Phoenix International Raceway located in the Sonora Desert area is enjoying beautiful fall weather Sunday for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Checker Auto Parts 500 Race. The skies are sunny and clear, and there is an autumn nip in the air. Race fans are gathering everywhere.
The big news Sunday morning is that Roush Racing has announced that "effective immediately, it has suspended KURT BUSCH for the remainder of the season." Busch races the No.97 Irwin Tools Ford for Roush Racing. JACK ROUSH said "This suspension is made after full review of all the circumstances surrounding Kurt's Friday night altercation with the Arizona police, and after consultation with our primary sponsors, Newell-Rubbermaid and Diageo. All parties are in complete support that the action being taken today is necessary and appropriate under the circumstances.
"We give our profound apology and support to the arresting officer and the entire Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and thank all of the officers for the great job they do with helping the Phoenix International Raceway bring our event to so many wonderful Arizona race fans."
GEOFF SMITH, Roush Racing President, stressed that this was a Roush decision, not a NASCAR decision. Busch showed "behaviour that is not acceptable under any circumstances."
KENNY WALLACE is replacing Kurt Busch today in Sunday's PIR Cup race. Wallace himself made the announcement on live TV Sunday morning during a NASCAR magazine show. He took a call from Roush asking if he would drive the car. Wallace left the show immediately and started seat fitting and checking his HANS device.
The suspension means Busch, who is currently eighth in the Chase to the Championship standings, will miss the last two crucial races - at PIR today and Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend.
At issue is the behaviour of Busch Friday night outside the track when he was picked up on a traffic stop for speeding and running a stop sign. When the local Maricopa County Deputy Sheriff pulled him over, Busch was allegedly not cooperative, smelled of alcohol and refused a field sobriety test. Busch agreed to take a breath analyser test, and was taken to the closest substation, which was at PIR. The machine 'failed' and Busch was given a criminal traffic citation for reckless driving and told to appear in Tolleson Court on 22 December 2005.
Although the incident occurred Friday night, it didn't become known until Saturday afternoon. Smith said he started getting calls Saturday night at dinner, at which point it was too late on the East Coast to reach sponsors and necessary people to make any decisions.
Roush was asked about it Saturday afternoon, during the CARL EDWARDS Busch victory media conference. He said "I'm not looking to take any action, as that driver has been released. I won't say I've washed my hands of it, but I will stand aside and let someone else sort it out. It would be an issue for (sponsor) Crown Royal."
Earlier in the week, in a complicated swap, Roush Racing released Busch from his existing contract so that Busch could race with ROGER PENSKE/Penske Racing next season, replacing the retiring RUSTY WALLACE.
Until the decision was made, the No.97 Irwin Tools Ford, with major sponsorship from Crown Royal on the rear, just sat in the garage. The crew milled around and equipment was covered.