NASCAR: Will Kurt Busch have a tough decision to make?

Kurt Busch, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Kurt Busch is set to miss a second NASCAR Cup Series race this weekend, and there are questions beginning to arise about his future in the sport.

23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch advanced to the second round of qualifying last Saturday afternoon for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway, but a spin in this round resulted in the 2004 series champion having concussion-like symptoms which sidelined him from Sunday afternoon’s M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400.

Ty Gibbs, who competes full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series, was called upon to replace Busch behind the wheel of the #45 Toyota at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan’s team.

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Considering the fact that this was his Cup Series debut, he had no previous experience in a Gen 7, and he had to start from the rear of the field due not only to the fact that he was running a backup car but because of the driver change, the 19-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina native did a respectable job, finishing in 16th place.

Gibbs is set to make start number two this Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, at Busch was not cleared to return for the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard.

23XI Racing recently announced that Busch is under contract with the team through the 2023 season and that they hope to have him compete for the team for as long as he wants to compete in the Cup Series.

But given this recent health development, could Busch, who hadn’t previously missed a start in more than seven years, call it quits early?

It’s a decision that only he can make.

He recently hinted that the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season could be his last behind the wheel and that he is just happy to be a part of this relatively new 23XI Racing organization, where he is expected to remain, in some capacity, following his driving career.

Busch’s move to the team this year made him just the second driver to ever compete for Dodge, Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota, and he became the first one to win for all four when he won the race at Kansas Speedway back in mid-May.

Even before this year, he had stated that he had done everything he wanted to do and was content with his career. His move to 23XI Racing has allowed him to add even more to an already illustrious career, and nothing will ever change that, whether he returns in 2023 or not.

Ironically, the other driver also called it quits early due to health concerns, that being Kasey Kahne. Kahne did not finish out the 2018 season before deciding it was time to move on.

The other element to this decision is the #45 Toyota itself and who ends up driving it next year if Busch decides to hang it up. We know that Tyler Reddick, who currently competes for Richard Childress Racing, signed with 23XI Racing for 2024, but the car he is set to drive hasn’t been confirmed.

Richard Childress Racing picked up his option for 2023 shortly before this move was announced, so Reddick is technically under contract to drive the #8 Chevrolet for another year. But Richard Childress Racing weren’t exactly happy with this announcement coming when it did, yet Reddick responded by stating that they really shouldn’t have been surprised.

That immediately led some to speculate that Reddick may not be there next year, even though these types of situations, while quite awkward, are by no means unprecedented.

In the event that Busch calls it a career early due to health concerns, could we see Reddick let out of his deal a year early and join Bubba Wallace in 2023, or could the #45 Toyota perhaps serve as a segue to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Cup Series team for Ty Gibbs, depending on what happens with the sponsorship situation of Kyle Busch and the #18 team?

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Making matters even more interesting is the fact that Richard Childress Racing, earlier this week, hinted that they have a major driver announcement — specifically, a major NASCAR Cup Series driver announcement — coming on Tuesday, August 2.