NASCAR Race Weekend Central
A photo near the entrance of the infield media center in Las Vegas was the only indication of Kurt Busch's presence at his hometown track. Photo by Jerry Jordan/KickinTheTires.Net

Kickin’ the Tires: It’s time for NASCAR to #LetKurtReturn

For the first time in 15 years, a Sprint Cup Series race was held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway without a Busch brother being part of the action. With Kyle Busch recovering from a broken leg sustained in Daytona and Kurt Busch fighting for reinstatement following his suspension, the only indication the two brothers were even a part of the sport were the photos of them in the infield media center.

Since news first broke this past November during the race weekend at Phoenix International Raceway that Kurt Busch was being accused of manhandling his ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, many have had mixed emotions on whether he was being unjustly accused or if he had lost all sense of self-control.

(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)
Kurt Busch remains indefinitely suspended from NASCAR after a Friday decision by a Delaware prosecutor not to press domestic violence charges against him. (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

Driscoll claimed Busch grabbed her around the neck and throat and slammed her into a wall – three times. Her choice of words and descriptive comments of the alleged abuse raised suspicions about the validity of her claims but regardless of her motives, any allegation of domestic violence should be taken seriously – even if Driscoll did wait six weeks before she made her claim to the authorities.

From the start, there’s been two sides to the story. Witnesses have repeatedly said Driscoll was going around telling them she was going to ruin Busch’s career and that he would pay. Did she mean financially or criminally? Since we are in Las Vegas this week, the smart money might be on both. If she was trying to extort him, as multiple witnesses have claimed in court testimony, he rebuffed her demands for financial remuneration and maybe that forced her to play the victim card. Perhaps she was forced to do so because she entered his motor coach illegally.

Whatever the truth, as NASCAR prepared for its biggest race of the year, Driscoll received a victory in the Delaware family court and in the NASCAR world when Busch was suspended indefinitely based on an opinion by Kent County (Del.) Family Court Commissioner David Jones. (Read the full decision here.) In that opinion, he admitted that he believed her emotional pleas for help. “Each time that Petitioner was called to recall the alleged incident in court,” he said. “Whether on direct or cross examination, she became visibly upset. Her throat muscles appeared to contract, as if she were re-experiencing the alleged strangulation. She trembled, cried, and sobbed to such an extent that her responses occasionally became difficult to understand. The Court perceived this emotion to be genuine and consistent with the response of domestic violence victims required to recollect and describe in detail the acts of abuse committed against them and for that reason, finds Petitioner’s testimony regarding the alleged assault to be credible.”

But Jones admitted that Driscoll lied, too. He claimed the “most troubling issue regarding (Driscoll’s) credibility…involves the allegation that (Driscoll) falsely testified” Kurt Busch had offered Motor Racing Outreach pastor Nick Terry “financial assistance in an effort to secure his testimony, which she characterized as an attempt to bribe Mr. Terry.” That didn’t happen, which concerned the court — just not enough to change their decision.

My take? Lying and crying paid off in Jones’ court and Driscoll made a huge impact on NASCAR when she lowered the neckline of her dress, turned on the tears and went channel hopping from Good Morning America to Fox and Friends, putting her sob story in front of millions of people. Jones’ decision and Driscoll’s media blitz forced NASCAR’s hand.

Less than 48 hours before the drop of the green flag in the 2015 Daytona 500, NASCAR pulled the trigger and suspended Busch for “Actions Detrimental to Stock Car Racing” – a behavioral penalty. Until then, the sanctioning body had watched, waited, evaluated and investigated. Now, it had to act. The actions were deliberate and quick and in some twisted way, justified. Considering the overall climate when it comes to domestic violence, there was too much at stake for NASCAR not to do something.

It was a devastating blow to Busch, his team and the thousands of fans who cheer him on each week. For them, let’s face it: it sucked and it still does. NASCAR was put in a difficult situation that is only compounded by multi-million dollar sponsorship deals, sanctioning agreements, television contracts and any number of things we probably don’t even know exist.

But every cloud has a silver lining and as the NASCAR circus rolled into Las Vegas, the Delaware Department of Justice ruled conclusively that Driscoll’s claims of abuse could not be proven. There was not enough evidence to even charge Busch with a crime – much less obtain a conviction – so the case was dismissed. Kurt Busch was vindicated. There was no “getting off” on a technicality or a behind-the-scenes plea bargain agreement. Busch was cleared regardless of Jones’ personal opinion, which is being appealed by Busch’s legal team. In fact, since the opinion was released, more witnesses have come forward and provided sworn statements that Driscoll was never injured and her claims were those of a scorned ex-lover.

By no means is anyone making light of domestic violence. It is a heinous and cowardly act that should be taken very seriously when an allegation is made, which is exactly what happened in this case. However, when someone is cleared of wrongdoing they should be able to get their life back.

Yes, Kurt Busch has a temper. He’s proven it multiple times, but in reviewing why the former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion has blown a gasket in the past, it has almost always involved his performance on the track and not off it — that Maricopa County speeding ticket notwithstanding.

So, where does that leave NASCAR as the series heads back to Phoenix International Raceway? Honestly, in a much better position to reinstate Busch. The lack of evidence in the criminal case should now help NASCAR justify a decision to put Busch back in a racecar. It should also not be lost that Busch – immediately following his suspension – agreed to NASCAR’s terms for reinstatement so he could follow the proper steps to get back to racing. NASCAR did what it thought was right when Jones’ ruling was released, but now it should take into consideration the totality of the circumstances, as well as the lack of evidence against him and #LetKurtReturn.

