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.

George Phillips

47 Responses to “There Is Such A Thing As Bad Publicity”

  1. Brian McKay in sunny Florida Says:

    If he brings a $pon$or, he could rent a Honda-powered car for the Indy 500. But no team will pay him to race an IR12.

  2. While I disagree with the “we needs us more ‘Muricans’ in this here series”, adding Kurt right now would be a mistake. I agree with George: he’s innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. However, bringing in someone who is carrying such a tainted reputation, however unfair that is, reflects badly on the series.

    “Oh look how desperate IndyCar is for drivers!”

    No, there are too many talented open wheel drivers out there right now with no ride who deserve a shot first.

  3. Kurt Busch has mental health issues. This was readily apparent even before this domestic violence issue. He’s been through rehab at least once. No series should tolerate this, he is a risk to himself and the other drivers. I question Gene Haas’ judgment in providing him his third chance – what does this say about him as an F1 owner? Kurt’s only racing option now is to get himself some counseling and hope the NHRA will take a chance with him.

  4. Phil Kaiser Says:

    George, George, George! I know for a fact your favorite driver and hero throughout your life has been Anthony Joseph Foyt, Junior. As you know I am the world’s most passionate AJ Foyt fan. So in the late ’70s we find our hero, AJ, in the garages at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with one hand around Robin Miller’s throat, shoving Miller up against a wall, then punching him dead in the face with the other! And this is just his most famous physical confrontation. But because Miller was a man, everything’s cool? That’s a bunch of Bourgois (that’s French)!

    Have you ever been on the receiving end of a woman in full drunken “buzzsaw” mode? I’ve seen it (I’m a rock ‘n’ roll musician; I’ve seen it all from the stage) and it’s not pretty! All the guy can do is try to grab her wrists or arms or throat to get her to stop. And nowadays all a woman has to do is breathe she’s been touched in a harsh way and it’s off to the slammer for the poor guy! Innocent until proven guilty used to mean something in this country, but not anymore I guess….

    By the was, she was choked, NOT strangled. When one is strangled one has died. Again, I hate to be picky, but words mean things.

    • You were a rock ‘n’ roll musician? That explains a lot. Some of those drugs must still be in your system. Which one gave you OCD, or do you come by that naturally?

      Your rock ‘n’ roll 70s lifestyle may tell you it’s OK to physically abuse women, but that’s a caveman mentality. Look around! You can’t do that anymore!

      • What tells you its ok to condemn someone before a trial? Or to accuse Phil of something he did not say?

        Such a mob mentality.

      • Nomex, Please show me where Phil said it’s ok tk lhysically abuse women. He simply said he saw it happen while he was onstage. Insults get you nowhere, my friend.

        • Yikes, guess I was in a hurry. Oh well, it’s really, really early in the AM. The incorrect spelling is obvious…..should read “to physically”…..

      • Phil Kaiser Says:

        I AM a Rock ‘n’ Roll musician, and my heyday (I know you’ll have to look that word up) was the ’80s, but you should’ve already known that because you know everything about me, don’t you?

        And yes, I do get my OCD naturally. Sorry I believe in saying EXACTLY what one means with the appropriate words. No, I’m really not sorry, lol.

        Thank you Bob & John! I appreciate it!

        Hey, go to and you can hear my actual original songs I wrote, sang and played all of the instruments on, then come back and make fun of me all you want.

        But I bet you won’t….

  5. elmondohummus Says:

    Why do some fans have this near obsessive need to stick NASCAR drivers in an Indycar? Even before this suspension that tendency drove me nuts, but now, **after** the accusation, some people still want it done?

    What happened to putting **INDYCAR** drivers in Indycar?

    This is probably going to get me ripped on, but I don’t care: I fear for the state of Indycar fanhood. Not of Indycar itself, although that’s clearly affected, but the fanhood. If there’s a section of the fanbase that thinks so highly of NASCAR that they’re willing to take a pariah castoff into the ranks in the deluded belief that it would “help ratings”, then I really fear for the fanbase. That segment has made a confession that’s tantamount to giving up on the series.

