Diversity Program lawsuit settled: A discrimination lawsuit filed by a former candidate for NASCAR's Drive For Diversity program was settled Tuesday afternoon. Michael Rodriguez, a former two-time Pennsylvania karting champion and youngest Super Late Model winner at Mountain (St. John's, Pa.) Speedway, claimed in his lawsuit that he lost his opportunity to participate for appearing "too Caucasian," and that's why NASCAR rejected him at age 15 and 16 from trying out for the Drive For Diversity program in 2005 and 2006. Rodriguez filed the suit against NASCAR and Access Communications, the company NASCAR hired from 2004-2008 to administer its diversity program to increase minorities' participation in the sport, in U.S. District Court in January 2010, and the trial began Monday in Charlotte. But after a day of jury selection, opening statements and testimony by Rodriguez's father, the sides said Tuesday morning they had come to an agreement. NASCAR was dismissed outright as a defendant to the suit, while Access and Rodriguez worked out a settlement. The Rodriguez family declined to speak about the details of the settlement. Now 22 and not having driven in four years because of a lack of funding, Rodriguez said the settlement will allow him to compete in some ARCA races.(Sporting News)(6-5-2012)
Driver sues NASCAR, "too Caucasian'? UPDATE An aspiring stock-car driver is suing NASCAR, claiming he was denied the opportunity to compete in NASCAR's diversity program because he looks "too Caucasian." NASCAR argues that in trying to change the "face" of the sport, it has the right to select drivers for its diversity program based on skin color, attorneys for the sanctioning body and its former diversity program administrators have told a U.S. District court. Michael Rodriguez, a driver from Pennsylvania, says in his complaint filed in U.S. District Court that he was denied the opportunity to compete in the 2005 and 2006 Drive For Diversity combines. Rodriguez is suing NASCAR and Access Communications, which operated NASCAR's diversity program from its inception in 2004 until 2008 and conducted the combines that are designed for teams in NASCAR's regional series to scout minority drivers. NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program was created to develop minority drivers and crewmen and help them advance through the NASCAR ranks with the goal of reaching the sport's top series. Since 2004, the program has included 41 drivers, with most being selected multiple times. There currently are six drivers in the program racing in various NASCAR regional series.(full article at the Sporting News)(4-20-2012)
UPDATE: A federal judge has denied NASCAR’s request to throw out a lawsuit by an aspiring driver who was invited to its 2005 Drive For Diversity combine but claims he was discriminated against when he never made it onto the track. Michael Rodriguez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, filed the lawsuit in January 2010 claiming NASCAR and Access Communications, which operated the diversity program, violated his civil rights. He is asking for unspecified damages.(more at the Sporting News)(4-24-2012)
Judge dismisses lawsuit against NASCAR: A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a fuel and oil performance additive company against NASCAR concerning a $6.295 million deal. Advanced Fluids Solutions, which wanted to market its new EXP4 fuel and oil performance additive through the "NASCAR Performance" program, had agreed to pay the amount during a period of seven years, beginning in 2010. According to the complaint, the company never paid its original $500,000 payment due at the execution of the contract in October 2009 but alleged that NASCAR did not give proper written notice before terminating the agreement in December 2009. U.S. District Court Judge Anne Conway ruled that NASCAR was within its right to terminate the contract and dismissed the suit Tuesday. The suit was filed in Florida court before being moved to federal court in January 2011.(full story abd details at SceneDaily)(7-28-2011)
Advanced Fluids and NASCAR lawsuit: Advanced Fluids Solutions, wanted to market its new EXP4 fuel and oil performance additive through the "NASCAR Performance" program, it had agreed to pay $6.295 million over seven years, according to the contract that is now part of a lawsuit between Advanced Fluids and NASCAR. The lawsuit originally was filed last month in Volusia County Circuit Court, and NASCAR had the case moved Friday to United States District Court in Orlando. The program was scheduled to start in 2010 but never began because Advanced Fluids, according to its lawsuit complaint, had not paid its original $500,000 payment due at the execution of the contract in October 2009, and NASCAR terminated the deal in December 2009. Advanced Fluids alleges in its complaint that NASCAR illegally terminated the agreement because NASCAR did not give proper written notice that Advanced Fluids was in default and continued to talk to the company during the time it was trying to get the funding finalized. The company is asking for its sponsorship with NASCAR to be reinstated. NASCAR denies the claims and has filed a motion to dismiss the case.(Sporting News)(1-13-2011)
DEI being sued: Dale Earnhardt Inc., founded by the late seven-time Nascar champion, was sued by a financial firm that accuses it of reneging on a deal to sell the firm a $3.25 million claim in General Motors Corp.’s bankruptcy. The Seaport Group LLC, based in New York, sued Feb. 25 in federal court in New York. The company wants the court to force Dale Earnhardt Inc. to deliver the claim or to award money damages. “After DEI signed a binding contract to sell its claim to Seaport, the value of the claim increased dramatically, and DEI refused to honor the deal,” Seaport Group wrote in its complaint. Dale Earnhardt Inc., based in Mooresville, North Carolina, agreed to sell the claim for $783,604, according to the complaint. A call to DEI wasn’t answered.(Business Week))(3-2-2010)
