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Nature’s Bakery responds to Stewart-Haas Racing lawsuit; claims team could not ‘control’ Danica Patrick

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Nature’s Bakery states in court documents that Stewart-Haas Racing could not “control” Danica Patrick and “was more interested in cashing Nature’s Bakery checks than in making the sponsorship a success.’’

Nature’s Bakery, which served as the primary sponsor for Patrick’s team in 2016, filed a counterclaim Friday in North Carolina Superior Court for Cabarrus County. That was in response to a $31 million lawsuit SHR filed Feb. 3 after Nature’s Bakery terminated its three-year agreement two years early.

Brett Frood, president of Stewart-Haas Racing, issued a statement Saturday morning in response to claims made by Nature’s Bakery:

”Nature’s Bakery is in material breach of its contract with Stewart-Haas Racing. It’s an unfortunate situation, but we know we’ve delivered on all aspects of our agreement and more. We took great pride in elevating the brand awareness and relevance of its products and were prepared to continue activating pursuant to the agreement in 2017 and beyond. Nature’s Bakery chose to breach and terminate the contract. We’re confident with our position.”

Nature’s Bakery stated it court documents it did not see the return it was led to believe by Stewart-Haas Racing that it would experience.

Nature’s Bakery noted in court documents that it relied on Stewart-Haas Racing for guidance with activating the sponsorship properly because of a limited staff and lack of experience in the sport.

“SHR’s promises were illusory and misleading,’’ Nature’s Bakery stated in court documents. “There was no massive increase in sales. NASCAR viewership was retreating. The team had other significant operational problems. SHR lacked the ability to control Patrick’s performance under the Agreement.

“As a result, the Sponsorship came nowhere close to fulfilling its promises, nor justifying the more than $17 million Nature’s Bakery paid SHR in 2016.’’

Nature’s Bakery sent Stewart-Haas Racing a notice of termination on Jan. 19. The sponsorship, which Nature’s Bakery was to pay $15 million a year, was to have gone through the 2018 season. The company was to have been the primary sponsor on Patrick’s car for 28 races each season.

Among its complaints, Nature’s Bakery claimed that Patrick did not properly promote its product and endorsed a competitive product.

Nature’s Bakery stated in court documents that in “roughly 475” messages she posted on her Instagram account in 2016 that “only 15 or 3% referenced Nature’s Bakery.’’

Nature’s Bakery also stated that in “roughly 600 times to her Twitter account in 2016 … only 13 or 2% referenced Nature’s Bakery.

“Patrick posted more than 530 times to her Facebook account in 2016, but only 18 or 3% referenced Nature’s Bakery.’’

Stewart-Haas Racing stated in its lawsuit that the sponsorship agreement does not contain a requirement for such social media postings.

Stewart-Haas Racing previously stated that Patrick endorsed Six Star Pro Nutrition’s protein powder and that it was not a competing product.

Nature’s Bakery also cited that it wanted Patrick to hold its fig bar while walking around the pit area on race weekends. “That rarely happened,’’ the company stated in court documents. “But race fans and TV audiences saw her frequently with a bottle of Coca-Cola or Coke Zero in her hand, another sponsor of Patrick’s.

“When Nature’s Bakery asked SHR why it could not cause Patrick to showcase its products more frequently, SHR said it had difficulty controlling her conduct. Its failure to manage her performance robbed Nature’s Bakery of the fundamental promise and benefit of the relationship.’’

Patrick stated Feb. 22 that she saw no issues with how she promoted Nature’s Bakery.

“I think that it was a shock to all of us that one year into a three-year deal that there was a problem, but everything that was ever asked of me I did to the very best of my ability,’’ Patrick said.

Stewart-Haas Racing stated in its lawsuit that as a “gesture of good faith” it asked Patrick in December to stop posting on social media regarding items that Nature’s Bakery contended were competitive.

 and on Facebook

Dale Earnhardt Jr. defends Kyle Busch’s surly mood after the Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. – A second-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 left Kyle Busch in an irate mood, which is perfectly fine, according to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

A seemingly agitated Busch, cupping his face in his hands after sitting down, entered the media center at Charlotte Motor Speedway Center shortly after 12:30 a.m. Sunday. It was roughly 10 minutes after Austin Dillon scored the first victory of his career in NASCAR’s premier series by stretching his final tank of fuel for 70 laps.

Was Busch surprised that Dillon made the checkered flag? What did it mean for a driver to get his first win?

“I’m not surprised about anything,” Busch snapped. “Congratulations.”

