Friday, August 19, 2022

Kurt Busch hints he may retire from NASCAR after 2023 season

As it stands, there is not a single active driver in the NASCAR Cup Series who has been around longer than Kurt Busch. After making his Cup debut at Dover in 2000, Busch is the longest-tenured driver in Cup and has raced full-time for 22 consecutive seasons. Next year, he will race for the Cup Series championship for the 23rd time — and it may be the last time.

During an appearance on CBS This Morning, Busch hinted he may choose to retire after the 2023 season while discussing the newly-announced Cup Series race set to take place on the Chicago street course next summer. Busch was non-committal on whether he actually intended to stop racing after 2023, instead talking in broader terms about recent developments at his race team.

“I’ve been in this sport 23 years, and this to me is like one of those kid-in-a-candy-store moments of ‘I want to be part of this’. And I’m glad that I’m having the chance to drive next year for (23XI Racing) — then I might be done driving after that.”

Busch’s open discussion of a potential timeline for his retirement comes just over  a week after 23XI Racing announced that they would hire rising Cup star Tyler Reddick to drive for the team beginning in 2024. With 23XI Racing being a two-car team and reports of a new contract for Bubba Wallace being in the works considered, Reddick replacing Busch as the driver of 23XI’s No. 45 has been discussed as a potential scenario — particularly given that Busch will be 45 years old at the end of next season.

However, 23XI is not looking to push Busch out the door in order to make room for Reddick. During a teleconference announcing the addition of Reddick, team co-owner Denny Hamlin made it clear that Busch would have a place at the team as long as he wanted it.

“As long as Kurt wants to be a race car driver, we want to have him. So that’s pretty much the end of that,” Hamlin said in a report by NASCAR.com. “And then once he’s done driving, he’s going to have a nice cushy office job at 23XI. So he’s going to be part of our future well beyond his driving days.

“We constantly are in dialogue with him on what his plans are. But ultimately, you never know. Things could change, and Kurt could want to race until he’s 48 years old. If he does, then we’re going to build a car for him.”

Since the start of his full-time Cup career in 2001, Busch has earned 34 career victories and won the 2004 Cup Series championship, giving him credentials that will surely put him in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. And he has remained relevant and competitive well into his forties: Busch won at Kansas earlier this season and currently sits 14th in points entering Pocono this weekend.

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