Sports

NASCAR suspension lifted, Kurt Busch makes strong statement in return to racing

  • Kurt Busch waves to fans before a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race on Sunday, March 15, 2015, in Avondale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

    Kurt Busch waves to fans before a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race on Sunday, March 15, 2015, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)  (The Associated Press)

  • Kurt Busch races on the 64th lap during a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race on Sunday, March 15, 2015, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

    Kurt Busch races on the 64th lap during a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race on Sunday, March 15, 2015, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)  (The Associated Press)

After nearly four months of off-track drama, Kurt Busch was finally able to get back into a car and focus only on racing again.

It was liberating for the maligned driver.

Busch made his season debut Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, where he finished fifth in his first race since his NASCAR suspension ended earlier this week.

The 2004 champion was suspended two days before the season-opening Daytona 500 for an alleged domestic assault on an ex-girlfriend. He missed three races and was reinstated after Delaware authorities declined to charge him.

Stewart-Haas Racing promptly returned him to the No. 41 Chevrolet, and he wasted no time earning a strong finish to boost the team that had been patiently awaiting his return.