Race Weekend Central

Too Soon, Too Late: NASCAR Decisions Leave More Questions

As the sun rises on the biggest day of the racing year, a black cloud already sits on NASCAR’s horizon. For an organization that has a history of either dragging their feet or jumping the gun, those actions converged to create a difficult situation for the sanctioning body just hours before the running of its crown jewel race, the Daytona 500.

Because they didn’t react soon enough in mandating SAFER barriers on more surfaces at racetracks, Kyle Busch will miss the Great American Race after suffering a compound fracture of his right leg and broken left foot in a vicious crash into an unprotected inside wall during Saturday’s XFINITY Series race. Joe Gibbs Racing was left scrambling to find a replacement driver as neither of the team’s development drivers has a Sprint Cup license and neither has driven a Cup car. Busch could potentially miss weeks, if not months, of the season before his injuries are healed.

Because NASCAR reacted too soon to another situation, Kurt Busch will also miss the Great American Race after he was suspended following a Delaware court order for a restraining order against Busch stemming from a domestic dispute with former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. Stewart-Haas Racing was a little better off than JGR; they have veteran Regan Smith ready to go in the No. 41 for Sunday. But considering that no criminal charges have been filed against Busch, isn’t it a bit premature t suspend him?

(Photo: CIA Stock Photography)
Kurt Busch has not been proven guilty of any criminal charges but will still not be racing in Sunday’s Daytona 500. (Photo: CIA Stock Photography)

Here’s the thing: it’s not like NASCAR has a long-standing policy of suspending drivers for domestic situations. They don’t. It’s closer to the truth to say they don’t have any history of that at all. You have to wonder if they’d have reacted to the restraining order the same way a year ago, before domestic violence came to light in other sports, before the NFL and NBA issued some well-publicized sanctions against players brought up on domestic violence charges.

Well, actually, you don’t have to wonder at all. In January 2014, then-Sprint Cup driver Travis Kvapil pleaded guilty to charges of domestic violence following a 2013 incident. That’s right…Kvapil pleaded guilty in a court of law to charges brought against him. NASCAR’s reaction in January 2014? Nothing. Not a single race suspension, not even a month of super-secret double probation. Nothing. The whole thing was allowed to slide silently by like so much muddy water under the bridge.

Yet now, with no charges even filed, let alone a conviction or admittance of guilt, NASCAR has suspended Kurt Busch indefinitely. For the restraining order, all the judge had to decide was that Busch’s story was less believable than Driscoll’s. That is not the same thing as trial by jury in which one must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s one person issuing an order not to contact someone. That order was issued after mountains of evidence was heard, sure, but reasonable doubt doesn’t apply.

While the incidents in other sports have brought the issue of domestic violence to the forefront, and that’s a good thing for an often-stigmatized situation faced by many women (and men) in America, it shouldn’t mean a rush to judgment every time someone puts out an accusation. All that accomplishes is an undermining of the justice system. There was no conveniently placed security camera in Busch’s motorhome that night.

The action against Busch and the inaction against Kvapil illustrates a double-standard that NASCAR has long held. What’s good for the goose may or may not be good for the gander. It depends on the gander: what the fans think of him, what NASCAR thinks of him, what the media think of him. Kvapil stayed in the car because he wasn’t important enough to use as an example. Busch, with his history of misbehavior, was the perfect poster boy.

That’s not to say that suspending Busch, if he is charged and convicted or enters a guilty plea, would be a wrong choice for NASCAR. It would not. Domestic violence is not something that should be taken lightly, nor should anyone put their entertainment over concern for someone’s safety. Offenders should be dealt with severely. In all honesty, NASCAR should have suspended Kvapil.

But they didn’t. They suspended Busch, and Busch only.

Driscoll, who operates the Armed Forces Foundation, a charitable organization, worked hard to get the charity embedded in the NASCAR culture. Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s Executive Vice President of Racing Operations, served on the AFF board of Directors until late last year. Whether or not that influenced NASCAR’s decision is, to an extent, irrelevant, because the perception of bias is all it takes to plant seeds of doubt about NASCAR’s credibility. It raises the question of how NASCAR would have reacted if the driver involved hadn’t been accused by someone with close ties to NASCAR’s front office. You’d like to hope that didn’t play a role, but it’s hard to say without question that it did not.

For the first time in 15 years, the Daytona 500 will roll off without a Busch in the field. One underwent late-night surgery to repair a terrible injury because NASCAR has elected for years to be reactive, rather than proactive, about safety. The other was suspended for committing a crime without being convicted of that crime in court. One lack of action, one overreaction. Two racers out.

Sunday should be NASCAR’s finest hour: a new season, its biggest race, renewed optimism. Instead, it has spiraled into a situation with more questions than answers, more problems than actual solutions. As the sport’s sanctioning body, NASCAR has two jobs, to keep its drivers safe and to fairly and consistently take action if and when warranted. They failed on both counts this weekend.



About the author

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Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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Glen H.

You hit that nail squarely on the head, Amy.


