NASCAR on Friday suspended driver Kurt Busch indefinitely after a family court judge said it was "more likely than not" that Busch committed domestic violence against an ex-girlfriend last fall.
The action against Busch, a 36-year-old former champion, came shortly before Sunday's Daytona 500, the crown-jewel race and season opener in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series.
Busch's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement that Busch, who has denied the allegations, would immediately appeal NASCAR's decision.
Drivers occasionally are penalized for infractions but seldom suspended from races. But NASCAR said Busch was suspended from all NASCAR activities due to "the serious nature" of the findings by David W. Jones, a family court commissioner in Kent County, Del.
Busch had driven the No. 41 Chevrolet for the Stewart-Haas Racing team and was set to start 24th in the 43-car field for the Daytona 500.
Chevrolet also immediately cut ties with Busch indefinitely.
Before Hardin issued his statement, Stewart-Haas Executive Vice President Joe Custer said in a statement that "we understand NASCAR's position regarding Kurt Busch and accept their decision."
The team said Regan Smith will replace Busch on Sunday.
Jones' findings came in a 25-page court filing supporting his decision Monday to grant Busch's ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, a no-contact order against Busch.
Jones' order, which is good for a year, stated Busch generally must stay 100 yards from Driscoll and is barred from contacting her. Jones' decision followed four days of hearings in December and January.
A "preponderance of the evidence" showed Busch abused Driscoll by "manually strangling" her and smashing her head against a wall inside his motor home during an argument at Dover (Del.) International Speedway last September, Jones' filing stated.
Driscoll's allegations against Busch also are being weighed by the Delaware attorney general's office, which has yet to decide whether to prosecute Busch on criminal charges.
In announcing Busch's plan to appeal his suspension, Hardin said he had "newly available evidence" that would contradict Driscoll's testimony and that "when the truth is known, Mr. Busch will be fully vindicated and back in the driver's seat."
"We assure everyone, including NASCAR, that this action against Mr. Busch will turn out to be a travesty of justice, apparent to all, as this story continues to unfold," Hardin said.
Busch, nicknamed "The Outlaw," has had a series of on- and off-track incidents in his career and has been suspended twice before.
He was suspended by NASCAR for one race in 2012 for threatening a reporter, and he was suspended from the final two races in 2005 by his team at the time, now called Roush-Fenway Racing, after he was pulled over by police in Arizona.
Busch, who won the Cup championship in 2004, has 25 career wins in the series. The latest victory came last year in Martinsville, Va., in his first season with Stewart-Haas.