CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR lifted its suspension of Kurt Busch on Wednesday and ruled the former champion can compete in the title Chase should he qualify.
Busch missed the first three races of the season when NASCAR suspended him over an alleged domestic assault on his ex-girlfriend, but the Delaware attorney general last week declined to charge him for the September incident with Patricia Driscoll.
NASCAR said Busch remains under indefinite probation, but had complied with its reinstatement requirements.
"We have made it very clear to Kurt Busch our expectations for him moving forward, which includes participation in a treatment program and full compliance with all judicial requirements as a result of his off-track behavior," NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell said when it became clear Busch would not be charged, it "removed a significant impediment" to his reinstatement.
"He has fully complied with our reinstatement program during his suspension and the health care expert who conducted his evaluation recommended his immediate return," O’Donnell said.
Busch will return to his Stewart-Haas Racing team this weekend at Phoenix.
"We appreciate the steps Kurt Busch has made while following NASCAR’s process for reinstatement," SHR general manager Joe Custer said. "He has taken this path seriously, which allowed him to return to our race team. With his reinstatement and the conclusion by the Delaware Attorney General to not file charges, our focus is on the future."
His return was also cleared by Chevrolet, which had suspended its relationship with Busch. SHR is a Chevrolet team, and Jim Campbell, vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports, said the manufacturer "will continue to monitor the situation."
Team co-owner Gene Haas had indicated on Sunday the team’s top concern was Busch’s championship eligibility.
The new Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format introduced last season gives drivers an automatic berth into the 16-driver field with a victory during the regular season. But, a driver must be ranked inside the top 30 in points to use that automatic berth.
Busch currently has no points in the No. 41 Chevrolet, a car Haas pays for out of pocket specifically for Busch.
Busch still must comply with guidelines set by Family Court Commissioner David Jones, who granted the no-contact order for Driscoll that led to his Feb. 20 suspension, two days before the season-opening race at Daytona. Jones wrote in his opinion that he believed there’s real possibility Busch will lash out again and has a propensity to lose control in response to disappointing or frustrating situations involving racing.
Jones ordered Busch to be evaluated to see if there is a "treatable mental health condition." He also said Busch must follow any suggested treatment plans.
Busch is appealing Jones’ ruling, and NASCAR will allow that to play out.