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Reigning champ Busch suspended for final 2 races

11/13/2005

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Roush Racing put up with Kurt Busch's
reputation for reckless driving on the track. When the defending
Nextel Cup champion was accused of doing it in his own car, the
team had seen enough.

Busch was suspended Sunday for the remainder of the NASCAR
season after his run-in with police, who said he smelled of alcohol
and was belligerent during a traffic stop Friday night.

"It's the last straw for Roush Racing," said Geoff Smith,
president of Roush Racing. "We're officially retiring as Kurt
Busch's apologists effective today."

Kenny Wallace replaced Busch for Sunday's race at Phoenix, where
Busch won in April, and finished 16th. Kyle Busch, Kurt's younger brother, went on to win -- then appeared upset as he lamented that a "true champion" had been taken out of the race.

Busch also will miss next week's Ford 400 in Homestead, Fla.

Busch was pulled over near Phoenix International Raceway for
trying to avoid another car and running a stop sign. Officers said
he smelled of alcohol and became belligerent.

Busch, who has a history of run-ins on and off the track with
drivers and NASCAR officials, was staying in a motorhome outside
the track. He appeared to be holding back tears as he told NBC
Sports that alcohol was not involved in the incident.

"Obviously, I'm upset. It's tough. I'm a race car driver,
there's a race today and I'd love to be in the race," he said.
"My crew, [crew chief] Jimmy Fennig, I have to thank them for what
they gave me. Man, it's just unfortunate. I'd love to be there for
them today.

"That's the decision they made, and I will live with it,"
Busch added.

Busch made the Chase for the championship but was running in
eighth place, virtually eliminated from a shot at winning another
title.

"He's a young man with great potential that has been realized
to an extent, but he's got some challenges building relationships
in the public and the sponsors community to realize that
potential," Roush said. "I wish him well."

Busch is under contract to the Roush team through the end of the
season. He will not be allowed to drive for anyone else in 2005.

"He would have to get permission and we would be very reluctant
to give it," Smith said. "It's very offensive to us that he chose
to take on the arresting officer the way he did verbally. And then
the fact there was alcohol, even in the smallest way, involved."

Busch was not cited for alcohol; a breath test was inconclusive
because the device failed. Police said Busch initially did not stop
when a deputy tried to pull him over and, when Busch did stop, he
was argumentative and uncooperative.

Roush said the sponsors felt he was "in breach of my contract
by allowing that notoriety and embarrassment to be out there
without taking some action. And the only action I felt I could
take, and the one that was agreed upon, was to suspend him for the
balance of the season."

Diageos, which sponsors Busch with its Crown Royal whisky brand,
said it supports the Roush decision. "Diageos does not condone
this type of behavior from anyone affiliated with our brands or our
business," the company said in a statement.

Busch qualified 17th for Sunday's race. He is joining Penske
Racing South next season, taking over the No. 2 Dodge from retiring
Rusty Wallace.

Roger Penske, who will be Busch's new boss, said he was not
involved in the decision to suspend Busch.

"Roush Racing has their business decision to make," Penske
said. "This situation is unfortunate for high-profile athletes who
are under significant scrutiny.

"Kurt made a public apology to the sheriff [Saturday night],"
he added. "We support him 100 percent for the future and we will
work with him to be a great driver."

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said sitting Busch was a team
decision. Asked if NASCAR would take punitive action, Hunter said,
"We'll let the judicial process take its course. He's got a
hearing set in December.

He said NASCAR has not yet spoken with Busch.

"This is not exactly the kind of publicity we like to have in
connection with the Chase or the series itself," he said.

The 27-year-old driver from Las Vegas was punched in the face by
Jimmy Spencer for trying to wreck him. He was called an "arrogant
punk" by Kevin Harvick and is booed by fans who don't like his
aggressive driving.

At Darlington, S.C. in May, Busch 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. He also
tossed a water bottle that hit the NASCAR official in his pit.

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

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said that if Busch gets back to form as a
driver and "takes care of business and makes better decisions off
the track, he can tell everybody just how close he came to screwing
it all up.

"So, hopefully, he can put as positive spin on it and keep a
lot of other people out of trouble in the future. But it's a
dangerous game, man, when you get behind the wheel of a car, no
matter if you just had a couple of martinis -- it don't matter."

Wallace, a full-time driver in the Busch Series, finished 12th
on this track Saturday. He said he got a call about driving Busch's
car about 9 a.m. Sunday.

Wallace, a full-time driver in the Busch Series, finished 12th
on this track Saturday. He said he got a call about driving Busch's
car about 9 a.m. Sunday.

"It's a sad situation, but I'm ready, willing and able to do
this," Wallace said.

The 42-year-old Wallace, a younger brother of Rusty Wallace, has
driven in 308 Cup races, including three this year, since making
his debut in 1990. His last full season in Cup was 2003.

"I'm a Ford driver and I'm here," Wallace said when asked why
he was chosen to fill in for Busch. "It seems like everybody
believes in my talent."

Smith said the deal with Wallace most likely will be only for
this race. Roush driver Todd Kluever, who currently races in the
truck series, is expected to drive at Homestead.