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Up To Speed: Kurt Busch Success Bad For the Sport?

Kurt Busch’s win at Richmond came with a lot of, well… baggage.

You see, Busch isn’t necessarily the most popular person outside of NASCAR. Following domestic abuse allegations from ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll, Busch was suspended for the first three weeks of the season after a family court in Delaware ruled it was “more likely than not” that Busch committed said domestic abuse.

However, once the courts decided that there was not enough evidence to pursue criminal charges, NASCAR re-instated Busch and he returned to the track for the fourth race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway.

However, Busch has never been fully cleared in the court of public opinion. Because of the nature of the allegations, domestic abuse disputes swirling around in other mainstream sports, and Driscoll’s willingness (or desire, depending on who you ask) to share her story made this more than just a motorsports-isolated event. Juicy headlines filled TMZ and various other websites and even non-sports related programming ran the story and conducted interviews.

Now, the well-intentioned and true statement regarding criminal allegations is “innocent until proven guilty.” However, we know that’s never actually the case. In the court of public opinion, it’s the exact opposite at best. Even more commonly, it seems the answer is “guilty if accused,” regardless of what the final verdict is.

With Busch that was certainly the case and remains so even within the motorsports realm. Social media, chatrooms, forums – basically anywhere fans gather online to talk racing – always seem to be filled with a handful of people who still see Busch as a woman-beater. Someone who got away with a crime just because he is a famous athlete. A step backward in the fight to end domestic violence.

Now, this is hardly a case in which fans are united. Yes, there are those to whom Busch will always be guilty of the things he was accused of doing. For many others, though, they feel some sympathy for Busch. If he truly was innocent, his name was dragged through the mud and he was forced out of racing for something he never did. In fact, I was personally rather surprised at how many people expressed support for Busch and his ability to bounce back from what should have been a rather large setback. Now, of course, that wasn’t the attitude entirely but the positive side existed in a much larger capacity than I would have imagined.

Before I go any further, I am not saying I think Busch is innocent or guilty. I don’t truly know what transpired between the two of them in the moment that seemed to be the catalyst for all of this. You don’t truly know what happened either. None of us do. But it seems that enough have been able to form an opinion to decide whether or not they will support Busch now that this incident is behind him.

Again, though, that’s just within the racing community. Based on my own observations, it appears that most within NASCAR have accepted the courts’ decision and support Busch as he continues to move forward. That of course is not a unanimous declaration by any means, but it seems the scales are tipped ever so slightly in that direction.

Outside of motorsports, though, is very different. Our culture, often built by the media, is very good at creating good guy vs. bad guy scenarios. Hero vs. villain. David vs. Goliath. And on and on. And in issues of domestic abuse, the “bad” side is always the abuser, as it should be… if it’s warranted. Since we can only form our own opinions of what happened based on each individual testimony, that leaves the decision up to literally anyone who comes across the story. And outside of racing, you can guarantee that the anger was more automatically directed at Busch. He was accused of domestic abuse, had only a brief suspension, was allowed to continue racing afterward, and was successful in doing so. What message does that send to abusers, some might be asking?

Despite the fact that this might seem to be a public relations nightmare for NASCAR, I really don’t think it should be. Yes, domestic abuse is an ugly, disgusting, horrible – yet still very real – tragedy that occurs every day. No, it should not be tolerated or accepted in any capacity. However, there also can’t be a precedent set where a person is considered guilty whether there is any actual evidence or not. Sure, it might be a hard thing to prove at times, but “innocent until proven guilty” must still reign supreme. Creating victims of the judicial system because they are wrongfully accused by a scorned “ex” is not the right answer either. I’m not saying that’s what happened here, and I’m not saying it wasn’t. I’m simply stating that there must be a balance between the no-tolerance policy that every sanctioning body should have in place and the domestic abuse allegations that have no substantive evidence. And the balance, for now, is the legal system.

