Kurt Busch withdraws waiver, to miss some playoff races, details and answering key questions here

This was the first time in over a month that I wasn’t honestly expecting any news on the Kurt Busch front. See, since his Pocono qualifying crash on July 23, each week his status was being questioned.

Would he be back for Indy? Each Wednesday afternoon it was unveiled he’d miss the upcoming race while still dealing with concussion like symptoms and that Ty Gibbs would fill in. Last week however, it was on Thursday that it was announced that Busch would just sit out the final 2 races of the regular season in hopes of being back for the 10 race postseason.

So we already knew that Ty Gibbs would be in the No. 45 Toyota for Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN) at Daytona. However, I didn’t expect this Thursday to find out Busch would withdraw his playoff waiver and open up a spot into the postseason as a result.

“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.”

“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.” 

So what does all of this mean? Let’s take a look.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 06: Kurt Busch, driver of the #45 Monster Energy Toyota, talks with co-team owner Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, after being eliminated after an on-track incident in the last chance qualifying race for the NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on February 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Busch Admirable Here

Kurt Busch is really taking a high road here in the sense that he’s being smart about his health. Back in the day, I have a feeling Busch would be racing. Concussions weren’t discussed then like they are now and I commend Busch for stepping up and sitting out while he recuperates.

I also applaud him for withdrawing his playoff waiver too. He didn’t have to do that. NASCAR had already granted him a waiver and even if he missed the 1st 2 races of the opening round but returned for Bristol, he was championship eligible. He’d likely have to win Bristol to get into the Round of 12, but he still had a spot.

With knowing that his status for the playoffs is still in question, he took the admirable route to take his name out of the running for a postseason berth and allow someone else to have his spot.

That’s key here. Busch has a spot. He has a waiver. NASCAR didn’t ask him to give it up. Busch made this decision on his own.


Drivers vs. Owners Points

While Busch is out, the 45 car is still in the playoffs on the owners points side of things. Now, I get this can be confusing so lets address this here. Driver points and owner points are two separate things that on the Cup level aren’t really ever discussed because they most years coincide with one another.

Drivers score points each race and so does the car. I don’t want to bring up a dark past but this is a relevant example. In 2020, Kyle Larson was out of his ride with Chip Ganassi Racing after using a racial slur. Lets say he wasn’t suspended from NASCAR like he was. Someone could have picked him up a week later and when we returned to racing, Larson raced for them.

He would get to keep his driver points and still be championship eligible. The 42 car would have the same points Larson scored for them up until that point but from the first race Larson wasn’t in it forward, Matt Kenseth’s point (Larson’s replacement) would be scoring points for the 42 car.

Get it now?

So the 45 car has accumulated points still with Ty Gibbs driving it. Nothing has changed. Kurt Busch is the only one not scoring points but the 45 car still did. With the 45 car having a win from Busch in Kansas, it’s still playoff eligible and will remain that way.

If the No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota team were to win the NASCAR Cup Series owners title, it would be just the third time in series history that a split driver and owner championship has occurred and the first time since 1963.

The first time the NASCAR Cup Series had a split driver and owners championship was in 1954. Lee Petty won the drivers championship that season on seven wins, driving a Petty Enterprises Chrysler, but it was car owner Herb Thomas who took home the owners championship in 1954 after his No. 92 Hudson team finished the season with 12 victories.

The second and only other time the series saw a spit championship was in 1963, when Joe Weatherly won the series driver championship, but it was the Wood Brothers Racing organization that won the owners championship that season. Weatherly’s season was strong putting up three wins and 35 top 10s in 54 starts, but the famous No. 21 team was able to grab five wins on the season and take the owners title.


LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA – JULY 24: Ty Gibbs, driver of the #45 McDonald’s Toyota, sits in his car prior to the NASCAR Cup Series M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 24, 2022 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Why Doesn’t Ty Gibbs Get Playoff Eligible Then?

I get the next question likely would be, why not just let Ty Gibbs into the playoffs then since he’s driving that car. Well it’s two layers here. First off, Gibbs didn’t declare for Cup points. He’s scoring points in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. By NASCAR Rule, you can only declare points for 1 of the 3 national touring series’. That’s to eliminate Cup drivers racing for championships in the two lower series like they used to.

With that said, Gibbs rightfully declared points for the Xfinity Series. So, by rule, he can’t score Cup points. The car can, but he can’t.

Which is why he’s not eligible.

Granted, some may then ask, why not switch declarations. You can do that. It’s allowed. However, Gibbs would need a waiver from NASCAR in the fact that he missed most of the races prior to Pocono. To be playoff eligible, you have to be in the top 30 of points accumulated by the end of the regular season and if you’re 17th-30th, you must have a win too.

Gibbs doesn’t have a win nor would be in the top 30 in points. So even if he’d win Daytona on Saturday night, he wouldn’t be eligible because even if granted to score Cup points, he wouldn’t have enough to be in the top 30.


45 Car Still Playoff Eligible

So in saying all of this, Busch is out, Gibbs is in and not scoring driver points but the 45 car by virtue of the win is still in the owners standings championship. If Gibbs can race this car well, it can in theory win an owners championship.

Drivers Points Now

Ryan Blaney moves from +25 up in 16th to 212 up in 15th. Everyone just moves up a spot. Martin Truex Jr. moves from 25 down to 187 up himself. In this case, it’s still Blaney vs. Truex to stay off the final cut spot just in case anyone from Erik Jones on back ends up winning Saturday’s race.

However, it also ensures that at least 1 of Blaney and Truex will be in now when coming into the day, there was a chance neither made the playoffs.

Jones is too far out to catch Truex on points so he and everyone behind has to win a race to still get in. Nothing really changes for them at all.

Jones, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher, Justin Haley, Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Cole Custer, Brad Keselowski, Harrison Burton, Ty Dillon and Todd Gilliland still have to win the race. They had to already anyways.

It’s just now the fact that if they don’t win, then both Blaney and Truex are in.

This Isn’t A Conspiracy Theory

I’ve seen the notion that Kurt Busch willingly stepped aside from championship eligibility to allow Martin Truex Jr. a playoff spot instead. People are saying that and truly think this happened. Like Busch was somehow paid off by Toyota to step aside. 23XI Racing is getting an incentive to not put a driver into the postseason they think.

Sure.

I get the point of if Busch can’t race in the playoffs and with Truex on the outside looking in, why not step out. The 45 car is still eligible for the owners title so that’s still afloat and now let Truex go for the drivers championship.

If you dig deeper though, it makes absolutely not since. First off, why do that risk? Truex does move in but he holds the final playoff spot. He’s 25 points back of catching Ryan Blaney who has to just score 31 points to clinch 1 of the wildcard spots.

Truex is 0-for-71 between Daytona, Talladega and the 2 Atlanta races this year too. There’s plenty of drivers behind that are actually pretty good options for this weekend’s Coke Zero Sugar 400. If Blaney remains ahead of Truex and one of them wins, then Truex is still out and they essentially went from 1 guaranteed spot to 0 in a span of 2 days.

So it doesn’t make sense to pull Busch to get Truex in when Truex isn’t even a guarantee. Especially if there was a shot that Busch could return in the 1st round and among the tracks in the opening round is Las Vegas (his hometrack and one he won a playoff race at in 2020) and Bristol (a place he’s won 6 times at).

It would fare better to keep Busch in over Truex for that round anyways.

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