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Archive for Saturday, November 19, 2005

Commentary: Roush made right call on Busch

November 19, 2005

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— Giving Kurt Busch the benefit of every possible doubt in what happened last week in Maricopa County, Ariz., he at the very least got on the wrong side of a law-enforcement officer in a roadside stop.

One day, perhaps, he will figure out there's no future in that.

We're now being told he registered a .017 on a preliminary sobriety test he took after being pulled over and eventually charged with reckless driving. A subsequent test at a sheriff's office station at Phoenix International Raceway was not completed because of a machine malfunction.

That means Busch's blood-

alcohol level was well below the legal limit of .08 for a driving under the influence charge under Arizona law. But that does not constitute exoneration for Busch. A person's actions don't have to be criminal to be irresponsible.

If you're impaired while driving in any way - whether it's by alcohol or drugs or even by being distracted by the radio or a cell phone - and something bad happens, that's on you.

From an alcohol standpoint, when Busch signed on as driver of a car partially sponsored by Crown Royal whiskey and its "Drink Responsibly" program, he knew he was agreeing to a standard beyond anything in state statutes.

If he had any alcohol in his system when he was pulled over while driving a car, he fell short of that standard.

So, I think Roush Racing and its sponsors made the right decision to pull Busch out of the No. 97 Ford for the season's final two races. Kenny Wallace will drive that car again this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But that decision doesn't give the folks who made it the moral high ground.

Saturday at the track, as news of the incident was first getting out, Roush Racing almost seemed to be enjoying the predicament Busch, the reigning Nextel Cup champion, had put himself into.

Busch is leaving Roush Racing after this season to join Penske South, where he'll drive the No. 2 Dodge. The deal to allow that to happen in 2006 was finalized just five days before the incident in Arizona, and it's interesting to speculate what might have happened had Busch's mistake come before that deal was done.

As it stands now, unless there's a total refutation of what's been reported, what happened in Phoenix will affect how Miller can utilize its new driver in its marketing campaigns.

But the people who are praising Roush Racing, or its sponsors, or NASCAR, or anybody else for "taking a stand" by yanking Busch out of his car are off base.

After the decision, Roush Racing President Geoff Smith said the team was through being Busch's official apologists.

It was a snappy quote. But wasn't Smith really saying that as long as Busch was a driver for the team, it was Roush Racing's job to be his apologist? Where's the high ground there?

If the same incident had happened a year earlier, on the Phoenix race weekend in 2004 when Busch was leading in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, would Roush Racing have pulled him out of the car?

If it had, that would have been a stand. But do you think that would have happened?

That's your call.

But I know what I think.

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