Bruton Smith suing Wayne Newton: Las Vegas Motor Speedway executive O. Bruton Smith is suing singer Wayne Newton, charging Newton is delinquent on a $3.35 million loan and seeking to foreclose on Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah ranch in Las Vegas. The lawsuit was filed in Clark County District in Las Vegas Feb. 9 by Smith, chairman and chief executive of Speedway Motorsports Inc., against Newton, his wife, Kathleen McCrone Newton, Newton company Desert Eagle LLC and a Newton Living Trust dated Dec. 19, 2001. The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Mark Ferrario and Brandon Roos of the Las Vegas office of the law firm Greenberg Traurig on behalf of Smith, whose company based in Concord, N.C., owns tracks around the country for NASCAR and other races. Smith is also the chairman and chief executive of automotive retailer Sonic Automotive Inc. of Charlotte, N.C. The suit says that in March 2006, when Wayne Newton and Smith were friends, the Newtons approached Smith and asked him to assist the Newtons and Desert Eagle in obtaining a $3.75 million loan from Bank of America by providing a personal guarantee. The suit says Wayne Newton planned to refinance existing debt with B of A and that the loan would be secured by Newton’s 38-acre residence in Las Vegas at Pecos and Sunset roads and by a private jet valued at more than $2 million.(see full article at the Las Vegas Sun)(2-18-2010)
Driver suing NASCAR after exclusion from "Drive for Diversity": A blond, blue-eyed Puerto Rican driver claims NASCAR excluded him from its "Drive for Diversity" program and derided him as "the poster boy for the Ku Klux Klan" because he doesn't fit its idea of what a minority should be. Michael Rodriguez says he was unanimously chosen by a NASCAR selection committee to drive in a Combine at South Boston Speedway in Virginia, a two-day event to assess driving skills and train driver for media exposure. But when he arrived, he says, he received nothing but disdain and scorn from event officials, most of whom were black, and he was barred from participating. Through Drive for Diversity, NASCAR and co-defendant Access Marketing & Communications promised to provide opportunities for female and minority drivers, with the goal of facilitating the trickle-down diversification of NASCAR's audience base. But Rodriguez says that during a meeting where NASCAR and Access selected drivers, his photo was placed on a projector and one official said, "He is the poster boy for the Ku Klux Klan and we can't have him at the Combine." Rodriguez seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations.(Courthouse News Service )(1-22-2010)
Teams/tracks sue GM: Two teams and three tracks have filed claims against the former General Motors, which was restructured this summer during bankruptcy. Dale Earnhardt Inc. has filed a claim for $3.2 million based on a written contract DEI had with General Motors. JR Motorsports has filed a claim for $198,000 based on a sponsorship contract. Three tracks also have filed claims based on hospitality agreements. Daytona International Speedway seeks $651,018.75; Richmond International Raceway seeks $65,700 and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., seeks $45,500 [all are owned by ISC](Roanoke Times)(11-26-2009)
Almirola drops lawsuit: Aric Almirola has dropped his breach-of-contract lawsuit against Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. Almirola, who drove in seven Sprint Cup races this year for the team before his car was parked because of a lack of sponsorship, filed the complaint earlier this month in North Carolina Superior Court. He had it dismissed last Thursday, according to court records.(SceneDaily)(11-26-2009)
Almirola files lawsuit: Aric Almirola has filed a lawsuit in North Carolina Superior Court alleging that Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. have breached their contract with him. Almirola, who drove in seven Sprint Cup races this year for the team before his car was parked because of a lack of sponsorship, filed the complaint last Thursday. DEI had announced last year that Almirola would run a full season in 2009, but the organization later merged its Cup operation with Chip Ganassi Racing to form Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. The complaint does not detail the circumstances surrounding the breach-of-contract claim and asks the court to refer the matter to arbitration. Almirola had filed two notices of a claim last month, and he had until Thursday to file the actual complaint. He is dismissing his claim against Chip Ganassi Racing and EGR co-owner Teresa Earnhardt but proceeding in the one against EGR and DEI. The team had no comment.(SceneDaily)(11-11-2009)
Almirola files papers against EGR: Aric Almirola has filed paperwork in North Carolina Superior Court indicating that he has a breach-of-contract dispute with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. Almirola, who competed in seven Sprint Cup races this year for the team before his [#8 Chevy] car was parked because of a lack of sponsorship, filed the notice in the Charlotte court last Friday [10-16], asking for 20 days to file a complaint in the matter. This type of request results in a summons to the other party and typically is filed to start a civil action but the person hopes the matter gets settled before having to file the lawsuit specifics. Almirola indicates that the nature of his claim is breach of contract and unfair and deceptive trade practices. Almirola filed two notices, one against EGR and DEI and another against Chip Ganassi Racing and team co-owner Teresa Earnhardt. Almirola had a contract with DEI, which merged its Cup operation with Chip Ganassi Racing at the end of the 2008 season to form Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. He has until Nov. 5 to file an actual complaint. “We’re disappointed at the situation with Aric but are hopeful that we will come to an agreement soon,” EGR spokesman John Olguin said. Almirola has 26 career Sprint Cup starts, with a career best finish of eighth at Bristol in March 2008. He drove in 17 races in 2007 and 2008 as he shared the ride with Mark Martin in the #8 Chevy at DEI.(SceneDaily)(10-22-2009)
