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One year after citation, Kurt Busch an honorary deputy

PHOENIX -- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and NASCAR star Kurt Busch are on better terms than they were a year ago, when Busch was involved in a highly publicized confrontation with Arpaio's deputies.

But it might be a stretch to call Arpaio and Busch friends. When Busch and his handlers showed up at Arpaio's office for a photo opportunity Thursday afternoon, Arpaio greeted him as "Kyle," the name of Busch's brother, who also races.

"I'm not a racetrack guy," Arpaio said later. "I don't get involved in racing."

"I wouldn't do this with everybody, quite frankly. Because everybody isn't as famous as he is. But because he's famous, he can get the message out. His word means something."
-- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Nevertheless, Arpaio was happy to declare Kurt Busch an honorary deputy one year after he was pulled over by deputies before the 2005 Checker Auto Parts 500. Busch is back in town for Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500.

Last fall, officers pulled Busch over about two miles from Phoenix International Raceway after catching him driving recklessly. He became combative when they tried to determine if Busch were intoxicated.

"You're only doing this because you're a Jeff Gordon fan," Busch was quoted as saying in a police report.

The report said Busch eventually submitted to a preliminary sobriety test, registering a 0.017 blood-alcohol level. That fell far below Arizona's impairment limit of 0.08.

Busch's Roush Racing employers kicked him out of his car for the final two races of the season.

Busch was issued a misdemeanor citation for reckless driving. He plea-bargained the charges to a speeding ticket, paid a $580 fine and agreed to perform 50 hours of community service, including filming a safe-driving public service announcement.

Thursday's appearance brought a brace of television cameras to Arpaio's office.

"I wouldn't do this with everybody, quite frankly," Arpaio said, "Because everybody isn't as famous as he is. But because he's famous, he can get the message out. His word means something."

Arpaio acknowledged that deputizing Busch may bring criticism.

"I'm taking a risk here, making you a deputy," Arpaio told Busch. "'Oh, you're making a guy that you arrested a deputy sheriff, a special deputy?' Yeah, I'm doing that. He didn't commit murder or anything. He made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes."

Busch smiled and nodded. Asked what he planned to do with the badge, Busch said, "I plan to put it up in the trophy room. It's something that's very special to me. It's a perfect memento to what's gone on the past year here in Phoenix."

"If you're stopped, I don't expect you to show the badge. Because I'll tell you, if you do, we're going to fire you and you're going to get two tickets."
-- Arpaio

The officer who stopped Busch, Sgt. Glen Poe, was recently wounded in a drug raid on the city's west side. He was shot four times and lost part of his hand, a Sheriff's spokesman said. Poe is recovering at home and is expected to return to duty.

Arpaio also presented Busch with a copy of his autobiography and his bobblehead. He regaled him with a story about the time Arpaio, then working in Las Vegas, arrested Elvis Presley.

"I got more press locking up Elvis than I did for you," Arpaio said.

Then Arpaio told Busch to watch his driving.

"Be very careful," Arpaio said. "If you're stopped, I don't expect you to show the badge. Because I'll tell you, if you do, we're going to fire you and you're going to get two tickets."