Kurt Busch on concussion recovery: ‘Each week is better progress’

Kurt Busch does a TV interview on the pit road at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Zack Albert
NASCAR Studios

CONCORD, N.C. — Kurt Busch provided an update on his health Tuesday, saying he is making strides in his recovery from a concussion but there is no clear timetable on his return to NASCAR competition.

Busch has been sidelined since a July 23 crash during qualifying at Pocono Raceway, a span of 10 Cup Series races. Xfinity Series regular Ty Gibbs has filled in for his 23XI Racing team.

“I’m doing good. Each week is better progress,” Busch said from pit road at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I feel good, and I don’t know when I’ll be back, but time has been the challenge. He’s … Father Time is the one in charge on this one.”

Busch’s remarks came as he joined breast cancer survivors and their supporters to paint the Charlotte track’s pit wall pink to commemorate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Busch also announced that his “Window of Hope” program will return for this year’s Oct. 9 Bank of America Roval 400, with the Cup Series field set to use pink window nets, which will be auctioned to fund better access to mammography screenings. The Roval circuit’s Oct. 8 race for the Xfinity Series will also be called the Drive for the Cure 250 presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

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Tuesday marked Busch’s first at-track media availability since his Pocono crash. 23XI Racing co-owner Denny Hamlin has indicated that a seat with the team will be ready for Busch when he is medically cleared to return.

“I feel hopeful,” Busch said when asked about a potential return this year. “I know that I have more doctor visits and more distance to go, and I keep pushing each week. And TPC, Toyota Performance Center, has been a group of angels that have helped me with the workouts and the vestibular (inner-ear and balance) workouts, different nutrition as well, the different supplements and things to help everything re-balance with my vision, my hearing and just overall balance in general.”

Busch is a 34-time winner in Cup Series competition, with his most recent victory coming May 15 at Kansas Speedway. That win landed the 44-year-old driver a provisional berth in the NASCAR Playoffs, and NASCAR competition officials had granted him a medical waiver for postseason eligibility.

Busch withdrew from the playoffs in late August, and his recovery period has extended into the 10-race postseason. His team remains alive in the team owner championship hunt, with teammate Bubba Wallace taking over the driving duties in the No. 45 Toyota.

Though he’s been out of the cockpit, Busch has remained involved with behind-the-scenes help for 23XI Racing’s efforts. Tuesday, he said his key learning from the recovery process has made him flash back to the start of his NASCAR career 20-plus years ago.

“It brought me back to my beginning days of, this is something I never knew would happen as far as an injury,” Busch said. “I never knew I would make it in racing, and you keep pushing based off of your instincts and the village of people around you, whether it’s the race team, and 23XI has been tremendous, Toyota, Monster Energy. It reminds me of the beginning of, I don’t know what journey I’m on, but I’m gonna keep pushing.”

Busch indicated that he has 20/20 vision in one eye, but that his other eye is not yet at that level. He also said he’s learning more about the nature of his injuries as he navigates through his recovery.

“Each situation is different,” Busch said. “It’s similar to a breast cancer survivor. Not every story is the same. Not every injury is the same. There’s been a bunch of military guys that have reached out to me, from all the years that I’ve worked with their different foundations, and you feel that village and that support. And so, it’s not just like a broken arm and you get your cast taken off, and then you can go bench-press 300 pounds. It’s a process.”

Busch — along with Xfinity Series drivers Bayley Currey, Ryan Vargas and Kyle Weatherman — helped the track get a fresh coat of paint on the pit walls, joining Blue Cross Blue Shield and a network of breast-cancer survivors in the 10th year of the awareness program at the speedway. It’s the second year for Busch’s “Window of Hope” initiative, which started as an idea sparked by a young fan that has now grown into a flourishing fundraiser.

“With NBC’s support behind the scenes last year, with the NASCAR Foundation, we were able to raise close to $100,000,” Busch said. “NASCAR helped us push it around the country; now we’re doing it locally with our Blue Cross Blue Shield family in North Carolina. It’s just neat to see the women come out and the stories that you hear and the support that everybody has in his community, and it’s just nice to see everybody out pushing and making all the walls pink.”