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Busch's ban still a hot topic in Cup garage

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Kurt Busch's championship banner waved
high over Homestead-Miami Speedway, the only evidence at the track
of the embattled driver.

Suspended for the final two races of the season after a run-in
last week with Phoenix police, Busch won't be present to lower the
flag for his successor following Sunday's season-ending Nextel Cup
race.

Jack Roush, his former car owner, said Friday he never once
considered lifting the ban and allowing Busch to drive this
weekend.

"Kurt had been a challenge for everybody that interacted with
him on the team at some time or other," Roush said. "He used up
his equity with his sponsors. He used up his equity with me."

The fallout from Busch's reckless driving arrest was still
reverberating around the garage a week later, with everyone
weighing in on the situation. He had supporters in teammate Greg
Biffle and rival Tony Stewart, and a heavy critic in Roush, the
owner who made Busch a NASCAR champion.

Roush is still angry over Busch's decision to leave his
organization to drive for Roger Penske, a decision Busch made just
months after winning his first Nextel Cup title. His desire to move
on shocked Roush and forever fractured their relationship, with
Roush saying Friday he hasn't even spoken to the driver in at least
four weeks.

So it was no surprise when Roush took the unusual step of
kicking Busch out of the car and refusing to let him finish the
final two races of the season. It was Roush's way of getting the
final word.

Although police now say Busch was far below the legal drinking
limit, they accused the driver or being belligerent, argumentative
and verbally harassing the officer performing the traffic stop.

Roush said reports of Busch behaving badly didn't surprise him.

"I was doubting that Kurt was in fact intoxicated beyond a
legal limit because it had been his nature to be very much like he
was reported to be in contentious situations that frustrated him
before," Roush said. "He's an extraordinary talent, but he's
really had trouble dealing with the realities of normal social
behavior."

So now, on what should have been Busch's final hurrah, he's
become the champion everyone wants to forget.

Speedway officials were debating how to handle the traditional
championship celebration Sunday, when Busch would have lowered his
flag and watched as the new winner raised his. Roush said he and
crew chief Jimmy Fennig might stand in for the ceremony.

"It's going to hurt me a ton not being there," Busch said."Drivers dream of those type of honors and I will not have the
chance to enjoy it the way that I envisioned."

Busch will instead be at home watching an NFL game.

"The Bears are playing the Panthers, those are my two favorite
teams," he said.

He also doesn't want his suspension to be a distraction to the
final race of the season, when Stewart will try to beat Jimmie
Johnson, Carl Edwards and Biffle.

"Only a few drivers have the chance to be the 2005 champion and
the focus should be on those drivers, the teams, the race and the
championship and not this situation," Busch said.

But it's too late for that.

His team is trying to move on with Kenny Wallace behind the
wheel, painting Wallace's name on the car where Busch's used to be.
Fennig, who has been with Busch the past three years, said it's a
difficult ending for a team that was on top of the sport exactly
one year ago.

"We got along OK. Kurt is Kurt and that's just the way he is,"
Fennig said, choosing his words carefully. "This whole thing has
been hard for the team because we are coming off a championship and
then Kurt says he wants to leave. Nobody could figure it out, why
he wanted to leave, and people were hurt.

Biffle believes Busch got a "bum rap," contending that liquor
sponsor Crown Royal would not have pressured Roush to kick him out
of the car had the Phoenix police been forthcoming with results of
his sobriety test. Police initially said the test failed, then
admitted this week that a second test showed that Busch's
blood-alcohol level was 0.017 -- below the legal limit.

"I honestly, 100 percent in my heart, feel that was totally
fabricated that the breathalyzer machine did not work," Biffle
said. "Yeah, he acted like a jerk. Yeah, he might have been
speeding or done something he shouldn't have, but are those grounds
for taking him out of the race car?"

And Stewart said he has had minor problems with Phoenix-area
officers before, including a time he couldn't get to his motorhome
because he didn't have the proper credential.

"For some reason when we go to Phoenix, that's the only problem
that we have," Stewart said.