He dropped the mic on the dais. There were no further questions.

Shortly afterward on Twitter, Earnhardt took up for his peer (whom he replaced at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008).

Busch, who hasn’t won since last July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (a span of 28 races) gave more elaborate answers shortly after exiting his No. 18 Toyota, which finished 0.835 seconds behind Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet.

He apparently didn’t realize until late in the race that his pass of Martin Truex Jr. (who led a race-high 233 laps) with a lap remaining was for second instead of the victory.

“This M&M’s Camry was awesome tonight,” Busch said. “It was just super fast. I mean we had one of the fastest cars all night long and then (Truex) was probably the fastest. There at the end, somehow we ran him down. You know he got a straightaway out on us, but there that last 100 laps we were able to get back to him and pass him so you know that was promising for us there at the end in order to get a second-place finish, but man just so, so disappointed.

“I don’t know. We ran our own race. We did what we needed to do and it wasn’t – it wasn’t the right game. We come up short and finish second.

“It’s a frustrating night, man. There’s nothing we could’ve done different.”

Another Cup driver took a different view of Busch’s tirade.

Martin Truex Jr. takes Cup points lead after Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

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CONCORD, N.C. — Martin Truex Jr. took over the Cup points lead with a third-place finish in Saturday’s Coca-Cola 600.

The Furniture Row Racing driver, who led a race-high 233 laps, also extended his lead in the playoff standings by winning the second stage and bringing his total to 16 points.

Kyle Larson, who had led the standings for eight consecutive races since Phoenix International Raceway, fell to second in the rankings after crashing and finishing a season-worst 33rd. Larson trails Truex by five points in the race for the regular-season championship (and 15 playoff points).

Click here for the points standings after Charlotte.

Results, stats for the 58th annual Coca-Cola 600

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With a fuel gamble, Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 for his first NASCAR Cup win.

It comes in his 133rd start and is the second win for Richard Childress Racing this year.

Following him was Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin.

Click here for the full results.

Austin Dillon returns No. 3 to victory lane for first time since Dale Earnhardt’s last win

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CONCORD, N.C. – Austin Dillon scored his first Cup victory in his first start with a new crew chief, bringing an iconic number back to victory lane in NASCAR’s premier series.

Stretching his last tank of fuel 70 laps, the Richard Childress Racing driver won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I can’t believe it,” Dillon told Fox Sports. “I was just really focused on those last laps.”

It was the first victory on the circuit for the No. 3 Chevrolet since the late Dale Earnhardt’s win at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2000. Richard Childress Racing mothballed the number after Earnhardt’s death on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 but brought it back with Dillon in 2014.

Dillon, the grandson of team owner Richard Childress, was making his debut with crew chief Justin Alexander, who replaced Slugger Labbe last week.

Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin.

Jimmie Johnson was leading before running out of fuel with three laps remaining, handing the lead to Dillon.

“I was just trying to be patient with (Johnson),” Dillon said. “I could see him saving (fuel). I thought I’d saved enough early where I could attack at the end, but I tried to wait as long as possible. And when he ran out, I figured I’d go back in and save where I was lifting, and it worked out.

“I ran out at the line and it gurgled all around just to do one little spin and push it back to victory lane.”

With the victory, Dillon qualified for the playoffs, joining RCR teammate Ryan Newman (who clinched a berth by winning at Phoenix International Raceway).

Dillon becomes the 10th driver to score his first Cup win at Charlotte, joining David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Charlie Glotzbach, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears and David Reutimann.

Who had a good race: Kyle Busch charged to second in the closing laps, following up a win last week at the All-Star Race. … Truex dominated Charlotte for the third straight year, leading a race-high 233 laps. … Joe Gibbs Racing placed three drivers in the top five, and rookie Daniel Suarez was 11th. … Rookie Erik Jones finished seventh, giving Furniture Row Racing two top 10s in a race for the first time.

Who had a bad race: It was over for Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski on Lap 20 when they were collected in a bizarre wreck as a result of a chain reaction from Jeffrey Earnhardt’s engine failure. …  Points leader Kyle Larson finished a season-worst 32nd after a crash. … Danica Patrick hit the wall twice (at least once because of a tire problem) and placed 25th.

Quote of the race: “My fiancée wrote in the car, ‘When you keep God in the first place, he will take you places you never imagined.’ And, I never imagined to be here.” – Dillon after scoring his first Cup victory.

What’s next: 1 p.m., June 4 at Dover International Speedway on FS1.