DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Team owner Tony Stewart has a contingency plan in place should Kurt Busch be unable to drive this season because of his legal troubles.
''I'm very hopeful we won't have to worry about it,'' Stewart said Thursday. ''I feel bad that he's in that situation right now, that they're both in that situation. We have to be smart, and we have to have a plan in place if it doesn't work out for whatever reason.''
Busch's former girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, filed a petition for a protection order in November, claiming that Busch assaulted her inside his motorhome at Dover International Speedway in September, grabbing her by the face and neck and slamming her head three times into a bedroom wall. She said she drove to Dover from her Maryland home to check on Busch after he sent several texts that led her to believe he might be depressed.
Busch, the 2004 NASCAR champion, has continued to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing and expected to drive the No. 41 in the season-opening Daytona 500.
''I feel like it's full throttle, full steam ahead,'' Busch said at Daytona 500 media day.
Busch, 36, has denied the assault allegations. He testified that he repeatedly told Driscoll to leave after she showed up uninvited and unannounced at his motorhome a week after he broke off their relationship. He said Driscoll demanded that he tell her son to his face that their relationship was over, and that she ignored his repeated requests to leave.
Finally, Busch said, he cupped Driscoll's cheeks with his hand, looked her in the eye and told her once again that she needed to leave. A Dover police detective testified that Busch told him Driscoll's head ''tapped'' the wall at that time.
Stewart did not reveal specifics of his plan if Busch is eventually ordered by a court to stay away from his ex-girlfriend and winds up being punished by NASCAR. The Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner said he was surprised Busch's case has dragged to the start of the season.
Busch also complained about the lengthy process that saw him make four days of hearings in December and January.
''We all have to be patient, we all have to understand there's a process we have to respect,'' Busch said. ''The fact that no announcement has come out, each day that goes by continues to be good news.''
Busch said he has kept his patience because he said the told the truth.
''It's a matter of just knowing the truth has been told and we'll see how things unfold,'' he said.