Kurt Busch suspended indefinitely after domestic violence ruling

In this May 22, 2014, file photo, Kurt Busch, left, walks with Patricia Driscoll before qualifying for a NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord.
In this May 22, 2014, file photo, Kurt Busch, left, walks with Patricia Driscoll before qualifying for a NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. AP

NASCAR on Friday indefinitely suspended Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch after a Kent County (Del.) Family Court commissioner issued his opinion detailing the domestic violence acts allegedly committed by Busch against his ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll.

The Observer first reported the suspension on Friday afternoon.

In his order of Monday, commissioner David Jones found “by a preponderance of the evidence” that Busch committed an act of domestic violence against Driscoll.

On Friday in a 25-page written opinion, a copy of which was obtained by The Observer, Jones said he believed Busch “manually strangled” Driscoll during a confrontation in his motorhome on Sept. 26, 2014.

The commissioner also said he believed there was “substantial likelihood” Busch could commit similar incidents in the future.

The commissioner found that Driscoll provided “false testimony” at times during the hearing but believed enough independent evidence existed to find merit in her abuse claim.

When the order was issued on Monday, NASCAR said it was still waiting to see the legal opinion behind the order before making any decisions.

“Based on our review of all the relevant details including the court’s findings that were released earlier today, NASCAR has indefinitely suspended driver Kurt Busch,” NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell announced to a packed media center Friday evening at Daytona International Speedway.

“NASCAR has made it very clear to its entire membership and the broader industry that any actions of abuse will not be tolerated. I want to make it perfectly clear that any inference there is a culture of tolerance for this type of behavior is patently false.”

Driscoll in recent days has appeared on a number of national TV shows and claimed domestic violence was a problem in the NASCAR community.

Officials with Busch’s Stewart-Haas Racing team said they understood NASCAR’s rationale and accepted its decision, although Busch has appealed and will be granted an expedited appeal on Saturday.

Xfinity Series driver Regan Smith will replace Busch in SHR’s No. 41 Chevrolet on an interim basis beginning with Sunday’s Daytona 500, the team confirmed.

“We are extremely disappointed that NASCAR has suspended Kurt Busch and we plan an immediate appeal,” Busch’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement. “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.”

Busch’s attorneys have already filed a request with the commissioner seeking to re-open the protective order hearing based on new evidence.

Driscoll, 37, issued a statement in which she said there we no “victories” for domestic violence victims.

“My only hope is that the pain and trauma I suffered through this process will help other victims find their voice,” she said.

“Today NASCAR took an important step and deserves to be commended. The next steps are to develop a thorough process and policies that re-enforce the organization’s position it took today: Domestic violence will not be tolerated in NASCAR.”

Shortly after NASCAR’s decision, Chevrolet announced it had suspended its relationship with Busch.

Within an hour of the news of Busch’s suspension, a reporter noticed on the glass outside of Busch’s garage stall at Daytona, someone had scrawled in black marker “#41 Ray Rice,” a reference to the former Baltimore Ravens running back’s public case of domestic violence.

Driscoll sought the order after alleging that Busch, 36, smashed her head against the wall of his motorhome three times during last September’s NASCAR race weekend at Dover, Del. 

The Dover Police Department investigated Driscoll’s complaint but elected to send its findings to the Delaware Attorney General with no recommendation. The Attorney General’s office has yet to decide whether to seek any criminal charges against Busch.

Among the restrictions placed on Busch by the order: He cannot threaten or harass Driscoll or attempt to contact her; he must not come within 100 yards of Driscoll’s person or workplace; and must be evaluated for “mental health problems” and follow any recommendations by the evaluator. 

Utter: (704) 358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.