    Indycar doesn’t need to copy NASCAR’s rules, they don’t need to copy anything about NASCAR’s style, and they sure as HELL don’t need to attract their current drivers. If you’re looking at the roster of current drivers and thinking “they should come to Indycar”, then you are doing it wrong. You’re making the same stupid mistake football fans do when they salivate for another team’s star player to become a free agent so they can throw money at him to come save their team. You are not developing your own.

    Make the ladder work. Develop through the Road To Indycar, and grab young drivers – like Newgarden a couple of years ago – and get **them** a ride, get **them** into the series, make them Indycar drivers. But quit eyeing drivers who deliberately chose another series and think you’ll get them to suddenly change allegiance just because they ran into a string of bad luck, or self-inflicted a publicity wound onto themselves and got kicked out. You won’t grow the series that way, you’ll damage it. And that’s even if the drivers you bring in won’t have any baggage. Bring in someone on the outs like Busch, and oh my, the damage will be severe.

  6. The cynic in me says if Busch shows up with a check for $5 million IndyCar says he “deserves a second chance” puts a few contingencies on it like completing anger management classes in place and cashes the check. But I don’t think they would. Domestic abuse as an issue is just too big, especially after Ray Rice. I don’t get the lack of due process argument. A commissioner heard evidence — in a court of law — and Busch was represented by big-deal attorneys, and it was all hashed out over many months and the commissioner found him guilty of certain things. How is that not being proven guilty in a court of law? It’s very true that he hasn’t been found guilty in any CRIMINAL court. And the burden of proof is higher in a criminal court, that is also true. In fact, he probably won’t ever be charged with anything criminal. But since when does it take a criminal conviction for a sports league to penalize? They penalize for non-criminal behavior all the time. No law against calling NASCAR idiot fools, but if you do you will be penalized as a driver. As others have said, Kurt has issues. Hope he deals with them.

  7. These stories always have two sides and rarely if ever does the court of public opinion have the true facts surrounding the case. Having been a victim of these kinds of allegations myself I would argue that no one knows what really happened and never will. I can say that by just being a male in our society, the odds are considerably stacked against you. Perceptions rule the day and there is no way to counter act it. It’s even tougher if your accuser is an attractive blonde playing with the media. Who knows what really happened but he either he really ticked her off (cheated?) or none of these allegations could have happened at all for that matter. Or, they very well could have But I agree that all a person has is a track record and Kurt’s is not ideal at this point. As far as the IndyCar series is concerned this would be a poisonous recruitment. I will venture to also say that even bad press could help IndyCar at this point considering the state it is currently in.

  8. “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.”

    All very true. And this is a condemnation of our society today, not of Kurt Busch. We are seeing this big time in the NFL.

    Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? And a trial before 12 of your peers? I guess now its mob rule???

    • Busch was not deprived of his liberty, just his job. We all can be fired from our jobs without a criminal conviction. In fact, I’d venture that 99.9 percent of all fired people weren’t found guilty by a jury of their peers in a court of law. People are fired every day on far far less than what NASCAR based its decision re: Busch on.

      • You are right that people can be fired, assuming there is no contract that can prevent it. But he has not been fired, he has been suspended for something no court has convicted him of doing.

        • elmondohummus Says:

          I don’t mean to nitpick, but you’re continuing to draw a false equivalence here. It may be true that he hasn’t been convicted of any crime at this point, and possibly may never be. But like Pressdog said: Firing doesn’t require criminality. And your fallacy lies in arguing exactly that, that a fireable offense must include the criteria of being convicted of a crime.

          That’s just never been the case.

          Really, things have been this way for such a long time that I thought it was obvious (no offense). Heck, any Hollywood historian remembers the case of Rosco “Fatty” Arbuckle, and *he* was **acquitted** of the crime that left him ostracized from moviemaking for more than a year. To have your association with a sports team, a movie production company, a TV show, or whatever severed, you merely have to be in the middle of some potentially negative controversy. It doesn’t even have to be a criminal offense.

