Kurt Busch stands in front of his car during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on Friday.
Kurt Busch stands in front of his car during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on Friday. (Jerry Markland / Getty Images)

Given the opportunity to come back to NASCAR, Kurt Busch has done so with a vengeance.

Since NASCAR lifted its suspension of Busch on March 11 amid domestic-violence allegations against the driver, Busch has returned to racing with laser-like resolve.


Busch, 36, rejoined the Sprint Cup Series a week ago in Phoenix and promptly finished fifth in the 43-car field after qualifying eighth.

Then he came to Fontana and, in addition to being fastest in all three practices, Busch put his No. 41 Chevrolet on the pole for Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway.

"Putting the blinders on and focusing on the car," Busch told reporters Saturday after winning the pole. "It's my passion. And I love to go out there and to drive fast."

It's evident that Busch, aware he's been given another chance, is resolute about quickly winning races and making a bid for NASCAR's Chase for the Cup playoff in the fall.

Publicly, at least, he generally carries a serious manner, smiles little and limits his comments to the issue of racing and love of his team, Stewart-Haas Racing.

"This is a privilege to have a chance to drive at this top level," Busch said. "When it is taken away from you, or you have made a mistake and you don't get a chance to go out there and do it on your terms, it is tough," he said.

Indeed, a month ago it wasn't known when Busch would drive again in the Cup series.

NASCAR suspended Busch indefinitely on the eve of the season-opening Daytona 500 after a family court commissioner in Delaware, David W. Jones, stated that Busch "more likely than not" committed domestic violence against his former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll as Driscoll alleged.

The commissioner's statement came in a court filing underpinning a no-contact order Jones awarded to Driscoll, who alleged the incident occurred last Sept. 26 in Busch's motor coach at Delaware's Dover International Speedway.

Busch denied the allegations. But he subsequently agreed to follow a set of recovery guidelines from NASCAR, which were not disclosed, to be reinstated.

Then, after prosecutors in Delaware said they would not file criminal charges against Busch, NASCAR lifted the suspension. Busch had missed the first three Cup races of the season.

Busch has a history of being temperamental and involved in on- and off-track incidents that got the Las Vegas native into hot water. Two of his former teams dropped him after such outbursts.

This time, Busch's focus on racing appears steadfast so far, and he removed his nickname "Outlaw" from the side of his car and replaced it simply with "Kurt Busch."

Busch has been especially grateful to team co-owner Gene Haas, who personally recruited Busch and whose Oxnard-based Haas Automation Inc., a maker of sophisticated machine tools, sponsors Busch's Chevy.


Busch toured the Oxnard plant and met Haas' employees Thursday. "To feel the love from them was extra special," Busch said. "It's Gene who believed in me . . . and I'm happy to deliver."

Reigning Cup champion Kevin Harvick, a teammate at Stewart-Haas who's won the last two races, said he wasn't surprised that Busch and crew chief Tony Gibson returned to the track so effectively.

"If you look back at the end of last year with Gibson and Kurt, when they ran those last few races, they qualified well and they raced well and … had a good foundation to go into this year," Harvick said.

Harvick qualified second for Sunday's race and his No. 4 Chevrolet will start alongside Busch on the front row.

At Phoenix, Busch said NASCAR Chairman Brian France told him during Busch's hiatus to "go be yourself in that car" but also "be a different person outside of the car." Busch also said his goal was to "let actions speak louder than words" as the resumed racing.

Busch's actions, so far at least, have been loud and clear.

Twitter: @PeltzLATimes

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