Reigning champ cited only for reckless driving

Updated: November 12, 2005, 11:34 PM ET
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- NASCAR driver Kurt Busch was detained on suspicion of drunken driving and cited for reckless driving after a confrontation with police near the track where the NASCAR champion is to race Sunday.

Kurt Busch
Busch

Busch was stopped Friday night after trying to avoid another car and running a stop sign about 2 miles from Phoenix International Raceway, said Lt. Paul Chagolla

"As a result of the roadside investigation, the deputy did take Mr. Busch into custody for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol," Lt. Chagolla said.

Chagolla said the deputy smelled alcohol on Busch, but the driver refused to perform standard field sobriety tests. Busch did submit to a field breath alcohol test, and the device showed the presence of alcohol.

The deputy drove Busch to the raceway, where a sheriff's facility is located, to administer another breath test but the machine there failed. The deputy then decided to cite Busch for reckless driving and he was released, Chagolla said.

Busch was spotted driving about 60 mph in a 45-mph zone, Chagolla said. A deputy tried to pull Busch over but there was some delay, Chagolla said. When he did stop, Busch was argumentative and uncooperative, Chagolla said. The deputy then called for a supervisor.

"This is Maricopa County and our streets are not to be used as raceways," sheriff Joe Arpaio said. "He ought to confine his speeding to the racetrack. And I don't like anybody being abusive to my deputies -- I don't care who they are."

Busch released a statement Saturday night apologizing to the sheriff's department.

"I regret the incident that occurred …," Busch said. "It is important to understand that this citation is not alcohol related. I want to apologize to the Maricopa County sheriff's department for my actions."

Busch, the reigning Nextel Cup champion, is in Phoenix to race in Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500. Busch, eighth in points for the season, qualified 17th for the race.

The driver got his release from Roush Racing earlier this week and plans to join Penske Racing South next season, taking over the No. 2 Dodge from retiring Rusty Wallace.

Neither Busch, his representatives nor the Penske team could be reached for comment.

Jack Roush, Busch's current car owner, said he doesn't play to take punitive action against the driver.

"I don't plan to take any action myself," he said. "I'm not looking down the road with Kurt, based on the fact that he has his release and he'll be doing something else. He'll be under new management and new oversight next year and I'll just stand aside and watch and see how that works out for him."

Roush said he had not talked with Busch or any of his representatives and did not know the facts of the incident. Asked how this situation might impact Crown Royal, a distilled Canadian whisky that is Busch's current sponsor, Roush said, "It would be an issue for Crown Royal, I'm sure, if that proves to be a fact, and going down the road with that relationship.

"But, happily, I feel we that we can stand aside of it now and say it's none of my affair."

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said: "It's a traffic ticket as far as we know."

Busch's truculent behavior on and off the track has gotten him in trouble with NASCAR and other drivers in the past.

The 27-year-old driver from Las Vegas was punched in the face by Jimmy Spencer for trying to deliberately wreck him. He was called "an arrogant punk" by Kevin Harvick and is booed by fans who dislike his aggressive driving.

Busch got into trouble with NASCAR again at Darlington, S.C., in May when he refused to go where he was told after returning to the track following a crash. He then was called into the pits for a penalty and responded with expletives directed at NASCAR officials over his car radio. He also tossed a water bottle that hit the NASCAR official in his pit.

NASCAR officials said his behavior was not "befitting of a champion."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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