Kurt Busch to miss start of playoffs; 23XI Racing withdraws request for waiver

23XI Racing announced Thursday that driver Kurt Busch will miss the start of the NASCAR Playoffs, and as a result the team will withdraw its request for a medical waiver that would maintain the veteran’s playoff eligibility.

The decision to withdraw a waiver request effectively removes Busch, who won earlier this year at Kansas Speedway to punch his postseason ticket, from the playoffs — he does not qualify for the playoffs without that waiver, per the NASCAR Rule Book.

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“Kurt has elevated our entire organization this year,” said 23XI team 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.”

A driver who wins a Cup Series race automatically locks into the 16-driver postseason field, provided that driver finishes the 26-race regular season in the top 30 in points and having attempted to start every race.

Busch has missed five consecutive races — and will not compete on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway (10 a.m. ET, CNBC, Peacock, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, MRN) — following concussion-like symptoms that developed after his qualifying wreck on July 23 at Pocono Raceway.

NASCAR granted Busch a medical waiver initially upon request.

“As much as I wanted and hoped to be able to get back in the No. 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 continue the success we have had this season.”

The immediate series-wide impact is that another playoff spot now opens ahead of Sunday’s race. With 15 winners this year, only one spot appeared to be up for grabs at the birthplace of speed. Instead, there are two spots to be claimed.

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney maintains his hold on one playoff spot via points, and Joe Gibbs Racing veteran Martin Truex Jr. goes from 25 points below the bubble to holding the 16th provisional playoff spot.

“Kurt Busch has managed this difficult situation like the champion that he is,” NASCAR released in a statement. “Working closely with his doctors, every decision made has been in the best interest of his health, his competitors and the sport. Kurt has NASCAR’s full support as he continues to heal, and we look forward to seeing him return to the race car.

“23XI Racing has informed NASCAR that it is withdrawing Kurt’s medical waiver request. Per the NASCAR rule book, a spot has been made available for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. The No. 45 car will continue to compete for the 2022 Owner Championship.”

The team also announced Thursday that Ty Gibbs, a JGR regular and championship contender in the Xfinity Series, will continue to fill the seat of the No. 45 Toyota in Busch’s absence.

While Busch will no longer be eligible for the driver championship, the No. 45 team will continue to compete for the owner title.