Agreed Glen H. not a huge fan of Kurt but one has to question Nascar’s cozy relationship with the military, the government with it’s tax breaks, the crazy lib Senator calling months ago for him to get kicked out, etc. I never did believe for one second Patty Driscoll’s bio of greatness, but apparently some connections are there for Nascar to pucker up and bow to whatever in the politically correct nonsense world, one needs to bow too (they think). Despite a trial, a jury and evidence to support the charges, he was convicted anyway..obviously from past outbursts, which never did support any physical violence. We all should be very afraid with the terms that Kurt lost his livelihood, this is nothing new in America (sadly) and it could happen to any one of us at any time. Shame on Nascar, shame on the sham of a “appeal board”…I mean who is going to get kicked of Brian’s little club?????? The whole thing stinks, shame on all involved.


“a lack of a trial, a jury and evidence”…SO sorry!


I am amazed since the start of Speedweeks the nonsense that has happened…I just don’t know what to say, it is mind boggling. Nascar, Chevy can go…*********


Anybody heard of Ray Rice?


Not sure what your point is, but Ray Rice would be a damn fool to deny what the hotel security camera captured. Was there a camera in Kurt’s MOHO?


The point is that the incident in the elevator changed everything. No way that an organization can tolerate domestic abuse anymore.
As far as being foolish, there’s been no shortage of it in this case.



Still not getting it. Why did the “incident” in the elevator change everything? Because it was PROOF!! In Kurt’s case, at least so far, there is not PROOF. Merely a judge’s OPINION that more likely than not, something bad happened, or could happen without the order. You must be able to understand the difference.


I think it is the same double standard by NASCAR, what would the outcome id was Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr., or Carl Edwards. It would be different.

Ray Rice was caught red handed, this situation is a he said ,she said mess. Without a 3rd party witness or any evidence. Why did it take several days for an educated intelligent woman to wait to make the complaint? Whey did she not go to the security that was at the motor home lot at Dover?

My point is why did NASCAR deal with this during the off season, they could have suspended Kurt then and not made a scene, or did as soon as it became public. Again this is another reason most old school race fans are getting tired of the new NASCAR.

This is the easy thing to do not the correct thing to do. NASCAR had the chance to show they actually had a credible process, by making a statement saying that until Kurt Bush is convicted he can drive, because the evidence does not support us suspending him until then. No NASCAR showed the world that being tried in the court of public opinion is more important than justice.


we all know that kurt’t temper has a hair trigger. but i cannot believe half the crap about driscoll. my thing is why did she wait so long to “press charges”? is this a major case of scorned lover? then i remember reading something this week where ms. driscoll says that there is more abuse going on in the na$car world that anyone knows about. hey chickie poo……you wanted the bright lights that came with hitching your wagon to a racer. racers are intense people. some can deal with it and some can’t.

na$car is reacting to this in the manner it is doing because brain fart loves the nfl, and look at what the nfl did to their players when charged with domestic violence.

i mean the judge ruled a restraining order and psych eval…don’t think that was a guilty do not pass go and do not collect $200, go directly to jail verdict. ms. driscol has to be happy, she caused her ex to lose his livelihood, guilty or not because of he said/she said. maybe ms. driscol is mad cause the government pulled the plug of military sponsorships of nascar teams and whatnot? sure the military presence is still there, but they’re not dropping millions and millions of tax payer dollars in sponorships.

i saw, over the weekend, where the defense dept is looking to citizens to help come up with plans to fight isis…how about we send ms driscol to the middle east and let her work her magic with her counter-terrorism tactics.


I second thar


I second that!!

william floyd

Great article Amy, and so true on every point. I am not a Kurt Busch fan, but every point you make is true, Nascar for sure has a double standard it seems, always does.
Daytona makeover, $ 400 million of taxpayers money, yet no safer barrier !
ISC, the France families arm that owns 13 tracks which run 19 of the 36 Nascar races, just got a huge windfall when the new tv deal was signed. The race tracks receive 65% of the huge new tv deal, so the France family for sure can afford to put up soft walls everywhere on the tracks they own. Wonder how fast those walls would have gone up if Lesa Kennedy France’s son Ben Kennedy had been injured if he had hit one of those unprotected walls. Do a story on the money ISC is making with the new tv deal and how much it brings to the France families fortunes. And how does Daytona international speedway get a $ 400 million dollar makeover with government money ! ! Thanks for this good article.




Very interesting article. Now I’m wondering about the new driver/owner association, haven’t heard a peep out of them. I’d like for them to confront Nascar regarding bad decisions.


well I’m of two minds on the Kurt Busch suspension because as others have pointed out, the evidence in this case seems shaky. Obviously the Ray Rice incident put domestic into the spotlight, instead of being swept out of sight as it has been so often in the past, at least when it pertains to famous or “connected” people. Kurt has certainly demonstrated that he has one heck of a temper but there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of proof for Driscoll’s story.

