NASCAR upholds indefinite suspension of Kurt Busch

Kurt Busch’s suspension appeal was denied Saturday by a three-member National Motorsports Appeals Panel at NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida. As a result, he will miss Sunday’s Daytona 500 and not compete for the foreseeable future while remaining on indefinite suspension.

Panel members who ruled on the Busch case were former NASCAR executive Paul Brooks, former racer Lyn St. James and Kevin Whitaker.

"The penalty stems from activities last year involving Kurt Busch that resulted in a decision by the Family Court of the State of Delaware to issue an Order of Protection of Abuse against him," said NASCAR’s David Higdon in announcing the result.

"The penalty is an indefinite suspension," said Higdon. "The Appellant (Busch) appealed both penalties. Upon hearing the testimony, the National Motorsports Appeals Panel decided that the Appellant violated the rules set forth in the penalty notice. The Panel therefore decided to uphold the original penalty assessed by NASCAR."

Higdon added, "Kurt Busch has the right to appeal the decision to the Final Appeals Officer, Mr. Bryan Moss. Kurt Busch must inform NASCAR of his intent to do so within the guidelines provided to him. The Final Appeals Officer has indicated that he would hear the final appeal, if requested, this evening at the International Motorsports Center in Daytona Beach, Florida."

A final appeal to NASCAR’s chief appellate officer will be heard at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday night.

Following NASCAR’s decision to uphold the suspension, Busch attorney Rusty Hardin released a statement, saying: "We are very disappointed that our appeal was rejected by NASCAR’s appeal panel. We are re-appealing immediately, per the proscribed process. We have significant and strong evidence that contradicts the Commissioner’s conclusions. In the end we are confident that Kurt will be vindicated and he will be back racing. Until then we will continue to fight on his behalf by ensuring that the entire truth is known."

Stewart-Haas Racing spokesman Mike Arning confirmed Saturday morning that Regan Smith — a regular in the NASCAR Xfinity Series — would drive Busch’s No. 41 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet in the Daytona 500 even if NASCAR overturned Busch’s suspension.

Busch was suspended Friday night after Kent County (Del.) Commissioner David Jones ruled that "it is more likely than not" that Busch "committed an act of abuse" against former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll during a dispute last Sept. 26, 2014, at Dover International Speedway.

NASCAR exec Steve O'Donnell: 'Any actions of abuse will not be tolerated'

On Monday, Jones ruled in favor of Driscoll’s request, but the full language of his ruling was not published until Friday.

Jones approved Driscoll’s request for a protective order barring Busch from contacting her was released Friday afternoon. In his ruling, Jones said Busch "committed an act of domestic violence" against Driscoll  "by manually strangling her by placing his left hand on her throat, while placing his right hand on her chin and face and smashing her head into the wall of his motor home, thereby recklessly placing (Driscoll) in reasonable fear of physical injury."

"Given the serious nature of the findings and conclusions made by the Commissioner of the Family Court of the State of Delaware, NASCAR has indefinitely suspended driver Kurt Busch, effective immediately. He will not be allowed to race nor participate in any NASCAR activities until further notice," NASCAR said in a statement issued at 6:10 p.m. ET Friday.

"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," NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell said Friday night in announcing Busch’s suspension. "I want to make it clear that any inference that there is a culture or a tolerance for this type of behavior is patently false."

"We understand NASCAR’s position regarding Kurt Busch and accept their decision," said Stewart-Haas Racing in a statement released after Friday’s suspension. "We are in the midst of finalizing our plans for the Daytona 500 and we will announce those details as soon as we’re ready."

Busch’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, called Busch’s suspension "a travesty of justice," adding, "We ask everyone’s patience as this case continues in the court of law and are confident that when the truth is known Mr. Busch will be fully vindicated and back in the driver’s seat."

Driscoll issued a statement Friday night that read, in part, "NASCAR took an important step and deserves to be commended. The next steps are to develop a thorough process and policies that reinforce the organization’s position it took today: Domestic violence will not be tolerated in NASCAR."