Kurt Busch has been reinstated from a NASCAR-imposed indefinite suspension, clearing the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion to return to the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, the sanctioning body announced Wednesday.
Under a NASCAR waiver, Busch remains eligible to compete for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. To do so, he must be in the top 30 in the series standings after the 26-race regular season.
Busch missed the first three races of the 2015 season while serving a suspension for actions detrimental to stock car racing and a behavioral penalty after former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll obtained a protective order against the driver claiming Busch had committed an act of domestic abuse Sept. 26 at Dover International Speedway.
Though a commissioner in Family Court in the State of Delaware concluded that Busch more likely than not had committed an act of domestic violence, the state’s attorney general declined to prosecute based on evidence insufficient to obtain a conviction.
Busch will remain on indefinite probation and must undergo additional steps to address the behavior that led to the suspension.
“As we stated last week, the elimination of the possibility of criminal charges removed a significant impediment to Kurt Busch’s return to full status as a NASCAR member,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer. “We therefore have decided to move him to indefinite probation and waive the Chase requirement. He has fully complied with our reinstatement program during his suspension and the health care expert who conducted his evaluation recommended his immediate return.
“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.”
Throughout the past few months, Busch has maintained he did not commit an act of domestic abuse against Driscoll.
“It means the world to me to be back in the car,” Busch said in a teleconference with reporters on Wednesday afternoon. “It's been a tough situation the last few months, and I've gone through this with confidence knowing that I know the truth and that I never did any of the things that I was accused of. It was a complete fabrication.
“But 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 say thanks for the support, and to go out there and make my first lap this weekend.”
Busch’s legal team has appealed the protective order granted to Driscoll on Feb. 16.
“What's happened so far in court, there's been no winners,” he said. “Everybody has lost on that portion of it.
“I have my attorneys handling the pending appeals, and I'll leave that to them. My focus is with the race team, with Gene Haas and everybody at Haas Automation to get our Chevy into victory lane and to continue moving forward.”
Busch, however, has discovered positives throughout the ordeal.
“I'm appreciative of the process, of the road to recovery,” Busch said. ”To me, it's a road map that they laid out that I am respecting. It's created such a good foundation to utilize moving forward that I wish I would have done it sooner.
“And the hardest part about all of this has been sitting out watching the 41 car go around the racetrack, especially at the Daytona 500. Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks, and Las Vegas is my hometown track. It's been torture sitting out of the car.”