- NASCAR sues plane maker over crash that killed 5: NASCAR and one of its companies are suing Cessna for damages, saying the aircraft company's negligence and its faulty plane are responsible for a crash last year that killed five people. The plane that slammed into two houses in Sanford [FL] in July 2007 was "unreasonably dangerous and defective," and Cessna's instructions, warnings, inspections and repairs for the aircraft were inadequate, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in circuit court. Cessna attorneys could not be reached for comment, and a spokesman for the Kansas-based company said he couldn't discuss pending litigation. The spokesman did say he's not sure if anyone else has sued Cessna over the July 2007 crash. The amount of money sought in the lawsuit is not specified, but NASCAR has already paid at least $1 million to the family of one of the two men killed in the plane, 56-year-old Michael Klemm, a NASCAR pilot. Klemm and 54-year-old Dr. Bruce Kennedy flew together in the Cessna 310R the morning of July 10, 2007. The two men were on a recreational flight from Daytona Beach to Lakeland. Ten minutes after they got into the air, they began experiencing problems in the cockpit of the twin engine aircraft. Klemm and Kennedy were one minute shy of an emergency landing at Sanford Orlando International Airport, but suddenly the plane veered to the right, clipped a tree and crashed into two houses inside The Preserve at Lake Monroe subdivision in Sanford. Both men were killed on impact. Kennedy's widow is Lesa France Kennedy, president of NASCAR sister company International Speedway Corp. The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet released its final report on the cause of the crash. But NASCAR already believes the accident was caused by an electrical fault in the aircraft wiring installed in the aircraft by the manufacturer in 1977. Since 1983, 461 accidents have involved a Cessna 310 model, according to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation accident database. Of those accidents, 137 involved at least one fatality. Cessna spokesman Doug Oliver has said in the past that Cessna 310s have "millions of flights hours and an excellent safety record."(Daytona Beach News Journal)(11-28-2008)
- Motorcoach driver lawsuit fails again: A U.S. District Court Judge has dismissed a second lawsuit that David Scott, a black motorcoach driver who worked for Penske Racing, had filed against NASCAR stemming from a highly publicized 1999 incident at New Hampshire International Speedway. The incident occurred when Scott was greeted by a pair of motorcoach drivers, one of whom was wearing a white pillow case over his head as if he were a member of the Ku Klux Klan. NASCAR indefinitely suspended the two motorcoach drivers involved. Scott had claimed NASCAR and sister company International Speedway Corp. discriminated against him by not granting him a vendor contract he sought and that NASCAR discriminated against him for not following through with an alleged promise to hire him following the incident. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in New York City. Judge Deborah Batts ruled in January that the statute of limitations had passed for all of the allegations except for the vendor-contract situation. The judge had ordered Scott to re-file the lawsuit to assert a plausible claim and the grounds for it. The judge then dismissed the remainder of the case Wednesday, ruling that the new complaint did not expand on the original one. “[Scott] was given explicit direction as to what set of facts could survive another motion to dismiss but chose not to change a single word in the description of the underlying events,” Judge Batts wrote. In past court filings, NASCAR says that Scott was given several work opportunities that were declined and he was not qualified for the racing official job he wanted. Scott can ask the judge to reconsider her ruling and also can appeal the judge’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.(SceneDaily)(3-21-2008)
- Former motorcoach driver re-files discrimination suit: David Scott, a black motorcoach driver who worked for Penske Racing, has re-filed his discrimination complaint against NASCAR stemming from a highly publicized 1999 incident at New Hampshire International Speedway. The incident occurred when Scott was greeted by a pair of motorcoach drivers, one of whom was wearing a white pillow case over his head as if he were a member of the Ku Klux Klan. NASCAR indefinitely suspended the two motorcoach drivers involved. Scott claims NASCAR and sister company International Speedway Corp. discriminated against him by not granting him a vendor contract he sought and that NASCAR discriminated against him for not following through with an alleged promise to hire him following the incident. The new suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, lists NASCAR, ISC, NASCAR President Mike Helton and former Chief Operating Officer George Pyne as defendants and claims $40 million in damages. Scott had to re-file the lawsuit after a judge ruled in January that the statute of limitations had passed for other allegations. The new complaint details conversations between Scott and Helton and Scott and Pyne in the days and months after the incident where he says he was promised a job by NASCAR. In past court filings, NASCAR says that Scott was given several work opportunities that were declined and he was not qualified for the racing official job he wanted. In the new complaint, Scott alleges that NASCAR and ISC conspired with Penske Racing to keep him from suing – he had signed a severance agreement with Penske where he was given a two-year severance package as long as he didn’t talk about the incident nor sue. He alleges the confidentiality agreement was broken because Pyne knew about the agreement. Scott claims damages of $10 million and asks for punitive damages against NASCAR, ISC, Pyne and Helton of $27 million. He indicated he also has incurred legal costs of $3 million.(SceneDaily.com)(2-29-2008)
- Fanview lawsuit settled: A federal lawsuit involving NASCAR and the technology used for the Fanview device has been settled, according to a statement by the companies involved. Immersion Entertainment had sued Kangaroo Media, NASCAR and Sprint Nextel in U.S. District Court in Texas last year alleging patent infringement.
