NASCAR reinstates Kurt Busch; he can compete for spot in Chase (UPDATED)

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NASCAR reinstated Kurt Busch on Wednesday and waived the requirement for him that a driver must compete in every race to be eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Chevrolet also lifted Busch’s suspension. Stewart-Haas Racing confirmed that Busch will drive the No. 41 car this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Regan Smith drove the car the past three races while Busch was suspended.

Even though NASCAR waived the rule that a driver must compete in every Sprint Cup race to be eligible for the Chase, Busch still will need to be in the top 30 in points if he were to qualify for the Chase with a victory. It’s a long shot, but he conceivably could make the Chase on points, too. He enters this weekend 42 points behind Jeff Gordon, who is 30th. The maximum points a driver can earn with a win is 48.

NASCAR also announced Wednesday that Busch is under indefinite probation subject to additional mandatory requirements that include but are not limited to participation in a treatment program and full compliance with any judicial requirements.

NASCAR stated that the decision to lift Busch’s suspension came after:

  • Busch complied with all requirements in its reinstatement program.
  • He completed the mandatory behavior assessment sessions.
  • The behavior health care expert who conducted the sessions recommended to NASCAR that Busch be allowed to return to competition.

NASCAR stated that Busch will undergo additional steps to address his behavior for which he was penalized.

“As we stated last week, the elimination of the possibility of criminal charges removed a significant impediment to Kurt Busch’s return to full status as a NASCAR member,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, in a statement. “We therefore have decided to move him to indefinite probation and waive the Chase requirement. He has fully complied with our reinstatement program during his suspension and the health care expert who conducted his evaluation recommended his immediate return.

“We have made it very clear to Kurt Busch our expectations for him moving forward, which includes participation in a treatment program and full compliance with all judicial requirements as a result of his off-track behavior.”

NASCAR indefinitely suspended Kurt Busch two days before the Daytona 500. The decision came 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.”

Busch appealed NASCAR’s suspension twice the day before the Daytona 500. Both appeals were denied.

The Delaware Department of Justice announced last week that it would not seek charges against Busch after determining “that the admissible evidence and available witnesses would likely be insufficient to meet the burden of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Busch committed a crime during the September 26th incident.”

Joe Custer, executive vice president at Stewart-Haas Racing, issued a statement Wednesday on Busch’s return:

“We appreciate the steps Kurt Busch has made while following NASCAR’s process for reinstatement. He has taken this path seriously, which allowed him to return to our race team. With his reinstatement and the conclusion by the Delaware Attorney General to not file charges, our focus is on the future.”

Jim Campbell, Chevrolet vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, announced Chevrolet’s decision to lift its suspension of Busch.

“Now that Kurt Busch has been reinstated by NASCAR and is able to fulfill his obligations associated with our agreement, we have lifted our suspension and will continue to monitor the situation,” Campbell said.