NASCAR announced on Friday that it has indefinitely suspended former Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch after a family court in Delaware found evidence of domestic violence.
In his order on Monday, Kent County Family Court commissioner David Jones found “by a preponderance of the evidence” that Busch committed an act of domestic violence against ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll on Sept. 26 in his motorhome in Dover, Del.
That was enough for NASCAR to hand the combustible Busch, 36, his third career suspension and for Chevrolet to indefinitely suspend its relationship with the driver as well.
“Based on our review of the available details, including the court’s findings that were released earlier (Friday), NASCAR has indefinitely suspended Kurt Busch,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president of racing operations.
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O’Donnell based the suspension on Busch’s violating two sections of the NASCAR Rulebook, Section 12.1a: “Actions detrimental to stock car racing.”, and Section 12.8: “Behavioral Penalty.”
“Kurt Busch and Stewart-Haas Racing are fully aware of why we made this decision,” O’Donnell said, “and as with any suspended membership, Kurt will have the right to appeal this. If he does elect to appeal, NASCAR would expedite the appeal process.”
Busch’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, plans to do just that.
“We are extremely disappointed that NASCAR has suspended Kurt Busch and we plan an immediate appeal,” Hardin said in a statement. “We assure everyone, including NASCAR, that this action against Mr. Busch will turn out to be a travesty of justice as this story continues to unfold.
“It is important for everyone to remember that the Commissioner’s report has to do with a civil, family law matter and no criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Busch.”
Busch’s suspension occurred less than 48 hours before Sunday’s Daytona 500, and Xfinity Series driver Regan Smith will replace Busch in Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 Chevrolet for the race.
Reaction from Chevrolet was swift.
“Chevrolet has suspended its relationship with Kurt Busch indefinitely, said Jim Campbell, vice president of motorsports and performance vehicles. “We will continue to monitor the events surrounding Mr. Busch and are prepared to take additional action if necessary.”
Driscoll sought a protective order after alleging Busch smashed her head against the wall of his motorhome three times during last September’s NASCAR race weekend at Dover.
In Jones’ 25-page written opinion, he said he believed Busch, “manually strangled Driscoll by placing his left hand on her throat, while placing his right hand on her chin and face and smashing her head into the wall of his motor home, thereby recklessly placing (Driscoll) in reasonable fear of physical injury.”
The commissioner also believed there was “substantial likelihood” Busch could commit similar matters in the future. He also found that Driscoll provided “false testimony” at times during the hearing but believed enough independent evidence existed to find merit in Driscoll’s claim.
The Dover police department investigated Driscoll’s complaint but elected to send its findings to the Delaware Attorney General with no recommendation. The Attorney General’s office has yet to decide whether to file criminal charges against Busch.
“As we stated last year, NASCAR fully recognized the serious nature of the specific situation involving Kurt Busch and the broader issue of domestic violence,” said O’Donnell. “NASCAR has made it clear to our entire membership and the broader industry that any actions of abuse will not be tolerated, and any inference there is a culture or tolerance for this type of behavior is patently false.”
O’Donnell would not comment further other than to say, “We will continue to respect the process and timetable of the authorities involved.”
This marks the third career suspension for Busch. He was suspended for the final two races of the 2005 season by Roush Racing after he was detained by Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff’s deputies during a Phoenix International Raceway weekend. He also was suspended for one race in 2012 after threatening a reporter on pit road at Dover.
Busch, who won the 2004 Sprint Cup championship for Roush Fenway Racing, was fired after the 2005 suspension and joined Penske Racing in 2006. He was fined $50,000 by NASCAR for profanely lacing into a reporter and for using an obscene gesture during the 2011 Sprint Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and was fired by Penske after the season.
Busch, who has won 25 career races, joined the modestly funded Furniture Row Racing in 2012 and became the first driver from a one-car team to qualify for the Chase in 2013. That led to his being hired by Stewart-Haas in 2014, and he won one race and qualified for the Chase, finishing 12th in the standings.
Among the restrictions placed on Busch by the order in Delaware:
▪ Busch cannot threaten, molest, attack, harass or commit any other act of abuse against Driscoll and any minor children in her household.
▪ Busch cannot come with 100 yards of Driscoll’s person, residence or workplace. At NASCAR races, Busch must maintain a “practicable distance” from Driscoll if both are in attendance.
▪ Busch cannot attempt to contact Driscoll in any way.
▪ Busch must be evaluated for “mental health problems” and follow any recommendations by the evaluator.