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Brennan Poole files lawsuit against Chip Ganassi Racing

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Former NASCAR Xfinity driver Brennan Poole has filed a lawsuit against Chip Ganassi Racing and the agency that represented him, stating that the two “conspired” to terminate his association with sponsor DC Solar so the company could sponsor Kyle Larson’s Cup car this year.

ESPN.com first reported details of the lawsuit.

Poole drove in the Xfinity Series for Chip Ganassi Racing from 2015-17. He was winless in 83 series starts. He had eight top-five finishes and 36 top-10 finishes. He placed a career-high sixth in the points last season.  

Poole is suing Ganassi and Spire Sports and Entertainment for breach of contract in a North Carolina court. He’s also suing Spire for breach of fiduciary duty and professional negligence. Poole also seeks punitive damages against both.

MORE: Chip Ganassi Racing, Spire Sports & Entertainment issue rebukes 

According to the lawsuit: “(Chip Ganassi Racing) and Spire conspired and colluded to terminate the association between Brennan Poole and his primary sponsor DC Solar and to divert and misappropriate DC Solar from Brennan Poole to sponsor CGR in the 2018 Monster Energy Cup Series season. … CGR and Spire diverted DC Solar to CGR through deception, misrepresentation and the manipulation of the sponsor/driver relationship between Brennan Poole and DC Solar.

“In doing so, CGR violated the Non-Solicitation provision in the (driver services agreement). Spire violated the (personal management agreement) and breached the fiduciary duties it owed to Brennan Poole and, upon information and belief, committed acts of legal malpractice by taking actions that directly violated Spire’s duty to zealously represent its client, Brennan Poole.”

The lawsuit alleges:

— After the 2015 Xfinity season, Poole “expressed dissatisfaction  with CGR” and informed Spire he wanted to move to JR Motorsports. “Spire discouraged Brennan Poole from such a move by telling him that JR Motorsports wanted $7.5 million to place a driver in one of its cars (more than Brennan Poole’s primary sponsor DC Solar was willing to pay) and that, in any event, there were no cars available at JR Motorsports. Spire encouraged Brennan Poole to remain with CGR, representing to him that he would move into CGR’s No. 1 car in the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series season upon the retirement of Jamie McMurray at the end of the 2016 season.” 

— Upon Ganassi announcing July 28, 2017 that Target would not return as the primary sponsor of Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet, the lawsuit states: “CGR began looking for a new sponsor to replace Target. CGR, directly and in secret actions and communications with Spire, began actively pursuing and developing a relationship with DC Solar with the ultimate goal of terminating the association of Brennan Poole and DC Solar and facilitating the diversion of DC’s sponsorship from Brennan Poole to CGR.”

— A representative of Richard Childress Racing approached Poole at the Richmond Xfinity race in Sept. 2017 about a Cup ride. The lawsuit states: The representative expressed “interest on the part of RCR for Brennan Poole to drive for RCR in the 2018 Monster Energy Cup Series season and asked Brennan Poole what his plans were for the upcoming season. The inquiry surprised Brennan Poole, given (Spire President Jeff) Dickerson’s prior representations that no Monster Energy Cup Series teams were interested in him.”

— The lawsuit states that “Spire was dismissive of RCR’s interest and told Brennan Poole that RCR is ‘fool’s gold’ and that RCR really was not interested in him. … On information and belief, Spire propagated a rumor that Brennan Poole was going to be driving the Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Monster Energy Cup Series car in 2018 so teams would not approach him.”

— “In September 2017, Chip Ganassi met with (Jeff) Carpoff (DC Solar CEO) and Spire at the Darlington NASCAR race. Neither Brennan Poole nor (his father) Tom Poole was invited or attended the meeting. Ganassi made a proposal for DC Solar to sponsor Larson in the No. 42 car for the 2018 Monster Energy Cup Series season. Ganassi told DC Solar and Spire that Jamie McMurray was not retiring, that he did not have funding to run a third Monster Energy Cup Series car for Brennan Poole to drive and that he needed sponsorship for the No. 42 car. Ganassi effectively pushed Brennan Poole out of a car and out of his primary sponsor relationship with DC Solar for the 2018 season, telling DC Solar to the effect “If Brennan Poole has not won on Saturdays, he is not ready for Sundays.”

