things were starting to add up before things that happened at Pocono. Father time, unfortunately. I’m 45-years-old. I’m happy, I’m complacent, and there is nothing that I look back on with regret about having this opportunity at the top level of NASCAR.”
Is when your heart rate get elevated still the issue?
“It is not as bad as it was last summer and last fall. I genuinely feel good about the improvements throughout, call it, three months at a time. And then we will push harder to find other things with my vesicular movements to balance out my core strength so that way, everything is strong within my system to be able to react at top level speed.”
Have you seen firsthand NASCAR’s work to prevent head injuries?
“It’s kind of a Hollywood story style ending, so to speak. I was going for pole on my last race – going out on top, and yes, I think NASCAR is doing all of the right things to improve the safety of the car and made quick prompt changes after collecting data on my incident and many others. It’s always something in life where you are trying to improve things and make it better for everyone. I think NASCAR and the teams and the collaboration that I see between in the DAC, the RTA, NASCAR, everyone is moving in the right direction.”
What does it mean to see all of these people here supporting you?
“I said I wasn’t going to get emotional, and there you go, Claire (B. Lang), thanks. Thank you to everyone, I was texting Mike Helton earlier this week, and I said to him that I didn’t really think I was going to get out of 2002 with how many arguments as we’ve had. Everyone that is in the room, thank you. Whether it’s the sport, our manufacturer, our sponsors, thank you Mitch Covington. You stood behind me back in 2012, and said we will support you; we will sponsor you, Kurt. It has been an amazing journey with you guys and to say you have been with a sponsor for over a decade – we are getting close to 12 years now – that’s a major accomplishment. Any time you are at Monster Energy, it is like you work for the company. I’m trying to do all I can to move product, and to create that lifestyle in a can feel. Thank you to the team. Thank you guys. There is plenty of stories of fun, and wins and losses, thank you to NASCAR for giving me a fair shake at this. There is a bunch of cool trophies at the house, lots of memories and I hope to give back in all of the ways I can moving forward.”
What have you found that you can give back to the team and what reward have you seen in that?
“I think the foundation that my dad, Tom (Busch), instilled in Kyle (Busch) and I from the very beginning about race cars, and working on them and understanding every element about the car before you drive it. That was a key factor, and then when my dad was putting so much time and money towards our racing. He’s working 80 hours a week. We are going to the race track every weekend. When it started to click for me and I started to win races, I just wanted his job to be easier. He’s my crew chief. He’s my car owner. He’s a sponsor. He’s everything, and I wanted to communicate with him clearly on how the car was handling, and I think that is something that I took with me to every race team. I was just trying to be clear precise and help them do their job, but help them make their job easier for them, and I think that’s why I had so much success at all of the different race teams.”
What is it going to take for you to get back in some form of racing?
“Keep pushing with the physical therapy, the workouts, doctor visits and tests. There is no timeline. I just know I need to feel from right here that I feel good, and I can look the doctor in the eye, and he will tell me that I’m good to go. Again, that was the struggle. Mentally, emotionally – the push last summer to try to get back for the Playoffs, and I wasn’t able to make it. That was the toughest. Now everything is settling in, and whether I drive again or not, there is so many other things for me to do and there is no real timeline.”
Can you talk about your career evolution from the kid to Roush to where you are now?
“Being able to win in all of NASCAR’s top three divisions – the ladder system of a hobby stock, a late model, Southwest tour cars, Trucks, went straight to Cup, and then came back and did a few races in Xfinity. To have all of the wins in all of the different styles of tracks, I wanted to be a driver that fans could always count on for a good solid run, each day, each weekend. Whether it is up in New England – those New Englanders embraced me after Ricky Craven and my finish in Darlington. The Midwesterners and the big push into Chicago and Kansas and Texas, I just wanted to always give them someone to root for, someone they could always count on because I’m pretty much like them. I’m a blue-collar worker that got an opportunity to do something really cool. That’s that racer, racer in me that was able to win 19 different years. If I could have snuck that win in Sonoma with James Finch’s car at Phoenix Racing, the rear end was falling out of it. I cannot believe we didn’t win at Furniture Row. That’s one thing I look back on – we had nine outside poles, but we could not finish the race in the end. That would have been 21, 22 straight years of winning. I think that would have been more so than Richard Petty’s record. Just missed out on a couple, but nothing I get stuck on too much. I was going for my own little stat, because I’m a baseball guy – I was trying to create this little thing called a 30/30 club, which is 30 wins and 30 poles. I think there is just a few select drivers that fit in that category, and I came up a little short. Maybe that was my improper motivation at Pocono, trying to go for the pole. It’s always good to have goals. You always have to push yourself, and I want to continue to do that with my team, sponsors, everybody. I thank you all. It’s a family here, because you’ve helped me grow quite a bit since the blue-collar kid that got out of Vegas.”
What are your greatest memories here at Daytona?
“As a driver, I got to race here in the trucks. I finished in second my first ever race here. I wrecked about 15 times, but somehow kept the fenders on it and finished second. I ran IROC cars here, I ran the 24 hours race here and finished podium. I finished second three times, 2003, 2005, 2008. My teammate, Ryan Newman, got in my way so I had to push him (laughter). I was never angry at the track though. There was so many second-place finishes and wrecks and frustration moments, and I’m like maybe I will win here one day and I was able to have that opportunity in 2017. It’s a special place. Here, Charlotte, Darlington, Bristol, Vegas – those are my top five, but Daytona is our crown jewel motorsports NASCAR event – the Daytona 500 – and I’m happy that I have a Harley J. Earl.”
Will you continue to work with 23XI in an advisory department?
“Yes, as long as they will allow me. I made up my official title this year. I was called CFD – that is coefficient of drag, really. That is what CFD stands for, but I re-nicknamed it captain of the fun department (laughter). That has been a good role, and here lately, I’ve revised it. I want to be slightly more professional with the group, so I’ve named myself CVO – chief vision officer. Whatever it means is whatever it means, but I’ve enjoyed working with all of the departments and being that extra set of eyes and helping our team advance so that we can win more races, be more competitive, and have shots at winning championships because that is who personally that I am and I want to give back to the team.”
Toyota Racing PR