Craig Murto: NASCAR correct in Busch case


NASCAR is not always my favorite organization. They’ve built the best racing sanction in North America, but they often overreact and simply get it wrong.

For example, they completely blew it with Tim Richmond. Few of us who lived through that embarrassment for stock car racing will ever forget how NASCAR threw Richmond under the bus when he contracted AIDS. And just how sad did NASCAR appear when compared to the support Magic Johnson got from his colleagues?

But NASCAR also gets it right. They were the first to institute pit road speed limits and to ensure that crew members were protected in the pits.

In this post-Ray Rice world, they had it right regarding Kurt Busch.

The criminal court district attorney may have stated that he doesn’t have enough evidence to convict Busch of domestic violence beyond a reasonable doubt. However, Busch already was convicted by the lesser standards required in the family court. That judge ruled that in his opinion, Busch more than likely committed an act of domestic violence.

Busch admitted in court testimony that he cupped his hands over Patricia Driscoll’s cheeks and stared her in the eyes and told her to leave. Any unwanted touch can be construed as an assault, so Busch’s testimony must have sounded to the judge like, ‘But I only had two beers, officer.’

And consider that this is Kurt Busch. This is the Kurt Busch who twice had run-ins with police officers because he couldn’t contain his arrogance (‘Don’t you know who I am?’) or his anger. This is Kurt Busch, whose anger issues got him fired from two major race teams. Not just one, TWO. This is Kurt Busch, the driver that parents block on their children’s radio scanners on race day because of the language he uses when he has his temper tantrums. This is Kurt Busch, who not only routinely abuses members of the media, but verbally assaulted Dr. Jerry Punch, who not only was the best NASCAR reporter on TV, but deserving of respect because he saved the lives of Rusty Wallace and Ernie Irvan after serious accidents.

This is Kurt Busch, who everybody assumed was guilty when they first heard the charges because, well, this is Kurt Busch. And technically he IS guilty, based on the standards of the family court. NASCAR had no choice but continue down the path of reinstatement. If NASCAR had let up too soon, there would be hell to pay in the mainstream media, hell they cannot afford given that they’re looking for a title sponsor to replace Sprint. This is the post-Ray Rice world, remember, and domestic violence will not be tolerated. The needs of the sport outweigh the needs of Kurt Busch, who has embarrassed the sport many times over.

That being said, Busch’s reinstatement and waiver to allow him to run in the Chase was the right move, especially since there won’t be any criminal charges and he is doing everything NASCAR asked of him. What is this, the fifth time Busch was required to go through anger management? The 10th? Whatever it is, for his sake let’s hope it sticks.

And Ms. Driscoll? She heads the nonprofit Armed Forces Foundation that’s involved with NASCAR; that’s why the protective order spoke to at-the-track activities. But given that fans have turned against Ms. Driscoll, the foundation would be best advised to replace her. NASCAR fans blame her as much as NASCAR for Busch’s absence, so as long as she’s involved with the nonprofit, that nonprofit won’t profit at all from NASCAR events. There are many other fine organizations that benefit the military; NASCAR fans will not support Driscoll’s.

Kurt Busch testified that he believed she was a paid assassin; but good assassins know not to get hit by the ricochet.

Regarding Travis Kvapil — who pleaded guilty to a domestic violence charge in January 2014 — that was the pre-Ray Rice world. It would not be proper for NASCAR to retroactively impose a punishment. But NASCAR had better be consistent in the future.

Racing in NASCAR is a privilege, not a right. Kurt Busch should remember that.

Hopefully this time he’s learned something, and this is the last time his name is attached to something that embarrasses the sport. Kurt Busch is back, but NASCAR had it right.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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