RICHMOND, Va. — Kurt Busch‘s absence from Cup Series races will stretch to four when Richmond Raceway’s 400-lap race gets the green flag Sunday afternoon.
Ty Gibbs will sit in Busch’s No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing once again as Busch’s recovery from what has been described as “concussion-like symptoms” continues. Busch was injured in a crash last month during qualifying for the Cup race at Pocono Raceway.
Team owner Denny Hamlin said Saturday that he remains concerned about Busch’s health but will continue to support his work toward a full recovery.
“It’s concerning for sure,” Hamlin said. “I’m mostly concerned for his health and not really for the race team. We want to give him all the time he needs. This is proof he ‘s doing right by his body and making sure he’s back to 100%. Other drivers maybe in the past would have been able to get some tests passed and gone out there and raced. He wants to be 100%. No race or season is as important as your health in the long term.”
Among the impacts of Busch’s being sidelined has been an elevation in Gibbs’ stature. Already a success in the Xfinity Series, Gibbs has impressed in his brief adventure in Cup, finishing 16th at Pocono, 17th at Indianapolis and 10th at Michigan. Gibbs’ results possibly have increased the chances that he will move to Cup racing next season instead of in 2024.
Hamlin said Gibbs has performed well.
“I think he’s done a good job for us, for sure,” Hamlin said. “He certainly realizes the fence between Xfinity and Cup is a big old tall one. The guys over here don’t mess around too much. Ty has done a really job considering what we’ve asked him to do — keep his nose clean and keep the 45 car in good position in the owners playoff. That’s really important for us financially.”
Kyle Busch, Kurt’s younger brother, said it’s important for Kurt to treat a head injury with care.
“I want him to be able to do what he wants to do and go out the way he wants to go out,” Kyle said Saturday. “He and I just had a conversation where you know, he’s like, ‘Pocono qualifying crash isn’t necessarily the best way of going out.’ I’m like, ‘1,000% right, you know,’ so I just wish him the best that he can continue to get better and feel better and get through the processes of what this is.
“It’s nothing like breaking a bone and being out with an arm injury or leg injury, foot injury, anything like that. Obviously, it’s the melon on top of your head that’s very important to your well-being going forward. And so just hope that all of that can go well for him and he can get back as soon and as safely as possible.”