NASCAR Sends Message About Domestic Violence With Kurt Busch Suspension

by Ryan Isley

It’s about time someone raised the bar when it comes to holding athletes accountable for domestic violence. This past week, NASCAR took the first step in doing just that.

On Friday afternoon, word came that effective immediately, Kurt Busch was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR for his role in an alleged domestic dispute with ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. This came after the Kent County (Delaware) Family Court commissioner released a finding that shows he believed that Busch did indeed commit an act of domestic abuse against Driscoll.

The release of information on Friday was in addition to the court granting Driscoll the protective order she sought against Busch earlier in the week. The order of protection was requested due to the alleged incident that happened last September, where Driscoll claims that Busch smashed her head into the wall of his motorcoach.

NASCAR’s stance on the suspension was that Busch violated two rules in the sport’s handbook:

Section 12.1.a: Actions detrimental to stock car racing

Section 12.8: Behavioral Penalty

Busch appealed the initial ruling by NASCAR but both appeals were denied Saturday and Busch was out of not only the Daytona 500, but out of the sport for the foreseeable future.

While some think this was an overreaction by NASCAR because Busch has yet to actually be charged with an actual crime, I believe NASCAR did what it had to do. There is no way that NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France wanted to have this hanging over the head of the sport the way the Ray Rice story hung over the head of the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell.

NASCAR is not held to any standard of “innocent until proven guilty,” as some have claimed in this case.  We have seen in the past that NASCAR is judge, jury and executioner when it comes to punishment.  They can suspend a driver if they feel that he (or she) needs to be suspended.

In this case, it was necessary to suspend Busch to protect the sport and its governing body. Sometimes, the sport has to look out for itself – this was one of those times. After seeing the backlash the NFL received for their fumbling of the Ray Rice situation, NASCAR decided it needed to act quickly and sternly to get in front of any firestorm that may be headed its way once the commissioner’s opinion was made public.

Unlike with the situation involving Rice, this case has a very willing accuser. While Rice’s then-fiancé (now wife) was unwilling to testify against Rice, Driscoll is out for Busch’s blood. And while there wasn’t a videotape of the alleged incident in the motorcoach, the findings and opinion of the court commissioner are extremely hard to ignore.  The determining factor in the punishment was the opinion released by the commissioner of the court on Friday.

Had the court not come out with that information, Busch would have probably still been in the No.41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet for the Daytona 500 and moving forward until any new evidence was brought to light.

If Busch is never charged with a crime or is found innocent of any crime with which he might be charged, NASCAR can reinstate him immediately. On the other hand, if they didn’t suspend him and then he was charged and/or found guilty of a crime, it looks bad on NASCAR for allowing him to continue racing under the black cloud of suspicion. By issuing the suspension immediately, NASCAR takes itself out of a potentially bad situation if Busch is indeed charged with a crime after the findings had been released.

But based on the findings and opinion of the court commissioner, France and NASCAR had to take a stance.

The stance they took is that if there is any evidence of domestic violence by one of its drivers, that driver is done.  NASCAR has thrown down the gauntlet when it comes to domestic violence. The basic message is that no form of domestic violence would be tolerated if a court found sufficient enough evidence to believe the act occurred.

That’s one hell of a stance to take. And the right one.

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