NASCAR lifts Kurt Busch’s suspension

NASCAR cleared the way Wednesday for Las Vegas native Kurt Busch to return to racing, and he sounded both vindicated and humbled by the process.

The decision by NASCAR came after authorities declined to file charges March 5 against Busch after he was accused of assault by his former girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, issued a statement saying Busch had “fully complied with our reinstatement program.”

The sport’s governing body suspended Busch indefinitely on Feb. 20 after a family court administrator ruled he believed the driver likely committed assault against Driscoll at Dover (Del.) International Speedway on Sept. 26. The administrator ordered Busch could be no closer than 100 yards to Driscoll until Feb. 16, 2016.

Now Busch, 36, is eligible to return to competition, and will take back his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

“It means the world to me to be back in the car,” Busch said. “It’s been a tough situation the last few months. I’ve gone through this with confidence knowing that I know the truth and that I never did any of the things I was accused of. It was a complete fabrication. 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 to say thanks for the support, and go out there and make my first lap this weekend.”

NASCAR’s news release said Busch had not only completed the necessary steps to have his suspension lifted, but a behavioral specialist recommended he return to racing.

Busch, however, does remain on probation.

“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,” O’Donnell said.

Driscoll posted a statement expressing disappointment in NASCAR’s decision.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Busch received a waiver from NASCAR making him eligible to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Drivers usually have to attempt to qualify in all 26 races leading up the playoff.

Three races have taken place so far.

“I’m appreciative of the process of the road to recovery,” Busch said. “It’s a road map that (NASCAR) laid out that I’m respecting, and for me it’s created such a good foundation to utilize moving forward that I wish I would’ve done it sooner. The hardest part of all of this is sitting out and watching the 41 car go around the racetrack, especially at the Daytona 500. Atlanta’s one of my favorite tracks, and Las Vegas is my hometown track. It’s been tortuous sitting out of the car.

“Being in that racecar is a privilege.”

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65

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