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Kyle Busch 'should go to jail' - residents

26 May 2011

"My granddaughter gets on the bus right here," said Iredell County resident Becky Haney, pointing at the spot where Kyle Busch was clocked at doing 128mph in a 45mph zone. "When I heard that, I thought 'oh my God, I can't believe the man did not, they let him go'."

Kyle Busch and his wife - themselves residents of Iredell County - were pulled over by Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Stone on Tuesday when they were clocked going south at high speed on Perth Road, close to a day care centre, a church and several residential neighborhoods.

As well as the ticket for speeding, Busch also received a second Class 2 misdemeanor for "driving carelessly and heedlessly in willful and wanton disregard of the rights and safety of others" - otherwise known as reckless driving.

According to lawyers, the reckless driving charge alone is punishable by up to 60 days in jail as well as a one year suspended license and $1000 fine when the case is heard in court on July 20.

Local residents think that he should have been in jail already, and that the Iredell Sheriff's Office Deputy let Kyle off because of his sporting fame.

“If it was anyone else, if you're 30mph over, you get arrested…” said Danielle Protain. “The fact that he received preferential treatment is disturbing.”

Iredell Sheriff's Office said the officer involved, Sgt Christopher Stone, "didn't cut any breaks" for Busch and said that it was up to an officer's discretion whether to jail someone for speeding.

Busch "had the proper ID. He was from the area. He was a low risk to flee,", Captain Darren Campbell said in response to local criticism not to take Busch into custody straight away. “The officer didn't cut any breaks. He was charged with going 128. The officer did that and he will be prepared to testify in court, if it comes to that."

A local attorney agreed with the Sheriff's Office, suggesting that to jail Busch at this stage would have been overly penalising Busch for being a celebrity.

“The only reason you want to arrest somebody in a case like this is if you think that they will continue to be a danger to the people on the highways, or that you don't know that they will show up in court," said Ike Avery.

While a jail sentence is entirely possible under the charges, experts seem to agree that the courts will plead it down. Only 2.4% of speeding cases were convicted as charged in recent years, and the regional newspaper The Charlotte Observer opined unhappily that "This state's legal system tends to treat speeding as an innocent prank."

Kyle Busch will face a storm of questions during his scheduled media appearances at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the lead-up to Sunday's Coca Cola 600 endurance event. Immediately after the incident he released a press statement saying that "I was test driving a new sports car, and I got carried away. I went beyond the speed I should have been going on a public road ... I apologise to the public, my fans, sponsors, and race teams for my lack of judgement." However, Busch has since declined to comment further.

A spokesman for Busch's Sprint Cup team, Joe Gibbs Racing, acknowledged that they were aware of the incident but declined to comment as to whether they would lay their own sanctions on their driver.

NASCAR officials also declined to comment, although spokesman Kerry Tharp said the speeding ticket did not violate the probation Busch received for the pit road altercation with Kevin Harvick at Darlington earlier this month and that they did not view it as falling under NASCAR's infamous rule 12-4-A, "actions detrimental to stock car racing."

The usual conspiracy theory suspects were quick to point out another side to the affair: that of everyone involved, Lexus was probably the least unhappy with things, now that suddenly the Lexus LFA hand-built high performance sports coupé is world famous.

"All publicity is good publicity," as the saying goes - so did Lexus actually set up the whole incident by putting the keys into the hands of "Wild Thing" Kyle, the Internet rumour mongers wonder? Did they even mention that a nice little speeding ticket might be worth a bit of extra media coverage?

Even if that unlikely thought actually had been in the back of anyone's mind, going 128mph is surely far more than anyone would have been expecting in the circumstances. If there ever was any PR intention in mind, then it seems to have come aground on the rocks of "Rowdy just being Rowdy."


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