If you’ve lived through it, you know how profound its impact is. For those that have grown up in homes where domestic violence has occurred, they know its insidious effect goes beyond merely the abuser and the abused. As the Kurt Busch case brings the issue before NASCAR and the racing public, it’s time to take a clear stand on domestic violence when NASCAR participants are found to have engaged in it.
Let’s be clear that this is in no way a veiled attempt at trying the Kurt Busch case in the court of public opinion. In the same way that this writer called to let those in the legal system review, gather and make a determination in the Tony Stewart- Kevin Ward Jr. and be allowed to do their job, I do the same in the matter of Kurt Busch and Patricia Driscoll. The occasion provides opportunity for discussion and for the governing to be clear it won’t be tolerated.
For those who stand and those who have stood accused, there’s no doubt that domestic violence is a messy issue. The Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson situations put before the NFL were more easily vetted due to video and photographs. With Kurt Busch, it’s “he said, she said.” From this point of view, neither the 2004 champion, nor his ex-girlfriend are saints. Busch has a well-verified history for ill temperament, making the accusation believable. But can it be proven? Were there recorded physical signs that the oldest of the racing Busch brothers slammed her head into a wall? On the other side of the coin, just as sure as we probably all know of cases of real domestic violence, we also know of scorned former lovers attempting to settle score with a false allegation.
The one person in this case that really ends up losing is Driscoll’s son, Houston. Busch himself said that the boy had come to see the racer as a step-dad type of figure. Now, that relationship has unraveled as well. Regardless of the facts of what occurred in Busch’s motor home that night in Dover, Houston is unfortunately impacted. I’ve walked in his shoes, and it sucks. No matter how strong the boy may be, he will have another hurdle to jump on his road to manhood. I wish him all the best. The kid didn’t deserve this.
In his conversation with NASCAR fans this week, NASCAR Chairman Brian France touched on the issue. He spoke of a red line that is not to be crossed. That’s not a bad start. What is needed is a very clearly laid out penalty for those found guilty or those who own up to perpetrating domestic abuse. Chastised for its two week suspension of Ray Rice, they extended the penalty that would effectively put a player on the sideline for nearly half a season. NASCAR needs to send a strong message that domestic violence is not o.k. in any way, shape or form.
Given the length of the season, a six-month suspension does not seem out of order. The penalty must be such that even if it doesn’t deter a violent man from acting upon his passions, it at least sends a message that NASCAR does not turn a blind eye to such a wrong. Lurking in the shadows are whispers of abuse committed by racers, not mention the incident involving NASCAR Cup journeyman and former CTS champion Travis Kvapil. It would do well to dispel the notion of NASCAR being the sport of barbaric, knuckle-dragging brutes.
As far as that goes, NASCAR would do well to shine the light upon their rule book and spell what a driver, crew member, or anyone working for an organization within the sport may expect should they commit a crime. For too long, the world of sports has allowed athletes to live above the law. It’s time for a code of conduct and that be shared with the public. The NFL has one; heck, even the NBA has standards for how their players are to dress when representing the time. NASCAR has taken good step to address illicit drug use. Now its time for NASCAR to take a stand on domestic violence.