DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR indefinitely suspended Kurt Busch on Friday, a few hours after a Kent County (Del.) Family Court Commissioner concluded that “it is more likely than not’’ that Busch committed an act of domestic abuse against his ex-girlfriend in September.
“Given the serious nature of the findings and conclusions made by the Commissioner of the Family Court of the State of Delaware, NASCAR has indefinitely suspended driver Kurt Busch, effective immediately,” NASCAR’s statement read. “He will not be allowed to race nor participate in any NASCAR activities until further notice.
“Kurt Busch and his Stewart-Haas Racing team are fully aware of our position and why this decision was made. We will continue to respect the process and timetable of the authorities involved.’’
Busch, the 2004 series champion, was found in violation two NASCAR rules:
Section 12.1.a: Actions detrimental to stock car racing.
Section 12.8: Behavior Penalty
NASCAR’s Behavior Penalty states that those in NASCAR have certain responsibilities and obligations. Those include: “Correct and proper conduct, both on and off the race track.” NASCAR also notes in its Rule Book that “a Member’s actions can reflect upon the sport as a whole and on other NASCAR members.”
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president, said in a brief statement Friday that Busch has the right to appeal the suspension. If Busch does so, O’Donnell said NASCAR would “expedite” the appeal process. That could be completed before Sunday’s Daytona 500.
“NASCAR has made it very clear to the entire membership and the broader industry that any actions of abuse will not be tolerated in the industry,” O’Donnell said. “I want to make it clear that any inference that there’s a culture where tolerance for this type of behavior is patently false.”
Joe Custer, executive vice president for Stewart-Haas Racing, stated: “We understand NASCAR’s position regarding Kurt Busch and accept their decision. We are in the midst of finalizing our plans for the Daytona 500 and we will announce those details as soon as we’re ready.”
NASCAR Chairman Brian France said last month that series officials would react if needed in this matter.
“The only thing we want to do is, and this is important, we’ve got to let the facts come in,’’ France said during the NASCAR media tour. “There would be no reason for me or NASCAR or anybody else to get ahead of those facts given that they may change. Let’s let the facts come in, and if there’s something for us to react to, you can appreciate that we will be very careful and very aware of what the circumstances are.’’
Chevrolet also announced that it has suspended its relationship with Busch indefinitely.
Jim Campbell, Chevrolet vice president of Motorsports and Performance Vehicles, said: “We will continue to monitor the events surrounding Mr. Busch and are prepared to take additional action if necessary.”
Busch’s ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, sought a protective order, alleging that Busch slammed her head against the wall in his motor home three times last September at Dover International Speedway. That came shortly after the breakup of their four-year relationship. Driscoll had gone to the track to console Busch after a series of text messages led Driscoll to be concerned about Busch.
Commissioner David Jones wrote Friday that “it is more likely than not that on September 26, 2014, (Busch) committed an act of abuse against (Driscoll) by manually strangling (Driscoll) with his left hand on her throat, while placing his right hand against her chin and face, causing her head to forcefully strike the interior wall of (Busch)’s motor home, thereby recklessly causing physical injury to (Driscoll) and recklessly placing (Driscoll) in reasonable apprehension of physical injury.’’
Jones issued a protective order Monday. The order stated that Busch be evaluated “for mental health problems related to anger control and impulse control.’’ Busch must follow any recommendations of a licensed mental health treatment provider for counseling or treatment.
Driscoll issued a statement Friday night:
“For victims of domestic violence there are no “victories.” My only hope is that the pain and trauma I suffered through this process will help other victims find their voice. Unfortunately we live in a culture where stories like mine are often swept under the rug out of fear and with the knowledge that for every person who shows empathy many more will seek to disparage the victim. It is bad enough to endure the actual physical abuse but the verbal attacks that follow when a victim speaks up are sometimes just as painful.
“Today NASCAR took an important step and deserves to be commended. The next steps are to develop a thorough process and policies that reenforce the organization’s position it took today: Domestic violence will not be tolerated in NASCAR.”
Dover (Del.) Police investigated the incident and sent its report to the Attorney General’s Office of Delaware in December. The Office has not determined if to seek charges against Busch.
Busch’s career has been littered with incidents on and off the track with competitors and media that have led to NASCAR penalties. NASCAR suspended Busch for one race in 2012 for threatening a reporter after a then-Nationwide Series race at Dover.
In what was called a “mutual agreement” to separate, Busch lost his ride with Team Penske after the 2011 season. NASCAR fined Busch $50,000 for directing profanity toward a reporter and using an obscene gesture during that year’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Additionally, Roush Fenway Racing fired Busch in Nov. 2005 after he was cited in an alcohol-related incident in Avondale, Ariz. during the Phoenix International Raceway race weekend.