Also in the lawsuit:

DC Solar paid $2.5 million to sponsor Poole in the Xfinity Series. He ran 17 races that year for Ganassi. In 2016, DC Solar paid $5.2 million to sponsor Poole in his first full season in the Xfinity Series. In 2017, DC Solar paid $5.5 million to sponsor Poole in Xfinity.

According to the driver agreement included in the lawsuit, Poole received a base salary of $225,000 for the 2017 Xfinity season. He would 50 percent of prize money for a win, 40 percent for a finish between second and 10th, and 30 percent for a finish between 11th and 20th. A championship would have been worth a $75,000 bonus to Poole.

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Joey Gase joins MBM Motorsports in Xfinity, Cup

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MBM Motorsports announced Wednesday it has signed Joey Gase to compete for the team in the Xfinity and Cup Series this season.

Gase will compete full-time in Xfinity driving the No. 35 Toyota. He will race part-time in Cup in the No. 66 Toyota, beginning with an attempt to make the Daytona 500. MBM does not have a charter for the No. 66, meaning he must qualify for the race if there are more than 40 cars entered.

Gase has 208 Xfinity starts and has competed full-time since 2014. Last year he drove for Go Green Racing and finished 20th in the standings.

He also has 30 Cup starts since 2014.

“I am very excited and thankful for the opportunity Carl (Long) and MBM Motorsports is giving me this year,” Gase said in a press release. “Every offseason is stressful when you don’t know what your plans for the following season will be. This offseason by far has been the most stressful of my career with some unforeseen things happening. One evening I was sitting in my office trying to figure out what my next move should be and then out of the blue Carl gave me a call and we talked for about two hours over the phone and now here we are. MBM Motorsports has grown and improved their program a lot over the last two years, especially the end of last season. I am very excited to be a part of that growth in 2019.”

Eternal Fan, Donate Life, Medline, Agri Supply, Pro Master and Page Construction will be among the partners supporting Gase this season.

“Having an experienced driver in Joey Gase to start our season is a huge blessing,” MBM team owner Carl Long said in the press release. “He has worked hard to bring sponsorship to MBM. Today’s driver has to be gifted in handling a car and promotions. Lucky for us Joey is one of the best in all of NASCAR at doing both. Look for us to turn heads this year!”

 

Ryan Truex to drive for Tommy Baldwin Racing at Daytona

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Ryan Truex will attempt to make the Daytona 500 driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing, the team announced Wednesday.

The team does not have a charter for the No. 71 Chevrolet.

“I am very thankful to TBR and Tommy Baldwin for this opportunity and can’t wait to get to Daytona and back in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car,” Ryan Truex said in a statement from the team. “The pressure is on to make it into the race, but Tommy is a true racer, and I know he will put everything into the car to give us a great shot.”

“I’m excited to have Ryan back in a Tommy Baldwin Racing car,” team owner Tommy Baldwin said in a statement. “We had success at Daytona in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, in the past. I’ve known the Truex family a very long time, and it’s special that we’ll be able to compete in the Daytona 500 together, and hopefully more races as the year goes on. We are still in search of a primary sponsor that we’re hoping to put together in time to give TBR a great run this year!”

Truex, the younger brother of Martin Truex Jr., last ran in Cup in 2014 when he competed in 23 races for BK Racing. Truex ran for Kaulig Racing last year in the Xfinity Series, finishing 12th in the points. Truex drove for Hattori Racing in 2017 in the Truck Series, placing ninth in points.

Five can’t-miss NASCAR Cup races in 2019 beyond Daytona 500

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We’re 32 days out from the biggest NASCAR event of the season in the Daytona 500, a race of such importance that needs no explanation.

But what else is there to look forward to?

There are 35 other Cup points races this season and they’re not all created equal.

Here are five races to pay closer attention to this season.

– Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on Feb. 24 on Fox)

The second Cup race of the season will probably have its biggest spotlight in recent memory when the 1.5-mile track is the first to host the 2019 rules package.

Derived from the 2018 All-Star Race package, it includes a tapered spacer and is intended to provide closer racing. Cars will run 550 horsepower at all tracks 1.33 miles and larger, which includes Atlanta. At tracks less than 1.33 miles, cars will have 750 horsepower.

Combine the hopeful intent behind the package and a rough track surface that’s being kept in place by the “most powerful lobby this side of Washington, D.C.,” and you have no excuse to not tune in and see what happens.

Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway (3 p.m. ET on June 30 on NBCSN)

The race that marks the start of NBC’s portion of the NASCAR schedule set an incredible precedent in 2018. The 1.5-mile track debuted in its new spot on the schedule with Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch’s dramatic last-lap battle and Busch’s win.

Was it a result of the drivers involved? The hot Chicagoland surface? Lapped traffic?

Yes.

Can it be topped?

We can only hope.

Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen International (3 p.m. ET on Aug. 4 on NBCSN)

From the green flag last year, the Cup race on the New York road course was a barn burner, ending with a duel between Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. that resulted in Elliott’s first Cup win as Truex ran out of gas.

Races on the road course have had increasingly memorable finishes over the last seven years (beginning in 2012 with Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose). WGI shows no sign of providing a snoozer in the near future, especially as long as pit strategy is involved.

Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 29 on NBC)

The final lap of last season’s inaugural Cup race on the Charlotte Roval  had enough drama for three races on the new road course.

From Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson‘s contact in the final turn giving Ryan Blaney the win; Kyle Larson hitting the wall twice and passing a stalled car at the checkered flag to advance in the playoffs; and Aric Almirola passing enough cars to advance himself.

Do teams have the oval-road course hybrid figured out after one year? It’ll be fun to watch that question answered.

First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway (3 p.m. ET on Oct. 27 on NBCSN)

We’re starting to run out of fingers to use to list memorable events in Martinsville’s recent history of hosting a playoff race.

You could argue it started with Dale Earnhardt Jr. banging doors with Tony Stewart to win his only Martinsville clock in 2014.

Since then?

We’ve seen Matt Kenseth’s retaliation against Joey Logano in 2015, which resulted in Jeff Gordon’s final Cup win.

Two years later, Denny Hamlin wrecked Elliott from the lead near the end of regulation. Kyle Busch then won in overtime as Martinsville’s version of “The Big One” unfolded. Afterward, an angry Elliott confronted Hamlin on the track as fans filled the air with cheers and boos.

Last year Truex and Logano provided a thrilling battle over the last six laps. Logano performed the bump-and-run on Truex in the final turn to win the battle in the “damn war” (which Logano also won in Miami).

 

New NASCAR Cup team owners invest in minor league hockey team

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You might say that the newest NASCAR Cup team owner is now in a Rush.

Spire Sports + Entertainment, which recently purchased the Cup charter of former NASCAR championship team Furniture Row Racing, has branched out, taking a minority ownership share in the Rapid City (South Dakota) Rush of the 27-team East Coast Hockey League.

Spire co-founders Jeff Dickerson and T.J. Puchyr will become active minority partners in the Rush, hoping to bring the team back to past prominence.

“We aren’t going to be saviors here,” Spire co-founder Jeff Dickerson said in a press conference at the team’s Rushmore Plaza Civic Center home. “There’s no magic bullet. It’s going to take all of us to create the culture that builds excitement and value. The city loves the Rush and we hope to get it back to where it was.”

Rush majority owner, Rapid City businessman Scott Mueller, sees better days ahead for his club.

“The biggest thing is (Spire’s) sports industry knowledge,” Mueller said, according to the Rapid City Journal. “It’s about putting people in seats, selling advertising and they have a lot of knowledge on that. (Dickerson) sees so many venues, and I think he’s going to be involved in changes that are needed.

“We’ve taken some steps in the last few months. These are great days for us, and we’re really excited about our future.”

The Rush is mired in sixth place in the ECHL’s seven-team Mountain Division.

In addition to purchasing Furniture Row Racing’s charter, Spire represents several race car drivers including NASCAR’s Kyle Larson, Landon Cassill, Ross Chastain, Justin Haley, Todd Gilliland, Garrett Smithley and Vinnie Miller and IndyCar’s James Hinchcliffe.

Spire isn’t the only NASCAR Cup team owner involved in other sports. Roush Fenway Racing’s co-owner John Henry owns Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox and the Liverpool Football Club of soccer’s Premier League, while Chip Ganassi previously was a minority owner in MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates. Felix Sabates, who also holds a minority ownership stake in Chip Ganassi Racing, is also a minority owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

“We have been looking for several years to find something in minor league sports and see if what we do in motorsports translates to this space,” Puchyr said, according to The Journal. “Our due diligence indicates that it does.”

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