Busch suspension was right call

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- On Nov. 14, one day before Patricia Driscoll's allegations of domestic abuse against NASCAR driver Kurt Busch went public, Busch participated in a Chevrolet "ride and drive" event for media at Wild Horse Motorsports Park near Phoenix.

As he bantered easily with the assembled media and tossed Camaros and Corvettes through effortless, four-wheel drifts on the Wild Horse road course, Busch gave no outward indication that the weight of the world was on his shoulders.

Since then, Busch has engaged in a high-stakes game of legal "he said, she said" that for now ended in Driscoll's favor this week when the Family Court of the State of Delaware granted her request for a protective order against her former boyfriend.

On Friday, commissioner David W. Jones issued a 26-page report that summarized his findings from a case in which real-life testimony sounded more like something straight off the pages of the National Enquirer.

Maybe that track day back in November was an indication that Busch -- known by the nickname "Outlaw" -- was in denial about everything that was going on around him. Because, in short, Jones and the Delaware Family Court found Driscoll's version of what happened in Busch's motor home at Dover International Speedway on the night of Sept. 26 more credible than Busch's.

It's important to note that Busch has not yet been charged with any crime in the alleged incident -- that is still an open investigation with the Delaware Attorney General's office.

And let's be clear: There are plenty of people in the NASCAR garage area who have their own opinions about Driscoll, her motives and her credibility.

But Jones' ruling regarding the protective order was worded so strongly in Driscoll's favor that it left NASCAR with no choice but to suspend Busch -- especially in light of recent high-profile cases of domestic abuse or assault involving athletes, particularly NFL players Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson.

The American public appears to have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to public figures and domestic abuse.

NASCAR made it clear the league is following suit.

"As we stated last year, NASCAR fully recognized the serious nature of the specific situation involving Kurt Busch and, really, the broader issue of domestic violence," said NASCAR vice president Steve O'Donnell. "Based on our review of the available details, including the court's findings that were released earlier today, NASCAR has indefinitely suspended driver Kurt Busch.

"NASCAR has made it very clear to our entire membership and the broader industry that any actions of abuse will not be tolerated in the industry," O'Donnell added, before departing the Daytona International Speedway media center without taking questions. "We want to make it clear that any inference that there is a culture or tolerance for this type of behavior is patently false."

It's unfortunate that this sad and still evolving storyline involves far more than just two unhappy former lovers.

For starters, there's the child one called the "Mini Outlaw," Driscoll's 10-year-old son, Houston, with whom, Jones noted, Busch enjoyed a "loving, bonded and involved relationship."

It's never positive anytime a child gets involved in adult problems, and Houston was already at the center of a bitter custody battle between Driscoll and her former husband.

But then you have to take into account the business ramifications that occur when a star in a sponsor-driven sport such as NASCAR makes headlines in the wrong way.

In her testimony, Driscoll characterized Busch as demonstrating symptoms of depression and alcoholism -- accusations NASCAR surely could not ignore.

NASCAR, to its credit, allowed events to play out in the legal system before making its own decree.

And while no criminal charges have been filed, the wording of Jones' ruling was damning, calling Busch's version of events "implausible."

NASCAR therefore had to act swiftly.

Unlike many NASCAR drivers, Busch does not represent a mass-market company or product. His car was sponsored by Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas and his Haas Automation firm that makes industrial computer milling machines.

But Chevrolet took immediate action. Less than half an hour after NASCAR announced that it has suspended Busch indefinitely from all activities, Chevrolet did the same thing.

"Chevrolet has suspended its relationship with Kurt Busch indefinitely," stated Jim Campbell, Chevrolet vice president of motorsports and performance vehicles. "We will continue to monitor the events surrounding Mr. Busch and are prepared to take additional action if necessary."

Busch and his legal team lodged an appeal against the family court's decision earlier this week. But given Jones' bottom-line finding, a reversal seems unlikely.

Friday night Busch appealed the suspension to NASCAR and it will be heard Saturday in Daytona Beach.

"The Court find's [Driscoll]'s version of the events is more believable," Jones wrote.

Ultimately, that's all that matters.