After an off week for me I decided that I could not stay out of the Kurt Busch debacle. NASCAR announced today that, according to the press release, “effectively immediately, the indefinite suspension of Kurt Busch has been lifted. He is eligible to return to NASCAR racing 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 placed upon him. The decision to lift the suspension was made by NASCAR after Kurt Busch:
- Complied with all requirements in its reinstatement program;
- Completed the mandatory behavioral assessment sessions; and
- The behavioral health care expert who conducted the sessions recommended to NASCAR that Kurt Busch be allowed to return to competition.
Kurt Busch now will undergo additional steps to address the behavior for which he was penalized.”
NASCAR’s Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell said, 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. 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.”
The same organization that reacted swiftly to a judge’s comments in a civil case between Busch and his ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, by suspending him indefinitely, just put him on probation indefinitely. It doesn’t make sense to me. If you were at Daytona International Speedway just before the Daytona 500, or in Atlanta or Las Vegas, all mentions of Kurt Busch were removed. Chevrolet, within hours of NASCAR’s announcement regarding the suspension announced that they too were disassociating themselves from Busch. No souvenirs, his name removed from the car, from the garage, from the team. He was gone. So, I need to check with the medical and psychological experts about how quickly “normal” abusers are rehabilitated, if they are at all. I’m pretty sure that three weeks is pretty close to the record for the shortest successful rehab ever (for those wondering, please note the preceding should be in the sarcastic font).
Chevrolet severed ties with Busch immediately after his NASCAR suspension but announced Wednesday that they would reinstate their personal services agreement with Busch.
In a statement released by Jim Campbell, the Chevrolet vice president of performance said, “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.”
Driscoll, in a prepared statement said, “Even though Kurt remains on indefinite probation under this decision, I’m deeply concerned about the message NASCAR is sending by letting him compete for the championship after he was found by a judge to have committed an act of domestic violence. But I am gratified, at least, that NASCAR’s decision comes with the mandatory condition that he follow through on the treatment he so clearly needs. My work with the Armed Forces Foundation on veteran treatment courts has made me a strong believer in the rehabilitation process. But it has also taught me that rehabilitation takes time and can only come after you’ve taken full responsibility for your actions. Though this continues to be a difficult time for me, I remain committed to standing up for my integrity and seeking full justice.” Driscoll’s statement seems, to me, an appropriate response to the situation.
Of course Busch was ecstatic at his reinstatement but he started out a press conference by denying all charges, “It means the world to me to be back in the car,” Busch said. “It’s been a tough situation the last few months, and I’ve gone through this with confidence knowing that I know the truth and that I never did any of the things that I was accused of. It was a complete fabrication. But it’s unfortunate that my personal life crossed over and affected my business life, but I can’t wait to get to the track, to see my team, to shake their hands and say thanks for the support, and to go out there and make my first lap this weekend. But it’s unfortunate that my personal life crossed over and affected my business life, but I can’t wait to get to the track, to see my team, to shake their hands and say thanks for the support, and to go out there and make my first lap this weekend.” But Busch also noted, “What’s happened so far in court, there’s been no winners. Everybody has lost on that portion of it.”
Busch said he understood NASCAR actions, “This is a very serious issue. I mean, the way that NASCAR reacted, it was different than what we had been told all along. They were more focused on the criminal side, as were we, but the commissioner’s ruling was not necessarily what was the important factor here. The important factor is that what I was accused of was a complete fabrication, and I never wavered through this whole process because of the confidence in the truth, and I had the support from Gene Haas and everybody at SHR, and that’s where my focus has been. It’s been on the racing side of it, and I never lost that confidence and that drive, and so it’s a humbling experience, but it’s made me more focused and determined.”
Busch also noted, “My reputation will iron itself out in whichever way that it is, but my focus is the race car, and as I move forward, I’m putting my signature above the door of the car, and I’m proud to have my signature on the side of a car that Gene Haas has and to carry his name into victory lane.”
Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Joe Custer issued a statement on behalf of the team, saying, “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.”
One thing I want to note is that there are two sides to this situation and that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Many people, fans and media alike, have had bad experiences with Busch. I will say I never had a problem with him at all. I had a very frank conversation with him after a press conference at Watkins Glen where he was very upset with Jimmie Johnson due to some on-track incidents that led up to that race weekend. But all that many recall are his tantrums, in the car, in the garage and even in the media center. His past actions and the multiple acts of forgiveness bestowed upon him will haunt him for the rest of his career. I thought that this suspension would be the end of Kurt Busch and his racing career. NASCAR and others made it feel that way but the fact that no criminal charges were being filed made people rethink their position. There will always be those that loathe him and those that support him. I think that everyone should give him the benefit of the doubt with this situation.