NASCAR driver Kurt Busch flaunted his celebrity status and hurled insults at Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies Friday night before being detained on suspicion of drunken driving, sheriff’s officials said.
But the reigning Nextel Cup champion from Las Vegas, who tested positive for alcohol during a roadside breath test, was eventually released with a reckless driving citation when the Breathalyzer machine malfunctioned during a second test, said sheriff’s Lt. Paul Chagolla.
Deputies did not draw blood from Busch for analysis even though an officer smelled alcohol on the driver’s breath. Instead, deputies released him into the custody of race team officials.
Busch was stopped at 8:20 p.m. after a deputy saw him take evasive action to avoid rear-ending another vehicle. Chagolla said Busch then ran a stop sign about two miles from Phoenix International Raceway, where the 27-year-old is scheduled to race today in the Checker Auto Parts
Busch did not immediately stop for a deputy trying to pull him over, Chagolla said.
Busch handed the deputy his driver’s license and NASCAR identification and became increasingly uncooperative, Chagolla said. The deputies called a supervisor for backup.
"He made comments like, ‘Don’t you know who I am? You’re making a mistake,’ " Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.
Busch also reportedly insulted the deputies and called them names.
The deputy smelled alcohol on Busch’s breath, and a preliminary breath test showed the presence of alcohol, Chagolla said.
Busch, who refused to take field sobriety tests, was taken to a sheriff’s command post at PIR for a breath alcohol test. But the machine failed for an unknown reason, Chagolla said. Roadside breath tests are not admissible in court.
The deputy ultimately decided to release Busch with a criminal traffic citation for reckless driving.
Chagolla said that decision was made because there wasn’t enough time under state law to take Busch to another facility to use a machine. Breath tests must be completed within two hours of the stop.
Chagolla added that Busch’s blood was not drawn to determine his blood alcohol content because a phlebotomist was not present.
It was unclear why Busch was not taken to a phlebotomist, since it is common for blood samples to be obtained after the two-hour mark, according to police officers familiar with DUI law.
"You can’t hold someone indefinitely," Chagolla said. "The machine failed. The deputy used his discretion to issue a criminal citation to Mr. Busch based on his driving behavior and roadside observations. He made his decision based on what he had in front of him."
Busch’s court date is Dec. 22 in Tolleson Justice Court.
NASCAR fans at PIR Saturday were abuzz about Busch’s confrontation.
"He needs to be in there with the rest of them in Tent City," said Lee Milam, of Columbus, Miss., referring to the county’s Tent City Jail.
NASCAR officials did not immediately discipline Busch for the incident.
"He got a traffic ticket," said Jim Hunter, vice president of corporate communications for NASCAR. "Anything else, you’d have to ask Kurt Busch."
Busch was unavailable for comment, but media reports say he later apologized.