The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will look different once the drivers head to Darlington Raceway for the start of the Round of 16. 23XI Racing has announced that Kurt Busch will miss the start of the playoffs.
23XI Racing provided the update on August 25 ahead of the trip to Daytona International Speedway. The NASCAR team confirmed that the 2004 Cup Series champion will withdraw from the playoffs. The No. 45 will remain eligible for the owners’ championship.
“Kurt has elevated our entire organization this year,” said 23XI team president Steve Lauletta in a press release. “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.”
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Another Driver Will Replace Busch in the Playoffs
Prior to Busch’s announcement on August 25, there was only one spot remaining in the playoffs. Ryan Blaney held on by virtue of points, but there were 14 other drivers that were eligible to knock him out with a win.
The situation has now changed. NASCAR released a statement and provided an update about the standings. The sanctioning body announced that there would be another spot made available in the Cup Series playoffs, meaning that there will be two drivers that secure their spots in the regular-season finale.
“Kurt Busch has managed this difficult situation like the champion that he is,” NASCAR said 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.”
With this decision, another driver joins Blaney in the playoff field by virtue of points. Martin Truex Jr. is back above the cutline, but he or Blaney could still lose their spot with a new winner.
Ty Gibbs Will Continue as the Replacement Driver
With Busch missing the start of the Cup Series playoffs, it means that Ty Gibbs will continue to drive the No. 45 Toyota Camry TRD. The Xfinity Series regular will pull double-duty until Busch is fully healthy and ready to return.
“My prayers continue to be with Kurt,” Gibbs said in a statement. “It’s tough that he’s going to miss the start of the playoffs, but I’ll do the best job I can filling in for him as long as I’m asked to. I know Kurt will be our biggest supporter.
“I appreciate Michael [Jordan] and Denny [Hamlin] giving me this opportunity to fill in and hopefully we can continue to do well as we compete for the Cup owner’s championship for 23XI Racing. My thoughts are with Kurt as he recovers, and I know he will continue to do everything in his power to get better.”
As a point of clarity, Gibbs could win at Daytona International Speedway, but he would not secure a spot in the playoffs. He declared for Xfinity Series points, which means that he is only eligible to compete for a championship in that series. All he can do while replacing Busch in the No. 45 is help the team pursue the owners’ championship with strong runs.