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Kyle Busch Pens Heartwarming Message to Brother Kurt after His Retirement

The 2004 Cup Series Champion was forced into early retirement after suffering a head injury at Pocono Raceway last year.   

By Andrew Woodin
Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch stand together at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway

While most who follow racing ultimately knew this day was coming, it's still a sad thing to grapple with: 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, brother to two-time Cup Series winner Kyle Busch, has officially retired.

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The 45-year-old from Las Vegas, Nevada revealed he was hanging up the keys to his Next Gen Toyota Camry on the same stage where he once bathed in the glory of his 2017 Daytona 500 victory.

"My body is just having a battle with Father Time," Busch stated, according to ESPN, in addition to revealing his ongoing battle with arthritis and gout amidst his recovery from the head-rattling, rear-impact collision he suffered last year at Pocono Raceway.

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One person who is already missing Kurt Busch’s presence on the track is his younger brother, Kyle Busch, who was in attendance for No. 45’s retirement announcement. In addition to holding the respect of each and every last one of their competitors, the Busch brothers own the record for the most wins in NASCAR history by siblings.

“Congratulations @kurtbusch,” penned the younger Busch on X, the social media platform formerly named Twitter. “Proud to have a front row seat for your career from the very beginning working on your cars, racing against you to watching you become a NASCAR Champion and appreciating all your accomplishments.
I will miss you out there every out there every Sunday!”

Kurt Busch

While Rowdy was able to send off his older brother with an emotional tribute, saying goodbye to the deeply troubling visual of the No. 45 smashing into the wall will take some time to forget.

How did Kurt Busch get hurt?

Running in his final qualifying lap at Pocono, Kurt chose to take the turn low, near the bottom of the track and, while traveling at such a high speed, his car seemed to lose rear traction, causing his tail to spin out. With no control, the back of his car drilled the wall squarely in his car’s right-rear quarter panel before snapping the front of the vehicle back into the wall for a second impact. He sustained a serious concussion in the wreck.

“Big hit,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. over the broadcast. “Swung around and hit the front pretty hard as well. “You have to push these cars to the very limit if you want to make lap time and, if you’re going to do that, you’re going to step over it sometimes.”

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Busch’s scary wreck at Pocono struck a serious cord with most drivers last year after many came to the realization that the first iteration of the Next Gen car had some persistent safety issues, especially veteran driver Kevin Harvick who is set to retire after the culmination of the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs he will compete in.

“I don’t think they [NSACAR] understand the extent of it and actually the extent of how bad it is when you hit stuff,” said Harvick last year, according to NBC Sports. “I don’t think anybody really understands, except for the drivers that have crashed into something, the violence that comes in the car. It doesn’t seem to be a high enough priority to me.”

Though it took violent wrecks like Kurt Busch’s to generate change, in a genuine effort to enhance the vehicle’s ability to collapse and diffuse energy away from the cockpit, NASCAR did make significant adjustments to the league’s Next Gen car, including the removal of metal bars in some regions while perforating metal tubing in other areas.

That said, what’s done is done, and now one of the best to ever have done it must say goodbye to the sport he loves and the fans who love him, due to forces well beyond his control.

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Still, while Kyle Busch, NASCAR executives Jim France, Ben Kennedy, Steve O’Donnell and Mike Helton along with 23 XI Racing drivers Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick all looked on as Kurt announced what had been foreshadowed more than a year ago, The Outlaw remained strong, fighting back the tears as he bid farewell one, last time.

"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. It's time for a new journey, and I'm excited to get started.”

Though Rowdy has one more title to his name than his older brother, Kurt Busch has done everything he can to secure a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In the 23 years that he competed in the Cup Series, Busch cruised to 34 victories over a span of 776 races. Possessing a well of NASCAR experience and knowledge to which there is no bottom, Kurt, who advised Travis Pastrana at last year’s Daytona 500, now serves as a consultant for his old team at 23XI Racing and Toyota.

"Racing at NASCAR's highest level requires every bit of focus, heart, stamina and determination," Kurt noted. "And I know right now I can't give what's required to compete at that level week in and week out."