For that reason, that’s why I still believe NASCAR handled the entire course of events correctly. When someone in the legal system decided that it was “more likely than not” that Busch had committed an act of domestic abuse, they had to respond with the suspension. When it was determined the court system could go no further, NASCAR responded again by allowing Busch to come back. They followed the lead set by people in positions of authority until the matter was settled, and that’s the way it should be. That way, the blame rests on the legal system on not on the sanctioning body.

Unfortunately, there are those who believe “once accused, always accused” and will always see Busch in that more negative light. And having “Kurt Busch Wins” as a headline could be a terrible thing for the sport.

Or not. See, NASCAR did everything they were supposed to do and Busch followed the steps he was supposed to take both in the legal system and with the sanctioning body. The matter is over, done with, and settled. And I think it’s only fair and right that they stand by those decisions. Oh, sure, it’s easy for mainstream influencers to make a tragedy out of the situation and de-cry NASCAR’s decision to allow him to come back.

However, Busch’s continued success (more than likely, this will not be his only win of the season) need not be an issue NASCAR needs to hide or shy away from. Despite the naysayers, the sport can still take a stand against domestic abuse and allow Busch to race. Those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive or contradictory.

And since when has the mainstream anything been able to figure out this sport or what it stands for anyway? They can’t even spell “Jimmy” Johnson’s name right. And Danica Patrick is the only driver they can name immediately.

Regardless of your stance on Busch and what you think really happened, I think the frustration that NASCAR made the wrong call in how they handled the whole situation is without standing. Any opposite reactions either way would have really sent the wrong message. At least now they have a decision to stand behind, which means everything should be mostly normal from here on out.

Or, at least as normal as normal can be for a Busch.

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kb

Drama, drama, drama. Yawn. Kurt had a fast car period, he led the most laps, why isn’t that the end of it. Fans and media need to drag the kitchen sink into it. Which imo, takes away from his accomplishment today, just for today…next week might be a different story. Looking around on the internet, Kurt has become the hero for various causes….Patty D’s insanity and people actually saying “take that beotch, Kurt won a race”. Good grief. Then on the other side you still have the small minds that actually felt with the ever present caution issue late in the race recently that NASCAR had a personal agenda going for Kurt. You could have made that argument for many a driver over the years. Not just Kurt. Interesting enough, many of these various people had nothing but foul things to say about Kurt for years. Funny how when some see a crusader for what THEY believe in, angel wings and a halo appear on Kurt. Again, sad people have to “drama up” a win, yes it was just a win..not a statement of anything or a cure a any disease. And this is not directed at Kurt, congratulations.

Bill B

I agree with kb. It was a race. Kurt Busch had a car capable of winning and he won the race. I don’t really care about the rest of the drama. I will also bet that there is very little said on mainstream news outlets about it.
Nothing to see here.
Move along.

Hank

I’m happy for Kurt, that he’s been able to use this adversity as a tool. It’s motivated him to a point that I don’t know we’ve ever seen from him. He’s laser focused, sharp, and Tony Gibson has a chemistry with him that hasn’t been seen since Jimmy Fennig was calling the shots for Busch.

I haven’t thought twice about his suspension since he returned, mostly because NASCAR said he was eligible for the chase provided he met the top 30 requirement and won a race. Both of which appear a given at this point so long as nothing out of sorts happens to him. Unfortunately a lot of people are, as kb said, yammering on about Patricia and won’t let her go away, yet they can’t stop talking about her needing to go away. I’ll call it the Danica effect. And on the opposite side of that, we have the omnipresent people who claim a wifebeater is on the track. Guess they know something that the rest of us don’t. I certainly don’t claim to know what happened in that motorhome, nor do I care to know. Ain’t my business.

Dennis

I didn’t really think anything needed to be said about those past allegations but Kurt actually did make a reference to it in the Winner’s Circle. Maybe his PR people told him to. I don’t know. I expect this will be the end of it until the Chase comes around and he’s in it.

