Report: Judge rules lawsuit against Michael Waltrip Racing will move forward

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A lawsuit filed in 2015 against Michael Waltrip Racing by former tire changer Brandon Hopkins will go forward, a judge in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, ruled over the weekend, according to The Charlotte Observer.

Judge Louis Bledsoe denied a motion by the lawyer representing the defunct race team to dismiss the lawsuit. Hopkins’ lawsuit against MWR claims the team fired him in August 2014 after he took leave to have surgery on an injured shoulder suffered when he was hit by Clint Bowyer‘s car in an October 2013 race.

Hopkins is suing for damages, citing breach of contract, defamation and intentional interference with a contract. He is also making claims under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and Family and Medical Leave Act. Hopkins is represented by Joshua Van Kampen.

MWR, which closed at the end of 2015, claims it fired Hopkins after the tire changer allegedly stole a specially made air gun the day he requested permission to talk to other teams about employment. The team also claims Hopkins’ backup air gun went missing earlier in the 2014 season and was never located.

Hopkins contests he was allowed to take his pit gun home, but took another one by mistake.

According to the Observer, Hopkins said he was “black listed” by other NASCAR teams as a result of the accusations.

Hopkins, who was part of the team that won MWR a Mechanix Wear Pit Crew of the Year Award in 2012, claims in the lawsuit that he lost an unpaid internship with another Sprint Cup team and a paid job with a Camping World Truck Series team.

“MWR may have gone out of business, but we will continue to take the fight to the company, such as it is, to the very end,” Van Kampen told the Observer.

MWR closed at the end of 2015 after co-owner Rob Kauffman left the team to become co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing.