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Nascar Caves to Kurt Busch

Kavitha A. Davidson is a former Bloomberg View columnist.
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Back on Feb. 20, Nascar swiftly suspended Kurt Busch after he was accused of beating up his ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll. At the time, I wrote a pretty glowing review of the league's actions, praising Nascar for succeeding where the NFL has failed.

And now I have to take it all back.

Nascar reinstated Busch on Tuesday, making him immediately eligible to race this weekend in Phoenix. The decision came after the Delaware attorney general's office declined to file criminal charges and Busch completed a "reinstatement program" that included behavioral-assessment sessions.

Just so we're clear: Your ex-girlfriend says you choked her and slammed her head into a wall and the penalty is less than three weeks' suspension. Nascar will even grant you a waiver to maintain your Chase championship eligibility. Sponsors will come flocking back, and you can get right back to what's really important.

This is a reminder for anyone who's actually "happy for Kurt Busch" or insists on continuing to provide him with linguistic cover: A Delaware family court commissioner found evidence that he had "committed an act of domestic violence" and granted Driscoll a protective order, describing the attack in graphic detail. (That ruling is under appeal.) The absence of criminal charges doesn't show that Busch is now beyond reproach -- a lesson you'd think Nascar would have learned after months of watching the National Football League try to hide behind the legal system.

The lack of charges might have silenced Nascar, but it hasn't silenced Driscoll. She's speaking out in an attempt to control her own narrative, one that has been distorted by mischaracterization and bizarre accusations from Busch, who insisted that she was a trained assassin. "I would urge anyone covering this case to stick to the well-established facts," Driscoll wrote in a statement on her website

The facts, as Driscoll's attorney said in his own statement condemning prosecutors for failing to bring charges, are that Busch admitted to attacking her in court. "Given that these admissions establish an assault took place, and that investigators recommended Mr. Busch be prosecuted, it seems impossible that the attorney general’s office made this decision on burden of proof grounds," he wrote. "It would be unfortunate, and a terrible precedent for victims of abuse, if the prospect of inviting a media circus fueled by Mr. Busch’s wealth, notoriety, and hostile PR team in any way swayed this decision."

So "the Outlaw" stays out of jail and Nascar decides that's enough to let him back on the track, confident in the public's willingness to transmogrify Busch's professed innocence into actual innocence. And Driscoll becomes yet another statistic, one of the 70 percent of domestic violence incidents that don't get prosecuted. Just another day at the speedway.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Kavitha A. Davidson at kdavidson19@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Timothy Lavin at tlavin1@bloomberg.net