North Carolina Superior Court

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

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

6 Comments

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

Lawsuit reveals salary of former tire changer at Michael Waltrip Racing

5 Comments

A lawsuit between Michael Waltrip Racing and a former tire changer provides insights into how much over-the-wall crew members in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series can make, according to an ESPN.com report.

Brandon Hopkins sued the team in January in North Carolina Superior Court. Michael Waltrip Racing responded last week and had the case moved to the state’s Business Court.

The ESPN.com report states that Hopkins made $160,000 per year for MWR. He joined the organization in 2012. Court documents, cited by ESPN.com, state that Hopkins’ salary as an MWR employee was $50,000. He also was paid a salary of $97,000 as an over-the-wall crew member and paid $13,000 to participate in the team’s training program. The two-year deal was for the 2014 and ’15 seasons.

Hopkins is suing the team because he claims he was fired in 2014 after demanding to have surgery for an injury suffered on pit road. The team claims that Hopkins stole a specially made air gun the same day he sought permission to talk to other teams.

Hopkins claims he was fired the day before shoulder surgery in August 2014 for an injury he said he suffered after being hit while pitting Clint Bowyer’s car at Kansas in October 2013. He alleges he was fired for stealing a pit-road air gun. He claims he was allowed to take his pit gun home and mistakenly took the wrong pit gun.

In its response, MWR alleges that Hopkins did not use the pit gun he was authorized to use at Pocono in August 2014. MWR states that it has footage of Hopkins taking that gun and putting it in his car the Monday after the Pocono race after asking for permission to waive the non-compete clause in his contract so he could seek employment elsewhere.

MWR also alleges that Hopkins’ backup gun went missing earlier in the season and was never located.