Immersion alleged that Fanview, developed by Kangaroo Media, used devices or systems covered by patents owned by Immersion. Fanview is a handheld device fans can purchase or rent at the track to watch television feeds, look up race statistics and listen to in-car radio of various teams. According to a Kangaroo Media news release, the settlement agreement covers Kangaroo and the other defendants. Additionally, Immersion granted Kangaroo rights in all issued patents and pending applications relating to Immersion's intellectual property portfolio and technology. Kangraoo has paid Immersion $2 million and will pay royalties on sales beginning this year. Minimum royalties are $1 million for 2008 and 2009. At the end of 2010, Kangaroo will have the option to retain the exclusive worldwide rights to Immersion's intellectual property portfolio, subject to minimum yearly royalty payments. The settlement documents are not yet available through the federal court system's online records.(SceneDaily.com)(2-5-2008)
- Marlin settles with Ginn: Veteran Nextel Cup driver Sterling Marlin said he has settled his legal issues with his former team owner, Bobby Ginn. Marlin and former Ginn teammate, Joe Nemechek, along with two crew chiefs, sued Ginn for breach of contract after they were cut from the team in July. "He did what he said he was going to do," Marlin said Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. "We got it straightened out this week. We're square." Marlin would not offer specifics but said he was satisfied with the result. He said he has not spoken to Ginn since July. "I let the lawyers handle it and it all got taken care of," Marlin said. As for next year, Marlin said he expects to run about 10 races with James Finch. He will run the Daytona 500 and the races at Talladega Superspeedway. "But from there on out, I don't know," Marlin said.(ESPN.com)(11-12-2007)
- Four court cases against Ginn dismissed, settled? Former Ginn Racing drivers Joe Nemechek and Sterling Marlin as well as former crew chiefs Peter Sospenzo and Richard "Slugger" Labbe apparently have reached settlements with former team owner Bobby Ginn. All four cases - filed in North Carolina Superior Court in Concord, N.C. - have been dismissed, indicating that settlements have been reached. The drivers and crew chiefs were asking for the fulfillment of their contracts. The case files do not indicate how much they were paid, only that the drivers and crew chiefs have dismissed their claims. Ginn Racing merged with Dale Earnhardt Inc. in July, leaving Nemechek, Marlin, Sospenzo and Labbe as well as several other crew members without jobs. There are still two lawsuits involving other crew members pending against Ginn.(SceneDaily.com)(11-6-2007)
- More on the Marlin-Nemechek-Ginn Lawsuit: Bobby Ginn said Tuesday he's surprised by a lawsuit that claims he hasn't honored the contracts for Sterling Marlin, Joe Nemechek and two crew chiefs. All four lost their jobs when Ginn Racing merged with Dale Earnhardt Inc. in late July. The four filed separate lawsuits against both teams last week in Cabarrus County, claiming they are owed their salaries. The suits don't specify what the parties are seeking, but claim they have demanded payment, and the teams have either failed or refused to comply. "Sterling and Joe's contracts ran through the end of the year, and I have paid them through August -- all of their winnings and salary, per the contract," Ginn said. "And I intend to pay through the end of the year. I always have." Ginn said that crew chiefs Richard "Slugger" Labbe and Peter Sospenzo were given severance packages when they were let go, and said he's honored it and payments are up to date. "This totally surprised me, and it looks to me like they are trying to ask for something over and above and they are just not entitled to," Ginn said. Marlin did not return a telephone message Tuesday, while Nemechek and the crew chiefs could not be reached. DEI, also named in the suit, said it was never a party to the contracts in question and the obligation to honor the agreements falls on Ginn.(AP/ESPN.com), see past news on this and more on the lawsuit, see my Lawsuit News page.(9-12-2007)
- Marlin, Nemechek file lawsuit against Ginn Racing, DEI Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek have sued Ginn Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. for alleged breaches of their contracts, which included a base salary of $1.2 million apiece. The separate suits, filed Sept. 7 in Cabarrus County, N.C., do not specify how much they have been paid or what they exactly are owed. Also suing Ginn and DEI are crew chiefs Richard "Slugger" Labbe and Peter Sospenzo. Ginn and DEI merged prior to the Indianapolis race in July, and Marlin and Nemechek found themselves without a place in the organization. The points of the #14 of Marlin ended up moving to the #15 of DEI with Paul Menard as the driver, while the #13 Nemechek team was eliminated. "Demand for payment has been made ..., but [Ginn and DEI] have failed and/or refused to pay all or any part," the complaints state. The contracts of both drivers and both crew chiefs were filed as part of the complaints and give an insight to what the current rate is for drivers. Both drivers joined the organization when it was MB2 Motorsports. Marlin began in 2006 with a base salary of $1.1 million, and that increased to $1.2 million for 2007. Nemechek started with MB2 in 2004 and received $900,000 for 2004, $1 million for 2005, $1.1 million for 2006 and $1.2 million for 2007. Both drivers got to keep 45% of their race winnings (Nemechek, who was 27th in points in 2006, had $4,099,914 million total in race winnings last year, while Marlin, 34th in points, had $3,248,034 million) and 33% of souvenir sales. Their bonus schedules were $50,000 per win, $25,000 for a top-five, $10,000 for a top-10 and $5,000 per pole. Winning a Cup title was worth a $500,000 bonus, while second through fifth in the final standings were worth $250,000; sixth through 10th were $150,000; 11th through 15th were $100,000 and 16th through 20th were $50,000. Each received a $500 per race travel allowance, a seat on the team plane and a hotel room for each race. They also got a personal car. They agreed to 50 hours of personal appearances for a sponsor plus two days for commercials or media events as well as unlimited track hospitality visits not to exceed 30 minutes in length. They were both responsible for their own insurance. There is a morals clause in each contract stating they "shall not associate with gamblers or other notorious characters; shall not use illegal drugs; and shall not consume alcoholic beverages except in moderation but in no event within eight hours prior to driving in a race or practice."