Oh well. Happy to see the guy making a comeback. I don’t care for his temper or his sharp tongue at times but you can’t argue he can wheel a car.

As Columbo would say “Just one more thing”. NASCAR could do itself a huge favour and drop the need for the drivers to attempt all races in order to qualify for the Chase. The exemptions seem to make people lose their minds. NASCAR already says you must be in the top 30 in points. So, that itself takes care of a road course ringer or some other part-timer running one or a handful of races and qualifying for the Chase.

Tim S.

Not seeing why everything has to be a social crusade or a crisis. The guilty-if-even-accused crowd is still cranked up over this. No one else.

janice

not like everyone doesn’t know kurt’s history. but fox, and the hotel, didn’t need to bring it up. i’m sure commander driscoll has some colorful things to say.

yawn….this is all yesterday’s news. time for new drama in cup. hey denny lasted the entire race yesterday!

Carl D.

My wife, a domestic abuse survivor from a previous marriage, says that false accusations against a man are very damaging in the fight against domestic abuse because it makes others skeptical of charges that are real. You are right, Summer… none of us know what truly happened, but false accusations do happen, and a person’s livelihood shouldn’t have to suffer until there charges are filed and person is found guilty. No one would have been in any danger if Busch had been allowed to race in the first three races this year, so there was no valid reason for keeping him out of the car. I understand your point, but I disagree with it, and more importantly, so does my wife.

Bill B

Carl D.
We all know why public facing organizations like NASCAR feel the need to punish someone before they are found guilty. It’s all about PR and how things look to the larger population (outside NASCAR) and has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. They have to make it look like they care but all they really care about is avoiding protests and bad PR so that the money train keeps rolling. I’d bet money that without the Ray Rice scandal in the NFL, this would have been swept under the rug like it had been in the past.

Carl D.

Yeah… you would think a man my age would have learned that life ain’t always fair. I just have a problem putting PR considerations over giving someone the benefit of the doubt. Like I said, I understand Summer’s point, and I understand Nascar’s responsibilty to (cough,) maintain it’s image (cough,). I just don’t have to like it. And it’s not personal… I don’t even particulary like Kurt Busch.

JohnQ

For what it is worth, I was a Probation Parole Officer for 35 years. I saw domestic violence that made my stomach turn. I also saw more than a few completely baseless accusations that ruined men’s lives. It is not considered PC to acknowledge those false claims. I cringe whenever I see alleged incidents kicked around in public with no facts at all to hinder the discussion. It is a very delicate issue best left to the Courts.

Tim S.

I am currently plying the same trade and couldn’t have said it better.

JER

Those minds that are inclined with “Guilty as accused” or “More likely than not” are just examples of how far American Society has regressed.  If only we could get the same interest and effort from these same people  in preventing the government from destroying  our country. Although Domestic Violence is certainly bad it pails in comparison to the domestic violence the government is committing against it’s own citizens every day .

JohnQ

Summer, are you still here? Domestic Violence is an important issue. Therefore if we must sacrifice the occasional guy with NO evidence whatsoever to keep the issue before the public so be it. Let’s do away with that silly old Court system. If I hear of some tin pot nation in need of a despot I’ll be sure to drop you a line.

SR37212

I’m sure all those TMZ followers are the ones that have swelled Nascar’s TV numbers ……….oh wait.. Nascar is still sinking like a stone in TV ratings.
Maybe if Nascar spent more time on racing and less time on PR they’d actually get back their fan base…………nahhhhhhhh.

Tim Krantz

Summer:
might want to apply at msnbc, I’d think you would fit beautifully.

Joanthan

Main stream media is the for people that cant not think for themselves , and need to be told what to think, I dont play that game. I am Kurt Busch supporter , that is , the Kurt Busch the race car driver, which is funny, I used hate him when he drove for RFR.

Like everything else, the main stream media will soon forget about this and move on to the next “big thing” to talk about, and no one out side of the NASCAR community will give a damn.

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