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About Jerry Jordan

Jerry Jordan
Jerry Jordan, is a two-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) award-winning writer covering the world of NASCAR. He is the founder, editor and radio host of Kickin' the Tires, which is a motorsports media outlet focusing primarily on NASCAR. The goal is to bring visitors a behind-the-scenes look at what's happening in the sport of NASCAR through the printed word, in pictures and with audio from the who's who of NASCAR. Each week, Jordan's award-winning Kickin' the Tires syndicated column is featured first at Frontstretch.com, and then published in print publications covering Southeast Texas and on the Kickin' the Tires Web site.

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10 comments

  1. Avatar

    Who moves first GM/Chevrolet or Nascar?

  2. Avatar

    This was a good column; there was a lot here that I had not heard. Thanks for the insight.

    I can’t stand Kurt Busch but he should be allowed to race. I have no tolerance for anyone who commits domestic violence, but I have a family member who was falsely charged with domestic violence, so I’m a little sensitive about this. We need to stop punishing people before the facts are known and before charges have even been filed (unless there is a danger that doing so might put others in harm’s way). Had Busch been charged, I would agree with suspending him at that time; Nascar has it’s reputation to protect. However, suspending Busch when Nascar did was wrong and I agree he should be reinstated immmediately.

  3. Avatar

    Not a Busch fan by any stretch BUT, what nascar and chevrolet did suspending sponsorship and racing is a travesty. Now, a MAN cannot look sideways at a woman without the possibility of being accused of any number of offenses. THERE SHOULD BE SOME SORT OF PUNITIVE DAMAGES ASSESED TO BOTH nascar and chevrolet. Nascar by not buying tickets and chevrolet by not buying their car(which after the way they handled lack of recalls and deaths, I would’nt touch a gm product). Now nascar is making Busch jump through hoops to get back to racing. Totally BS. And, nascar is blind to declining viewers and declining ticket sales. Thought is was down right stupid for the announcers to rave about the huge crowd when portions of the stands are covered. Beyond comprehension.

  4. Avatar

    I am a Kurt Busch fan and that’s mainly because I always pull for the underdog. After Penske let him go and he began racing for the 78 team, I started cheering him on. When he signed with Stewart Haas I was ecstatic for him as I also like to cheer for Tony Stewart. I had a few twitter exchanges with Ms Driscoll after “the alleged” event and I never had the impression she was suffering in any way. Although she claims she didn’t file her report earlier due to the ongoing custody battle over her son, personally, I feel she was waiting for Kurt Busch to take her back!
    I didn’t buy anything she was selling. I watched part of the interview on Fox and was disgusted and now I know why. In the interview she lied based on what was in the final report from the court commissioner. She said they were not broken up but the finding in court said both sides acknowledge the break up.
    The timing of all her interviews to coincide with Daytona was suspect but to actually have interviews over winning a protection order is ridiculous. It would have been interview worthy if he had been charged with a crime.
    I feel this site has consistently been very fair in it’s articles on this whole mess. I’ve wondered if NASCAR had a hand in keeping the commentators on air from giving an opinion or letting the drivers/teams show support for Busch in any way.
    Thanks for following up on the situation.

    • Avatar

      Of course NASCAR controls all media comments from the booth. Tell the facts and lose your NASCAR press pass/credentials.

  5. Avatar

    I’ve never liked Kurt Bush. I think he’s the biggest prick in NASCAR. But now that the dust has settled and more information has come out, even I think NASCAR pulled the trigger too soon and he got a raw deal. Even so, he could use a little psychological help and perhaps a little humility. He hasn’t seemed to learn much from his past experiences. As for his relationship with Driscoll, I believe he was in that relationship for all the wrong reasons. He wanted his media image “rebooted” and she is apparently very good with manipulating the media. It was working too. I heard several people lighten up on Busch last year with the positive portrayal in the media. Too bad that knife can cut both ways. Shame on NASCAR for caving into public opinion instead of facts. Shame on Busch for signing a deal with the devil.

  6. Avatar

    Kurt is his own worst enemy and if he had possessed the discipline to control his emotions and behavior there is no telling what he might have achieved by now.
    Can’t stand the guy but he can drive.

  7. Avatar

    NASCAR had no business suspending Busch on a he said she said without any actual evidence whatsoever. Chevrolet however is a different matter. Business is business. It is well within their right to terminate a relationship with anyone for any reason if they believe the person does not reflect well on the company. There are businesses that do not hire people with ponytails and tattoos because it is inconsistent with the image they want to present. Agree or disagree the image the company wants to portray is, well, their business. If Danica gains fifty pounds this season watch how quickly Go Daddy looks for a new corporate face, or ass, or whatever.

    • Avatar

      100% correct. As a former sponsor of a professional race team I can tell you that how the driver ( who is the face representing my company) conducts himself, and treats my company is far more important than race wins. Make me look bad and goodbye!
      I’m sure GM doesn’t need to be explaining why they are paying boatloads of money to some one accused of domestic violence.
      Fairness has NOTHING to do with it.

  8. Avatar

    Like it or not, facts & evidence are not required in the “court of public perception”. The family court’s decision & the crocodile tears that landed on national TV, thanks to the contrived yellow media content broadcasted by ABC’s Good Morning America, & the very contrived timing of both, are what influenced Nascar’s decision. Facts, evidence & guilt are inconsequential to Nascar’s responsibility to maintain & control it’s public image & perception of there-in. Why is it so difficult for SHR fans to wrap their heads around fact of life? Employees involved in media **it storms are subject to terms of employment reviews. Especially if the employer’s livelihood is reliant on the public’s discretion with it’s disposable income. With his historically epic proportion of Nascar controversy, if anyone should know that, it is KuBu!