As far as the crew chiefs, Labbe, hired as the crew chief for Marlin in August 2006, and Sospenzo, hired as crew chief for Nemechek in October 2006, were earning $450,000 annual salaries. Labbe was guaranteed another $50,000 if his bonus money didn't reach that amount, while Sospenzo was guaranteed $25,000. Their bonuses were $20,000 for a win, $10,000 for second-fifth, $5,000 for sixth-10th, $2,500 for 11th-15th and $1,000 for a pole. A season championship was worth $100,000, second-fifth ($75,000) and sixth-10th were $50,000 for Labbe and sixth-12th were $50,000 for Sospenzo. They also got a personal vehicle as well as reimbursement for motorhome expenses. They agreed to make 10 away-from-the-track appearances. They also signed confidentiality agreements related to technical data and car setups. They also agreed that if they left they company, they would not attempt to hire any crew members for a year.(SceneDaily.com)(9-10-2007)
- NASCAR sued for racial discrimination: A former African-American crewman who once worked on NASCAR's Winston Cup circuit sued the governing body of the U.S. stock car series on Tuesday for race discrimination and breach of contract. David Scott, who worked as a motorcoach driver to one of the racing teams, claimed NASCAR executives deceived him and did not fulfill promises of a job following a well-publicized 1999 racial incident involving white motorcoach drivers, according to the complaint filed in Manhattan federal court that seeks unspecified damages. Scott was harassed by at least two white motorcoach drivers from different racing teams, including being called "n-word" and an incident where he was confronted by the pair with one wearing a white pillow case over his head imitating a Ku Klux Klansman, according to the complaint. When the incident was reported in the media, the complaint said, top NASCAR executives flew Scott back home to North Carolina promising him a future job, but while negotiations continued over the next five years, a job never materialized. Scott seeks back pay and compensatory damages for loss of employment benefits and mental suffering. NASCAR was not immediately available for comment.(Reuters)(8-9-2006)
- NASCAR wins Trophy lawsuit: A U.S. appellate court has affirmed NASCAR's victory in a lawsuit against an artist who requested payment and credit for designing the Nextel Cup trophy. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling Wednesday in favor of NASCAR and against artist Matthew Scharle. Scharle, who worked as an independent contractor for the Franklin Mint in helping design the trophy in 2002 and 2003, had demanded rights to the design or $2 million for alleged business loss from the misattribution. In response to that demand, NASCAR filed suit against him to keep him from interfering with NASCAR's use of the trophy at the 2004 awards banquet. NASCAR credits then-Franklin Mint President Bruce Newman with the trophy's design.(SceneDaily.com)(6-23-2006)
- NC family reaches settlement with Ford over limo deaths: A family has settled its lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. stemming from a rear-end collision where a limousine erupted into flames, killing the wife of a former NASCAR crew chief and her two sisters, lawyers for both sides said Wednesday. Neither side would disclose terms ending a wrongful-death lawsuit over the safety of the fuel-tank system in Lincoln Town Car limousines, which are manufactured by Ford. The three women were stopped in traffic on Interstate 40 in Greensboro on Sept. 10, 2003, after attending a concert. A pickup truck driven by Jeffrey Niles McFayden rammed into the back of their limousine, which exploded almost immediately and trapped them inside. Tara Howell Parker, 29, her stepsister Mysti Howell Poplin, 24, and her half sister Megan Elizabeth Howell, 16, died of smoke inhalation and burns suffered in the fire. Parker was the wife of NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett's former crew chief [Shawn Parker]. Brenda and Ricky Howell, the women's parents, alleged in their lawsuit that the Lincoln Town Car was defective because the fuel tank was behind the rear axle, which increased the risk of fire in rear-end collisions. They said Ford could have fixed the problem by distributing a safety shield to protect the fuel tank. McFayden was convicted in May of three counts of involuntary manslaughter. Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes blamed the deaths on the driver, who collided with the limo at 60 mph.