          Now, whether that’s fair is a whole other argument. In many cases, it won’t be. It’s legitimate to say it’s patently unfair to deprive a man of his profession on appearance and association alone. It’s also a damn good argument to point out that what Busch is accused of in this particular instance is indeed a legal offense, so therefore a court verdict *is* an inescapable component of the controversy. But that argument must be made to begin with. To simply assert that suspension without conviction is wrong is to push a fallacy. Fair or not, there’s nothing that links being convicted with being fired, suspended, or banished from a profession.

  9. Busch is done. Yes, it was fun, but it is time to go forward.

    By the way, I don’t ever recall Foyt hitting a woman.

  10. billytheskink Says:

    I’m fielding a pair of Paddy Wagon Specials for Kurt Busch and Jeremy Mayfield at the 500 this year. They’ll have solid orange firesuits, with blue suits and badges for the pit crew. As team owner, I wear a warden’s hat, of course. Gives new meaning to the term “time trials”…

    In seriousness, I would not worry much for Indycar’s sake here. Busch won’t be in an Indycar for the foreseeable future simply because no one is going to be interested in sponsoring him. Practically no one except for Gene Haas was interested in sponsoring him anywhere before all of this went down.

  11. His racing in the 500 this May has already been ruled out by everyone involved. We can only wish that the “boogity, boogity, boogity” guy could also get suspended for bad announcing. “Wow, lookit’ them cars wobble around out there!” Well, of course I did not have to watch the “Great American Race”, but I like to see shiny things going fast and that is all there was.

  12. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    Yes, I’d concur there is such a thing as bad publicity.
    Yes, the thought immediately crossed my mind when I heard of the suspension.
    Yes, he toed the line and was a good story this past May.
    Yes, he is talented in an Indycar.
    No, I don’t think having him in Indycar is a net positive in any way.
    No, I don’t think Kurt should be included in Indycar.

  13. Driscoll got what she wanted here. She got a “conviction” without a criminal trial, a jury of his peers, and a beyond a reasonable doubt burden of proof. We should all be ashamed of ourselves As a society for letting this happen.

  14. If Michael Andretti wants to run another car he should give it to Simona instead of Kurt Busch. Pretty sure she won’t do anything to embarrass his race team or sponsors.

  15. Anybody who thinks Busch should get a ride in Indycar needs to download the rule book, read Rule 2.11.3, then think long and hard about how ICS could ever enforce that rule again given the precedent that would be set.

    And “innocent before proven guilty” isn’t applicable in private sector employment. An employee, even in at-will employment, likely has more protection than an independent contractor whose contract includes specific clauses terminating the relationship in matters regarding moral fitness, adverse notoriety, etc. etc.

  16. Busch had a court hearing and it was determined by the hearing officer that his actions were sufficient to warrant a restraining order. This hearing was tantamount to a civil trail without a final determination. While it does not find that he committed a criminal offense which require a more stringent level of proof it does imply legal culpability.

    • Not true. It is considered a stop gap measure until the court can meet. Often the side subject to the restraining order has not even met with the court prior to the order being given. And no charges may have been filed. They are often misused. But they absolutely do not imply legal culpability.

      • The court determined that Kurt Busch “by a preponderance of the evidence … committed an act of domestic violence”. In a civil case that is the level of proof for culpability. Read the entire ruling not just the news reports!

        • Hardin continues, “Ms. Driscoll clearly committed perjury during her testimony before the Commissioner, and we deeply regret that Ms. Driscoll has been allowed to abuse the justice system in such a flagrant way.”

          May be true. May not be. But many of you have already convicted Busch. And he has not yet had his day in court, “preponderance of the evidence” or not.

          • I’m thinking Pressdog said it best. Busch has not been charged with a crime and may not ever be. If he is, it may come out that Ms. Driscoll is the villain and Busch is the victim. But you don’t have to commit a crime to have your livelihood taken away. I could have far less damaging things come out about me than Busch has had come out about him – and I would lose my job, but not my liberty. Unlike Mr. Busch, if I were exonerated later on – I would not get my job back. Is that fair? Probably not. Is that reality in today’s world? Absolutely.