As far as NASCAR and their negligence about the safety around the track, it makes me feel ill. They spent so much $ to make Daytona into a theme park, taxpayer dollars no less, and yet couldn’t find the money to install safety barriers. I’ve seen some on twitter making excuses or saying they are doing it now, so “better late than never”. Really, Earnhardt died in 2001, NASCAR/ISC has had plenty of time to get the installation done, they just didn’t bother. NASCAR shouldn’t be using its drivers as crash test dummies and I’ll bet that many drivers who have hit unprotected walls in the years since 2001 aren’t thinking kind thoughts about NASCAR.

Tommy T.

Completely agree with Amy’s analysis! However, I will go a step further and say NASCAR, the NBA, NFL, MLB , etc… would be smart to just take the position that they will not pretend to act as if they are qualified to adjudicate civil and criminal cases involving athletes that participate under their banner. That is a responsibility of our law enforcement and judicial system and they are or should be better at it than a sports authority.


Good ‘ole DW and the Fox crew didn’t mention those facts. Big money covers a lot of dirt.

If that had been Gordon breaking his leg instead of Kyle, the story would be MASSIVE.

Keep socking that money away Nascar, your day is coming. And I pray I’ll be around to see it.


I agree with you.i have been a Kurt busch fan since he started sprint cup,I will never watch another race,they are dirty they’ve tried to get rid of the busch boys all these years,they know she is lying ,but NASCAR is afraid of what else she will dig up.so to stop the bleeding they throw kurt under the bus.patrica is a low down person,and if they are going to take her side,I hope she takes them down too!!!



Edwin Walker

Because of NASCAR’s blind leading the blind politics, I am boycotting NASCAR’S entire sport. All they have done was ruined a really good drivers career for life. All over some GOLD DIGGER. I didn’t know NASCAR was a court of law. They screwed KURT who has been part of their NASCAR “family” for years.
What’s he get? THE SHAFT, THEY PUT HIM INTO THE WALL.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



WTG Amy finally someone questioning NA$CAR!!! I’m a Kyle Busch fan and I won’t be watching and I won’t be going to the track either I live within drivimg distance of Charlotte, Martinsville ,Bristol and Dover . When Kyle returns and I see in print that NA$CAR has installed as much soft walls at the tracks possible then I might consider watching and going again.


I am deeply saddened by Nascar and by Chevrolet ..I in all honesty will Never buy another Chevy /GMC or any thing else they might sell ever again ..I know they could care less about 1 person as little as me ,but it is what it is ..and I will not sit by the Television all weekend watching Nascar events or travel to Nascar events ever again !!! This is the United States Of America and Guilt is to be Proven in the court not just Probability.. you are ruining a mans life by choosing to ACT LIKE THIS ..He is a real person that is far from perfect and that is what makes Kurt Busch so awesome … He did I believe Love Driscoll but it ended ..and it ended with HER BREAKING IN TO his motor coach ,his home at the race track …and again NASCAR WAS AT FAULT …Because someone let her into a secure lot she had no business being in …so Once again Nascar pat your self on the back ..you Failed Kurt in his time of need and gave a possible Terrorist entry to a place they should of Not been …You do not know her state of mind ..she had been thrown to the curb ,discarded by this man ,by Kurt Busch .. she was scorn and she wanted answers ..did she get punished …OH NO …she has he self deeply inbeded with Nascar she is a 5 foot petite woman ,she could not hurt a flea ..WHAT A CROCK ..I have watched her videos on her business …she doesnt need any one to protect her and you know it as well as I do ..FAILURE COMPLETE FAILURE

Richard Ross

Kelly, to be honest, Kurt’s reputation caused NASCAR to react. Am I saying how they did it was correct? No. Kurt should have been given the benefit of doubt and they should have waited to see if the Prosecutor feels there is enough evidence to proceed to criminal charges. Because of the action taken by NASCAR and Chevrolet, Kurt’s career for all practical purposes it over. Whether Chevrolet would come back should charges not be filed is on them should that be the case. IndyCar said they would not allow him to race, at least until the matter is cleared up. Racing in F1, well, I truly doubt he could handle the car, but, Gene Haas is starting up a team, so, one never knows what might happen in that series. I wish NASCAR would have punished Kravil, and allowed the legal system to proceed a little further before reacting.


how about the fact that Driscoll filed a DV report against her former husband Gilberto Chiquito in around 1998-1999ish and divorced him, met Houstons dad and is now in a bitter custody case where failed to mention anything about the DV report against Kurt.
How about the fact that she knows Kurt is depressed and wants to “kill” himself but yet she takes Houston with her.

How about the fact that she had Pocket Commando removed for copyright purposes but that was suppose to be part of a show to air on tv, all of a sudden it’s gone.

I could go on and on and on! I love that her brother @cwbill2 on Twitter supports Kurt!


mary shrtman

It seems like they just want to. Make Kurt be the bad guy without snu justification it stinks NASCAR. It seems they trying to run all the fans out then what’s going to happen

William J. Breyvogel

We are all of the same opinion ,NASCAR , screwed up “AGAIN”….and they are the best at it!!!

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