"Unfortunately, there is no vehicle on the road that can adequately protect people in such collisions," Vokes said. "We do not believe any other comparable vehicles' fuel tanks could have survived the severity of this impact."(ESPN.com/AP)(1-19-2006)
- '3' Lawsuit Settled: Richard Childress Racing and ESPN traded paint back in March over the use of the late Dale Earnhardt's famous No. 3. That contest is over -- and you'll have as much chance of learning the winner as you would of finding out how a NASCAR team squeezes more horsepower from its engines. The two parties have settled the suit that RCR filed in federal court in Greensboro. The terms of their deal, like those in most out-of-court settlements, aren't public. "The matter has been resolved to our satisfaction, and the exact terms are confidential," Heather Adams, an attorney for ESPN, told the Winston-Salem Journal. An RCR spokesman also told the newspaper that his company is pleased as well. At issue was the stylized "3." The trademarked number appeared on the sides and roof of Earnhardt's black Chevrolet for much of his career. It still shows up on jackets, hats and stickers that fans still buy five years after his death. Earnhardt drove for RCR, which is based in Welcome, NC, until he was killed during the 2001 Daytona 500. ESPN used a variation of the number in the marketing efforts for its 2004 made-for-TV film "3: The Dale Earnhardt Story." RCR called the ESPN "3" a knockoff and sued for trademark infringement and unfair competition.(News and Record)(12-16-2005)
- Lawsuit against NASCAR regarding NASCAR Drivers: 360: Two Middle Tennessee video producers are taking on NASCAR, claiming that the company stole their ideas for a reality television show they pitched in 2001. Andrew Baird, who resides in Sumner County, and Bill Balsley, of Williamson County, say the television program NASCAR Drivers: 360, now in its second season on cable's FX Network, is based on an idea they'd hatched. Baird and Balsley have sued NASCAR, its associated firms NASCAR Images and NASCAR Digital Entertainment, and Dave Hall, an agent who was to broker the deal. Yesterday several motions were heard in the suit in Sumner County Circuit Court as both sides prepare for a trial next August. "We allege that my clients went to NASCAR with the ideas, that they spoke with upper levels of management and that we had an oral agreement with them,'' said Andy Allman, attorney for Baird and Balsley. NASCAR's Nashville attorney, Eddie Wayland, said, "We feel the lawsuit is without merit and we intend to vigorously defend them against the lawsuit." The lawsuit, which seeks $20 million and punitive damages, alleges that Baird and Balsley created a program they titled Drafting. Each week, Drafting would follow two to three NASCAR drivers behind the scenes as they prepared for the upcoming weekend's race. They contend they first broached the ideas for the programs with Hall, former president of cable's now-defunct The Nashville Network. In August 2001, the pair said Hall agreed to represent them as an agent to push these "unique ideas to NASCAR," the suit states. A few months later, the two allege that Hall told them NASCAR was going to fund the proposed shows.
NASCAR Drivers: 360 sends camera crews to follow a trio of stars from NASCAR's Nextel Cup and Busch series, giving a fly-on-the-wall perspective into their ups and downs on the track, at home, on the road and in the boardroom.(see full article at the Tennessean)(10-1-2005)
- Court Dismisses All Claims by Ford against Kasey Kahne: On July 28, 2005, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed all claims by Ford Motor Company against NASCAR star Kasey Kahne, in connection with
Kahne's move last year from Ford to drive a Dodge in Nextel Cup, the most prominent NASCAR series. The Court found "that the Kahne-Ford personal services agreement is not enforceable..." and that Kahne had been free to switch to Dodge and Evernham Motorsports when Ford failed to provide a full time Nextel Cup car as requested by Kahne for the 2004 season. Pointing to admissions by Ford racing executives, Dan Davis and Greg Specht, the court found that the contract had "intentionally left
open for future joint agreement" the "essential" terms of the actual series and team that Kahne would join, and that this was fatal to Ford's claim.
Kahne stated: "I'm thrilled that this decision sets the record straight that my move to Evernham Motorsports and the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series was in good faith and didn't breach my Ford contract. My manager, Rod Moskowitz of MMI and I didn't publicly respond to Ford's attempts to smear me during this case because we were confident I'd be vindicated in court. Now that we've won, I'm glad to put this unfortunate action behind me. Dan Davis told me that I wasn't ready to move to Cup, and Ford tried to hold me back. I think my performance proved them wrong." After leaving Ford, Kahne was named NASCAR's 2004 Rookie of the Year.
The decision came down after Kahne's attorneys, Paul LiCalsi and David Baum of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, moved to throw the lawsuit out on the basis of the documents in the case and the testimony given by Ford executives during depositions. "As we said at the onset, this case was nothing more than an expression of Ford's frustration with its own failure to recognize Kasey's ability to race at the highest level of the sport", LiCalsi said. Baum added, "For the last year and a half, Ford and its team of lawyers have tried to bully Kasey in court and demonized him in the press as someone who did not live up to his obligations. The
court's decision is a complete rebuke of Ford's tactics."(Clear!Blue PR)(7-28-2005)
- Kahne's attorneys ask judge to throw out Ford's suit: Attorneys for #9-Kasey Kahne asked a federal judge to throw out Ford's breach-of-contract lawsuit against the NASCAR driver, one of his lawyers said Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland in Detroit was to hear arguments on the request Wednesday, attorney David Baum said from New York. Ford sued Kahne in Wayne County Circuit Court in July 2004, the county where the Michigan automaker is headquartered. The company claimed he signed a contract that obligated him to drive Fords for Robert Yates Racing and appear in promotional activities. But in October 2003, the suit alleged, Kahne bolted Ford and joined a Dodge team owned by Ray Evernham. The lawsuit was transferred to federal court shortly after it was filed because the parties are from different states, Baum said. Kahne lives in Huntersville, N.C. Ford has called the suit "unfortunate," and said it believes in honoring contracts. NASCAR views its teams as independents and drivers as contracted workers hired by each team. Disputes are worked out among each other, with NASCAR having no influence in the results.(ESPN.com/AP)(7-19-2005)
