(Reuters) - NASCAR lifted its suspension of Kurt Busch on Wednesday, six days after Delaware authorities declined to bring criminal charges against him in a domestic abuse case involving the star driver’s former girlfriend.
Busch, 36, was kept on “indefinite probation” but was granted a waiver to compete in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s playoff format, should he qualify. Busch missed the first three races of the season during his suspension.
“As we stated last week, the elimination of the possibility of criminal charges removed a significant impediment to Kurt Busch’s return to full status as a NASCAR member,” said NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell.
To participate in the Chase playoffs, a driver must attempt to qualify for all 26 NASCAR races unless granted a waiver.
Patricia Driscoll, 37, said Busch grabbed her by the neck inside his motor home at Dover International Speedway in Delaware on Sept. 26 and slammed her head against a wall.
Kent County Court Commissioner David Jones ruled last month in favor of Driscoll’s request for a no-contact order, saying Busch had likely physically abused Driscoll.
The ruling prompted NASCAR to suspend Busch and forced the mercurial driver known as “The Outlaw” to miss the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s premier event.
The Delaware Attorney General’s Office said last Thursday it would not file criminal charges.
NASCAR said Busch had completed the terms of his reinstatement including “behavioral assessment” sessions.
“It means the world to me, to be back in the car,” Busch told a telephone briefing. “It’s been a tough situation the last few months.”
“I have gone through this with confidence knowing that I know the truth and that I never did any of the things that I was accused of. It was a complete fabrication,” he added.
Busch admits to cupping Driscoll’s cheeks inside the motor home but maintains he never hit her head.
He returns to his No. 41 Chevrolet this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion, has won 25 NASCAR races.
“Even though Kurt remains on indefinite probation under this decision, I‘m deeply concerned about the message NASCAR is sending by letting him compete for the championship after he was found by a judge to have committed an act of domestic violence,” Driscoll said in a statement.
“But I am gratified, at least, that NASCAR’s decision comes with the mandatory condition that he follow through on the treatment he so clearly needs.”
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; additional reporting by Lewis Franck; Editing by Will Dunham