NASCAR suspended driver Kurt Busch late Friday for an indefinite period after a judge in Delaware issued his brief concerning the issuance of a protective order earlier in the week. The judge’s brief stated that Busch indeed “committed an act of domestic violence” against his ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll during an incident Sept. 26 at Dover International Speedway. The ruling also stated that Driscoll had “bruising and substantial and prolonged pain to her head, neck and throat.”
Monday the court ruled in Driscoll’s favor and issued a protective order. The order, which is in force until the end of the year, says Busch has to stay 100 yards away from Driscoll, her home and workplace. At NASCAR races he has to maintain the maximum “practicable” distance from her and not attempt to contact her.
Kent County (Del.) commissioner David Jones released his ruling Friday. In it he states that there is enough evidence to believe that Busch physically abused Driscoll “by manually strangling her 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 incident occurred while NASCAR was at Dover International Speedway during the weekend of Sept. 26-28 last year. The following month, Driscoll reported the incident to police and filed for the protective order at the same time alleging that Busch was verbally abusive and that he wished he “had a gun so he could kill himself.” As a result of the incident Driscoll asked a Delaware court that Busch,36, be evaluated by a psychiatrist and that he stay away from her and her son and that a protective order be issued. The hearing for that protective order wrapped up Jan. 13 with testimony that can only be considered bizarre. Among the allegations from Busch, given under oath, was that Driscoll a trained assassin and that she, among other things, in the inspiration for one of the female characters in a major motion picture about the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.
In Friday’s brief, Jones wrote that he acknowledged the relationship was over, but added that the protective order was “necessary and appropriate to reduce the likelihood of domestic violence.” NASCAR was swift to take action, issuing the suspension of Busch. NASCAR Chairman Brian France said earlier this year that the sanctioning body would let the legal process play out before issuing any actions. The judge’s brief was obviously all they needed and Busch becomes the first driver suspended for domestic violence . He was found in violation of:
• Section 12.1.a: Actions detrimental to stock car racing
• Section 12.8: Behavioral Penalty
“Given the serious nature of the findings and conclusions made by the Commissioner of the Family Court of the State of Delaware, “ NASCAR said in an emailed statement. “NASCAR has indefinitely suspended driver Kurt Busch, effective immediately. 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,” the statement added. “We will continue to respect the process and timetable of the authorities involved.”
Busch’s team, Stewart-Haas Racing issued a statement via email of its own soon after. Busch was scheduled to start 24th Sunday.
“We understand NASCAR’s position regarding Kurt Busch and accept their decision.,” executive vice president Joe Custer said in the statement. “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.”
Chevrolet issued its own statement. Chevrolet is the manufacturer that Stewart-Hass Racing is aligned with.
“Chevrolet has suspended its relationship with Kurt Busch indefinitely,” Jim Campbell, Chevrolet vice president of Motorsports and Performance Vehicles said in the statement. “ We will continue to monitor the events surrounding Mr. Busch and are prepared to take additional action if necessary.”
Kurt Busch himself issued a statement through his lawyer Rusty Hardin. Hardin has already filed an appeal for Busch concerning the protective order.
“We are extremely disappointed that NASCAR has suspended Kurt Busch and we plan an immediate appeal,” the emailed statement said. “We assure everyone, including NASCAR, that this action against Mr. Busch will turn out to be a travesty of justice, apparent to all, as this story continues to unfold.
“We are confident that if the Commissioner agrees to hear newly available evidence that contradicts the testimony of Ms. Driscoll, he will be able understand the actions of that night as well as Ms. Driscoll’s character and motivations and reconsider his judgment. He has already found that Ms. Driscoll lied under oath at least once. Our newly available evidence will make it clear that much more of her testimony was untruthful and was purposefully kept from the Commissioner by Ms. Driscoll’s attempts to intimidate and threaten witnesses.
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.”
Late Friday evening NASCAR Vice President Steve O’Donnell held a brief press conference at Daytona International Speedway. He said Busch has the right to appeal the suspension and given the upcoming Daytona 500, should he decide to appeal NASCAR would expedite the appeals process.
“NASCAR has made it very clear to our 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 is a culture or tolerance for this type of behavior is patently false.”
Saturday Busch appealed the suspension. He lost that appeal but planned to make a final appeal Saturday night.