- Race Track Opposers in Washington file suit: Kitsap County [WA] officials' two-year-long pursuit of a NASCAR racetrack in South Kitsap was carried out illegally and should be stopped dead in its tracks, says a lawsuit filed by a local citizen's group that opposes the project. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by Kitsap Citizens for Responsible Planning, alleges that county officials' "secret dealings" with the International Speedway Corp. since 2003 violate the state Public Disclosure Act. The lawsuit also says that county officials violated state laws by approving zoning for the track near Bremerton National Airport without involving the county Planning Commission or the public. "The public was not given adequate notice nor an opportunity to be heard regarding the county's consideration of a proposal to allow automobile race tracks in the Business Center zone" near Bremerton National Airport, the lawsuit states. International Speedway Corp. announced June 23 that South Kitsap is the preferred site for a one-mile, 80,000-seat NASCAR racetrack in the Pacific Northwest. As envisioned, the track would be built on 950 acres near Lake Flora Road and Highway 3, along the Kitsap-Mason county line. After the ISC announcement, it was disclosed that several county officials signed confidentiality agreements with the Kitsap Regional Economic Development Council over the track. In addition, at least one public document was turned over to KREDC but kept out of the county's files, in apparent violation of the state Public Disclosure Act. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court.(Kitsap Sun and a 2nd column: Lawsuit Challenges County's Actions to Get Racetrack)(7-15-2005)
- Brewer suing Morgan McClure: Conway Law Firm, P.L.L.C. has been retained to represent Tim Brewer, the former General Manager and Crew Chief for Morgan McClure Motorsports, Inc. Conway will bring suit next week against Morgan McClure Motorsports, Inc.for breach of contract and wrongful termination in a substantial sum.(Conway Law Firm PR)(4-2-2005)
- RCR Sues ESPN over the number '3': The stylized No. 3 symbolizing the legacy of Dale Earnhardt has been reproduced on jackets, on stickers with an angel's halo, on the walls of local restaurants, and on countless other products and memorials to the late racing legend. RCR Enterprises Inc., which owns the trademark rights to the stylized No. 3, says that one of those memorials went too far. RCR, of Welcome, is owned by Richard Childress. RCR filed a federal lawsuit this week against ESPN Inc., the all-sports cable-television network that recently produced a film about Earnhardt's life. The film and its related products use a stylized No. 3 similar to the trademark owned by RCR, according to the lawsuit. RCR is owned by Richard Childress.
"(ESPN's) use of a colorable imitation of the Stylized 3 Mark in connection with a motion picture, DVDs and books is a purposeful attempt to draw a connection between those products and RCR's Stylized 3 Mark," the lawsuit argues. "Defendant has used and is using a colorable imitation of the Stylized 3 Mark in commerce to advertise and promote itself and its products and services," the lawsuit continues. "Defendant has offered and is offering, in commerce, products and services for commercial sale or for commercial profit under a colorable imitation of the Stylized 3 Mark." Josh Krulewitz, a spokesman for ESPN at its headquarters in Bristol, Conn., said that the company did nothing illegal. "We did not make use of the plaintiff's trademark, and our use of the No. 3 was entirely legal," he said. In the lawsuit, RCR charges that ESPN is violating its trademark, is competing unfairly under federal law and is diluting the symbol used by Earnhardt when he was driving for RCR for 20 years. "The Stylized 3 Mark is distinctive and has become famous through extensive advertising, promotional expenditures, careful control and over 20 years of continuous use and commercial exposure," the lawsuit says. "Defendant's use of a colorable imitation of the Stylized 3 Mark has resulted in and will continue to result in a lessening of the capacity of the Stylized 3 Mark to identify and distinguish authorized products and services."
RCR is asking the court to order ESPN to stop using any stylized No. 3 that could resemble its own trademark, and to recall and destroy any products that include such a symbol. Company officials are also asking for damages, attorneys' fees and "three times all gains, profits and advantages derived by them from (ESPN's) infringement, dilution, unfair competition or unfair trade practices." They also want interest. The two symbols have some similarities and some differences. The No. 3 used by Earnhardt was a block number italicized to the left. The No. 3 used by ESPN in its marketing has rounder edges, and it leans to the right.(Winston Salem Journal)(3-19-2005)
- Inventor suing Roush and Wood Brothers UPDATE: An inventor is suing two NASCAR teams claiming he was not paid for a part that improves cornering speeds. Weston Griffith claims in his lawsuit that a chassis piece he designed has helped the teams since last season. Griffith says he developed a chassis piece -- which he describes as "Part X" in the lawsuit -- and the race teams stole his idea, according to the complaint. "I think they should pay for it," Griffith said. Griffith is suing Wood Brothers Racing, Roush Racing and Pat Tryson, crew chief for Roush driver Mark Martin, in North Carolina Superior Court, Cabarrus County, for compensation in excess of $10,000. Griffith said he made his technology available on a trial basis to Wood Brothers Racing in 2003. Griffith claims his chassis innovation migrated to Roush Racing when team owner Jack Roush hired then-Wood Brothers crew chief Tryson, according to the lawsuit. Roush Racing president Geoff Smith called Griffith's charges "bogus." Eddie Wood, co-owner of the Wood Brothers team, had no comment when reached by phone Tuesday at his shop. Griffith lives in the Chicago area and owns a company called Solid Steel Inc. He has no direct affiliation with any NASCAR race team.
