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Did deputy's discretion amount to a break?

Some neighbors decry potential danger after NASCAR star cited for doing 128 in a 45-mph zone

- cwootson@charlotteobserver.com; gwright@charlotteobserver.com; sryan@charlotteobserver.com
Wednesday, May. 25, 2011

TROUTMAN, N.C. – A day after NASCAR driver Kyle Busch was ticketed for speeding 128 mph on a two-lane, 45 mph road, nearby residents were incensed that the millionaire race car driver may have put them at risk and somehow avoided going to jail.

An Iredell County deputy stopped Busch in a Lexus supercar near a Lake Norman subdivision Tuesday afternoon, not far from a day care, a church and several neighborhoods. Busch told the officer the high-performance car, which lists for around $350,000, was “just a toy.”

The incident led residents to wonder whether police cut Busch a break because of his celebrity status.

“If it was anyone else, if you’re 30 mph over, you get arrested…” said Danielle Protain, 38. “The fact that he received preferential treatment is disturbing.”

But the Iredell Sheriff’s Office said the officer involved in the case “didn’t cut any breaks” for Busch, who’s still scheduled to race in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Busch and his wife were in a yellow Lexus LFA going south on Perth Road Tuesday when they passed Iredell Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Stone, his office said.

Busch, who lives in Iredell, was charged with speeding and driving recklessly, both misdemeanors, and given a court date of July 20.

Busch is expected to answer questions from the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday, but he and NASCAR officials declined comment on Wednesday. In a statement and apology released Tuesday, Busch said he was test-driving a new sports car and “got carried away.”

A spokesman for Busch’s team, Joe Gibbs Racing, said the organization was aware of the incident and was looking into it.

NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said the speeding ticket does not violate the probation Busch received from the sanctioning body for a pit road altercation at Darlington, S.C., this month.

People who live near the Lake Norman Gardens subdivision were outraged.

Kim Shaw, 39, who was hosting a play date for her two children, said the incident “could have really turned into something terrible.”

“There’s a lot of traffic, especially concerning kids,” she said. “There’s mothers going to pick up their kids at school, school buses dropping off. I didn’t even care who it was. The 128 was just flabbergasting to me. I was just shocked at that. I can’t even perceive going that fast”

Capt. Darren Campbell, with the Iredell Sheriff’s Office, said it’s up to an officer’s discretion whether to jail someone for speeding.

Busch “had the proper ID. He was from the area. He was a low risk to flee,” Campbell said Wednesday. “The officer didn’t cut any breaks. (Busch) was charged with going 128. The officer did that and he will be prepared to testify in court, if it comes to that.”

Ike Avery, a former attorney for the N.C. Highway Patrol, agreed that officers must weigh a variety of factors in speeding cases.

“The only reason you want to arrest somebody in a case like this is if you think that they will continue to be a danger to the people on the highways, or that you don’t know that they will show up in court,” he said.

Staff writer Jim Utter and researcher Maria David contributed.

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