<
>

Kurt Busch awaits NASCAR decision

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kurt Busch must stay away from ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll, a Kent County (Del.) Family Court commissioner determined Monday.

What likely worries Busch more is whether he will have to stay away from the racetrack.

With the Daytona 500 scheduled for Sunday, Busch has not been disciplined by NASCAR for an alleged assault Sept. 26 at Dover International Speedway. NASCAR, in a statement late Monday afternoon, said it will take no immediate action against Busch. The sanctioning body indicated it will wait for more information from the family court (the written opinion and conclusions are expected by the end of the week) and possibly a decision from the Delaware attorney general on whether it will seek criminal charges.

"As we stated earlier, NASCAR fully recognizes the serious nature of this specific situation and the broader issue of domestic violence," the NASCAR statement said. "We will continue to gather information and monitor this situation very closely, and we expect our members to conduct themselves properly."

Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas, whose company's Haas Automation logo is on Busch's car and uniform, has repeatedly said he would not pull Busch from the car. SHR executive vice president Joe Custer said in a statement Monday that the team will wait for a decision from the attorney general before taking any action.

"These are serious allegations and we do not take them lightly," Custer said Monday. "We are relying on the authorities in Delaware and their collective experience to identify all the facts.

"They are the experts in these matters and their decision, specifically the one that will be made by the attorney general, will determine our course of action."

The order issued Monday by commissioner David W. Jones states that Busch "has committed an act or repeated acts of domestic violence against" Driscoll.

The former couple have disputed each other's versions of what happened in Busch's motorhome. Driscoll claimed over four days of testimony in December and January that Busch grabbed her by the neck and smashed her head against his motorhome wall three times. The SHR driver testified that he cupped her cheeks but never smashed her head against the wall in the evening that followed a bad qualifying day for Busch.

A Dover Police Department investigator testified that Busch told him he had tapped the wall as he told her several times she had to leave his motorhome. She had arrived uninvited a week after the couple broke up.

"I think it [the protective order] shows that Kurt was not credible [with his testimony]," Driscoll attorney Mark Dycio said.

Busch attorney Rusty Hardin said in a statement he was not surprised by the decision and that Busch plans to appeal the verdict. He has 30 days to appeal once the full opinion and conclusions are issued by the end of the week.

"We are deeply disappointed because we believe the evidence of Ms. Driscoll's total lack of believability was overwhelming," Hardin said. "It is important to note that the commissioner's ruling is a civil family court matter and totally unconnected to any criminal investigation or finding. ... Mr. Busch's conduct was totally reasonable and legal under the circumstances. He never intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused her any injury."

Hardin also said that he has new evidence that will challenge Driscoll's credibility and has handed it over to the attorney general's office. Carl Kanefsky, a spokesman for the Delaware attorney general's office, said Monday that there is no timetable for the investigation to be completed.

The order, effective through Feb. 16 of next year, requires Busch to stay 100 yards from Driscoll, except at NASCAR races where his duties might require him to be closer. He is not allowed to contact her.

Busch also must be evaluated for mental health problems "related to anger control and impulse control by a licensed mental health treatment provider."

There was no immediate comment from SHR or Busch.

The police investigation was completed in December, and the Delaware attorney general's office will determine whether to file criminal charges.

Busch, the 2004 Cup champion who has 25 career wins in 507 starts, could have waived any admission of guilt and agreed to the protective order without any testimony. But in a way that got both versions of the story out quicker than if there had been criminal charges against him, the hearing for the protective order spanned two days in December and two days in January, with testimony that went well beyond what happened that night.

Busch testified in January that he believes Driscoll was a trained assassin, and his defense team characterized her as a jilted lover looking to ruin Busch with the allegations.

"Ms. Driscoll's entire approach to this matter reeks of a woman of fabrication who knows how to use the media and public relations to her advantage -- a role she also played while dating Kurt Busch," Hardin wrote in his closing argument in the case.

"There is only one person in this duo that needs protection, and it is not Patricia Driscoll -- it is Kurt Busch.

Driscoll, in a statement the day after Busch characterized her as a covert operative, denied the accusations, saying that Busch took them from a screenplay. Driscoll, the CEO of a defense contracting firm that has expertise in spying equipment and also sells non-lethal weapons, also heads the Armed Forces Foundation.

Driscoll attorney Carolyn McNeice wrote in her closing argument that it was clear that the protective order was necessary, from this incident when Busch was sober and from a 2012 not-previously-reported alleged incident that allegedly occurred when Busch was drunk.

"[Busch] put his hand on Ms. Driscoll's face, caused her head to hit the wall, at least recklessly causing her injury and pain," McNeice wrote in her closing argument about what happened at Dover.

Whether the protective order issued Monday is enough to bench Busch before the attorney general decides that charges should be filed is now in the hands of NASCAR chairman Brian France.

"There would be no reason for me or NASCAR or anybody else to get ahead of those facts given that they may change," France had said Jan. 26. "Let's let the facts come in, and if there's something for us to react to, you can appreciate that we will be very careful and very aware of what the circumstances are."

France has indicated that NASCAR will be more aggressive with its discipline than it has in the past for off-track domestic incidents. NASCAR did not punish Travis Kvapil after a January 2014 guilty plea as part of a plea bargain that eventually will wipe a domestic violence charge off his record. Busch said he knows what his discipline would be if charges are filed.

"There's been clarity of what will happen when and if something happens, and it's easy to understand," Busch said Thursday. "I feel like we have to wait on the decision up in Dover, Delaware."

He appeared confident he would be racing.

"We all have to be patient," Busch said. "We all have to understand there is a process that we have to respect. ... Each day that goes by continues to be good news."