I have no tolerance for high-profile athletes that are involved in domestic violence. As a survivor of domestic abuse, it still shakes me to the core.
Which makes the latest chapter of NASCAR driver Kurt Busch’s life so completely off the rails.
As I’ve chronicled in my blog in the past, Busch has a million dollars of racing talent and about twenty-five cents of calmness. He speaks his mind and he drives like every race determines the championship.
But he’s also lost high-profile rides in the past, due to his outspokenness and his off-track actions. He lost a major ride with Jack Roush’s superteam, then a few years later was bounced from Roger Penske’s NASCAR squad. He had to drive for an independent, underfunded outfit for a year or two before receiving a chance with a third NASCAR superteam, the Stewart-Haas squad (his NASCAR teammates on Stewart-Haas include three-time series champion Tony Stewart, 2014 series champion Kevin Harvick, and former IndyCar race winner Danica Patrick).
But even then, Kurt Busch and controversy could not stay apart. Two years ago, Busch was involved in a very ugly domestic violence issue with his then-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll. I mean, extremely ugly. So ugly, in fact, that NASCAR suspended Busch for the first three races of the 2015 season. And this is a sport in which NASCAR let another driver, Travis Kvapil, continue to drive even after Kvapil beat his own wife senseless. Ugh.
Since then, Kurt Busch has returned to his #41 HAAS Motorsports Chevrolet, and he’s currently in the 2016 NASCAR Chase for the Championship. And, for the most part, he’s kept his nose clean throughout this time. And this public figure has kept his private life – thankfully – private.
Patricia Driscoll, Kurt Busch’s ex-girlfriend, on the other hand, hasn’t been as quiet.
There was an ESPN / Outside the Lines investigation into Driscoll’s involvement in charitable “wounded warrior” organizations, discovering that Driscoll may have used funds from this organization for her own personal usage – even to the point of using Kurt Busch’s private jet for functions that were reimbursed by the charitable organization, on Driscoll’s demand. And on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Driscoll has been indicted on seven charges ranging from wire fraud to mail fraud, and from tax evasion to interference with the IRS. She is expected to surrender to authorities today.
This is scary.
Now someone’s going to think, “Well, Chuck, do you retract all your flaming pitchfork statements about Kurt Busch that you made in the past, now that you know that Patricia Driscoll is who she is?”
No. First off, just because Patricia Driscoll is being indicted on these charges, does not dismiss the previous incidents Driscoll and Busch had. They were severe enough that NASCAR parked Busch for a time. And Busch has proven to be reckless and hotheaded in the past. NASCAR is a sport with a foundation based on public image, with international sponsorships emblazoned on the hoods of cars. Sponsors will run away from NASCAR at the first sign that they’re sponsoring someone with a less-than-squeaky-clean reputation.
Now granted, Busch is keeping his personal life on the DL, and he’s winning races – in fact, this year he set a new NASCAR record for finishing on the lead lap in the most consecutive races from the start of a season – but the damage to his reputation and his image will be more difficult to repair. It’s hard to remember “Kurt Busch, 2004 NASCAR Cup Champion” and “Kurt Busch, battling Ricky Craven for the lead in Darlington for the closest finish in NASCAR history,” when you’re still thinking about “Kurt Busch involved in domestic dispute with girlfriend at Dover Raceway in 2014.”
Trust me. Patricia Driscoll’s problems are still stuck with Kurt Busch, just like spraypainted graffiti on a water tower.
And I’m not running to defend Kurt Busch any time soon. But I will say this.
Whatever happens with Patricia Driscoll… let the judiciary and the legal system take its path.
Stay in the car, keep your nose clean, and no matter what, keep your temper in check.
Let me repeat that, Kurt Busch.
Keep your temper in check.