            When corporate image is at stake, perception is reality. It is Kurt Busch’s right to pursue employment. But it is also the right of any potential sponsor to deny his employment based on what it would do their image. – GP

          • The man is mentally ill. He has a pattern of uncontrollable anger and violent conduct. These recurring incidents alone is sufficient grounds for the suspension and the restraining order. He needs mental health care.

  17. I am glad I appear to either follow only the better ones or that I missed their ridiculous tweets because I saw no tweets saying Kurt in IndyCar would be a good thing. My personal opinion is that it would be a horrible idea.

  18. Lynn Weinberg Says:

    I think as long as he is suspended from NASCAR, he should not be allowed in IndyCar. We don’t need their “rejects.” There’s enough talent available as it is.

  19. I think Kurt’s treatment of Dr. Jerry Punch was unforgivable. Doc is not a pushy troublemaker media type. Even when Kurt is being nice he comes across as phony and insincere. Although I would be the last to defend him, I tend to think in this current situation he might be getting a raw deal. Whatever the case may be, this is a mess IndyCar should stay far away from.

  20. Bob F is an idiot.

    That is all.

    Bob E

    • Didn’t have the guts to use your other name?

      When you have to resort to name calling, I win!

      • Dear Bob F,

        That fact you couldn’t not reply shows us where you mind is at. Time for a nap son.


        Bob E

        • Bob E. Thank you for thinking about me. I found a quote on the internet that had to be written just for you.

          “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

          Your welcome in advance…..

          • The actual quote is “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”- Mark Twain who I’m pretty sure never posted it on line. If you’re going to quote someone don’t rely on the internet, look in a book – those are the things you open up and have pages inside

          • Dearest Bob F,

            Along with the incorrect quote you also use incorrect grammar but I don’t think any of were surprised.

            You’re welcome 😉


            Bob E

  21. Living in Germany, I don’t know much about NASCAR. But I like Andretti Autosport who fielded a car for Kurt Busch in the Indy 500 last year, with an option to come back in 2015. So I was interested in what would become of that opportunity for Kurt. At first, I did not notice the trial but at one point, when both parties were claiming with weird statements that the other was not right in the head, I got the feeling it would be best that they don’t meet again. Other couples split and manage to not meet again completely without any court orders. Yet, the fact that there is a court order now is a nightmare for any potential sponsor of Busch. Hence, it seems like Andretti Autosport must now start looking for another oval expert to run their 5th entry for the Indy 500.

    Andretti Autosport recently had a seat fitting in an IndyCar with their Global Rallycross driver Scott Speed, who is also the last previous US American to race in Formula 1. Speed posted a picture of himself on twitter which was taken during the seat fitting. Afterwards, he said he was overwhelmed by the reaction of this going viral everywhere on the motorsports related internet.
    I’d say that goes to show there’s your guy that would move the needle. He won’t do the Indy 500 though, as he said he has retired from oval racing after Dan Wheldon had died. But I’m sure he’d do well in a shared ride like the Carpenter/Conway combination was one last year.

  22. “Innocent until proven guilty” is something I’ve seen thrown about quite a bit about this incident.

    Kurt Busch has been proven guilty several times. He is a repeat offender. That he did not (yet) get a trial on this issue does not change the ruling passed down in the restraining order verdict (read it sometime, it’s actually quite informative and full of detail that most of the NASCAR press hasn’t bothered to cite).

    So whether he is actually convicted or not in court is immaterial. He is clearly a loose cannon and a liability with serious anger management issues at least. That is not the type of person that a race team in precarious straits sponsor-wise invests in in this day and age.

  23. Bob E.

    It’s not low class. It’s no class.

    And that is you.

    Grow up dude.

  24. Since his suspension it has been announced that no criminal charges are going to be pressed against him. Despite being cleared legally NASCAR decided to keep Busch suspended.


  25. isic

    There Is Such A Thing As Bad Publicity | Oilpressure

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