There Is Such A Thing As Bad Publicity
The Kurt Busch saga has been going on for some time now. In case you’ve lived under a rock, the NASCAR driver has been involved in a legal controversy since he allegedly strangled his girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, and slammed her head into the wall of his motor coach at Dover International Speedway on September 26. Driscoll reportedly didn’t report the incident to Dover police until early November.
As we all know now, a judge granted a restraining order against Busch this past Thursday, and then released details about the case on Friday. NASCAR and Chevrolet wasted no time in suspending Busch indefinitely, later Friday afternoon. It didn’t take long before I started seeing tweets and Facebook posts saying that IndyCar should put Busch in a car. Seriously?
I’m not here to pass judgment on Kurt Busch. Quite honestly, I think there are legitimate doubts out there regarding the credibility of Ms. Driscoll. This case went from simply disgusting to bizarre amid Busch’s claim that he feared Ms. Driscoll on the basis that he believed she was a trained assassin that was hired by the government to kill drug kingpins. This was used to counter her contention that Busch was battling alcoholism and depression.
Busch contends that Ms. Driscoll showed up at his motor coach uninvited, a week after they had broken up. This started out as a “he said, she said” type thing; but then escalated far beyond that in the public forum. It became a very sordid case, to say the least.
There is no question that the Verizon IndyCar Series needs a shot in the arm. Many drivers have failed to move the needle, and they could certainly use a full-time American driver with Busch’s credentials – but not his baggage.
This is one of those times when the saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is simply not true.
Keep in mind, that there have been no charges filed against Busch. There is the restraining order and each party’s version that was given to the court. But in the court of public opinion, Busch has already been tried and convicted. Is this fair? Maybe or maybe not, but it is the case in today’s society.
My opinion, and it’s just that – an opinion – is that there was some sort of a physical altercation. If that’s the case, Busch is guilty. End of story. But do I think she was completely blameless in the situation? Absolutely not. I have no way of knowing if she maliciously planned to bait him into an altercation, or if she simply used bad judgment in going there in the first place. But something tells me she shares a good bit of the blame also. Regardless of what happened, however, it goes back to a rule we were taught in childhood – you don’t hit girls. Period.
Busch should probably be suspended for sheer stupidity, if nothing else. Keep in mind the timing of this incident – September 26th, just when the Ray Rice incident was at its peak in the NFL. We also had just learned of the Adrian Peterson child discipline issue also. The issue of domestic violence and professional athletes was the main topic on every sports talk show. In fact, the issue had transcended the sports page and had made its way onto the front page of every US newspaper.
Busch also has his reputation working against him. The YouTube video of Busch berating Dr. Jerry Punch on pit road that got him fired by Roger Penske, was very incriminating. The jerk-factor from that video alone, is enough to sway anyone from ever giving Busch the benefit of the doubt. There have been multiple similar incidents that have incurred the wrath of car owners, fans and other drivers.
When Busch did The Double last May, he impressed many by setting aside the personality and reputation that had preceded him. He seemed respectful of the race and its traditions and came across as humbled to be there. But this latest incident has reinforced earlier perceptions of Busch being a bad guy – whether it is completely deserved or not.
So to those who think that Kurt Busch is what IndyCar needs – I say you’re wrong. Unless something comes out where he is completely absolved of any wrongdoing in this case, I’d say Kurt Busch is radioactive and will be for some time. I think any potential sponsor of a car would have a hard time justifying their involvement with Busch after this incident. The backlash would probably extend all the way up to Verizon. There was a reason that Chevrolet acted so swiftly.
Michael Andretti had said as recently as January that he would welcome Kurt Busch back with his team for another crack at the Indianapolis 500. I’m thinking that he may have changed his tune after this weekend. If he really wants to move the needle, he should go after Busch’s NASCAR teammate, Danica Patrick, to try and run The Double in May. Personally, I’m not a fan of Danica – but it would certainly attract additional eyeballs to his team, his sponsors and the Indianapolis 500.
But as for Kurt Busch running the Indianapolis 500 or any other race in the Verizon IndyCar Series – IndyCar needs to pass, or suffer a well-deserved backlash of bad publicity.