In his suit, Griffith says he approached Wood Brothers Racing with the part near the end of the 2003 season. Griffith said Wood Brothers Racing experimented with his part on its #21 Ford, driven by Ricky Rudd, at a private test session at Kansas Speedway, and the car showed an increase in speed. "They wanted so bad to take the pieces back with them to North Carolina," Griffith said. "I would not let them do it. They wanted to leave the stuff right on their car." After the test session, Griffith said Eddie Wood and he struck a deal to outfit the #21 Ford with "Part X" for the rest of the 2003 season. Griffith said Wood agreed to lease his parts for $20,000. Griffith said he received that payment. Griffith said Roush Racing is using his technology to win races and make large sums of money. "I don't know even what the particulars are of that arrangement (they had)," said Roush's Smith. "You don't lease parts. You buy parts and you break them and guys look at them and they study them and they figure out how to make them better." Griffith said Wood signed a confidentiality agreement when he agreed to lease the parts in 2003. In his suit, Griffith says, the "Wood Brothers also agreed not to share any information concerning Part X with anyone outside of Wood Brothers, and to refrain from testing, altering or defacing Part X in any way." Following the 2003 NASCAR Cup season, Griffith said the Wood Brothers returned seven of eight chassis pieces. After demanding the return of his last piece, Griffith said it was obvious the part had been bored, cut and tested. "They were never supposed to test it," he said.
Griffith theorizes his chassis part has boosted Roush Racing since the start of the 2004 Nextel Cup season. He points to the team's vast success in NASCAR's big-league circuit. Three of Roush's four Cup cars [actually 4 of 5 did] won races last year. Three Roush drivers made the inaugural Chase for the Nextel Cup playoff segment. Kurt Busch, who drives the #97 Roush Ford, captured the championship. Griffith said he is upset because he is not being compensated for his speed discovery.(Daytona Bach News Journal)(3-16-2005)
UPDATE: a similar suit was dismissed in Chicago back in November, the current one is in North Carolina: Stephen J. Siegel and John F. Shonkwiler recently obtained a dismissal of all claims alleged against Roush Corporation, d/b/a Roush Racing, in a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The suit, brought by Weston Griffith, Jr., alleged claims against Roush and co-defendant Glen Wood Company relating to the alleged use of certain racing equipment leased from the Plaintiff’s company. Roush moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over it. By an Order entered October 26, 2004, Federal District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan granted the motion and dismissed the case against Roush in its entirety. Judge Der-Yeghiayan found that notwithstanding Roush’s participation in several auto races in Illinois over the past few years, Roush was not “doing business” in Illinois or otherwise subject to personal jurisdiction there. The Court concluded that Plaintiff failed to show Roush “attempted to conduct sales in Illinois or maintain offices in Illinois or engage in the type of permanent and continuous activity” that would establish jurisdiction over Roush. Plaintiff’s allegations that he was injured in Illinois and signed an equipment lease with Glen Wood here, without more, were held insufficient to confer jurisdiction.(Novack and Macey LLP site)(3-17-2005)
- Artist suing over Nextel Cup: A freelance designer and artist is gearing up for a battle against auto racing behemoth NASCAR, the Franklin Mint and the Mint's former president. Matthew T. Scharle of Barrington, N.J., filed a lawsuit last week against all three, seeking credit for the new Nextel Cup Series Championship trophy, which he claims to have designed. "It's not my intention to hurt NASCAR," said Matthew T. Scharle, who lives in this small Camden County borough. "I love the sport. I just want recognition for the design work I did." Scharle's lawyer Neal A. Jacobs said Scharle's suit also seeks compensation for the alleged incorrect identification of the trophy's designer and related copyright issues. The Franklin Mint, the Aston, Pa.-based collectible marketer, is involved in the matter because, two years ago, NASCAR hired it to design the new trophy. Jeffrey S. Edwards, a lawyer representing Franklin Mint, said the Mint believes it is inappropriate to comment on pending litigation. On Nov. 9, the NASCAR sued Scharle, Franklin Mint and former Franklin Mint President Bruce J. Newman, seeking an injunction to block Scharle from taking any action to interfere with the awarding of the trophy trackside after NASCAR's final race Nov. 21 or at NASCAR's Dec. 3 banquet. "NASCAR dealt with the Franklin Mint during the design process and is very proud of the trophy and what it symbolizes," the association said in a statement. "NASCAR maintains that it owns all rights, title and interest in the design of the NASCAR Nextel Cup trophy and in the trophy itself, including the right of attribution and all other worldwide copyrights as spelled out in NASCAR's agreements with the Franklin Mint." In its lawsuit, NASCAR stated any dispute between Scharle, who was paid for his work by Franklin Mint, and Franklin Mint should be handled by those two parties through binding arbitration.(MSNBC.com)(11-29-2004)
- NASCAR files suit: NASCAR has filed a lawsuit against an individual and three companies involved with a pornographic video called Racetrack Girls Go Nutz for trademark and service mark infringement. NASCAR filed the suit Monday after learning that Daystrike Marketing Inc. was distributing flyers and advertisements for the video with NASCAR logos. The flyers also were soliciting investors for Consolidated Sports Media Group Inc., based in Addison, which is involved in financing the video.(Fort Worth Star Telegram)(12-9-2004)