NASCAR News and Notes
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Legge may sue after losing IndyCar ride
Katherine Legge threatened legal action over her termination from Dragon Racing on Wednesday, one day after the team said Sebastian Saavedra had been hired to drive the No. 6 this IndyCar season.
Legge started last season driving the car, then split seat time with Dragon teammate Sebastien Bourdais after an engine manufacturer switch forced the team to run only one car. In a terse statement, Legge said she had a two-year contract with Dragon and the team stole sponsor TrueCar for Saavedra.
“I firmly believe that Dragon Racing and TrueCar cannot proceed without me and I will be taking legal action to protect my rights,” Legge said.
The TrueCar sponsorship allowed Legge to return to IndyCar last season after racing in the European DTM series. She alleged Wednesday she brought the sponsorship to Dragon because team owner Jay Penske, son of Roger Penske, promised additional sponsorship from Penske Dealerships.
That sponsorship never materialized and the Dragon cars, saddled with Lotus engines, struggled through the first four races of the season. Penske then sued Lotus for a release from the contract. He agreed to a deal with Chevrolet that got him two engines for the Indianapolis 500, but only one engine for his two cars for the remainder of the season.
Legge wound up running 10 of the 15 races. The English driver failed to finish four times, and had a season-best finish of ninth in the finale at Fontana. She was 22nd at Indy.
“It was a very difficult season last year, we did very little testing and I was made to sit out of some of the races,” said Legge, who also alleged her quest for sponsorship was hurt by Penske’s arrest in August for allegedly breaking into the Nantucket Yacht Club and later urinating on the boots of a woman who confronted him in the parking lot.
“Jay Penske’s actions in Nantucket really hurt my ability to find additional and personal sponsors, and it was highly embarrassing, especially with the message that we were trying to portray regarding the empowerment of women in motorsport,” Legge said.
Dragon Racing did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Legge said she was informed in January she was not going to be back with the team, and has been unable to find another job in IndyCar since. She also said she hoped IndyCar intervened on her behalf in the dispute with Dragon and TrueCar.
“I can tell you that I feel like I have been treated very unfairly in all of this and the last thing I feel at the moment is ‘Empowered!”’ she said in her statement. “I have fought very hard, every step of my career, to get the opportunities that I have created for myself and I will continue to do so. I want to thank everybody for their support during all of this, it has been very tough for me to watch it unfold.”
Dragon, meanwhile, said Tuesday it has hired Saavedra to be teammates this season with Bourdais, the four-time Champ Car champion. The team said TrueCar will sponsor Saavedra, a 22-year-old Colombian.
IndyCar still without a CEO
It’s been nearly four months since IndyCar fired CEO Randy Bernard and there’s been almost no buzz whatsoever within the series since his termination.
That picked up briefly this week when it was rumored former president of competition and racing operations Brian Barnhart would be named CEO. That was quickly dismissed by IndyCar in a statement attributed to the series.
“Brian continues to be an executive member of IndyCar and his understanding of our sport continues to provide our organization with valuable input. However, Brian’s future role with IndyCar will not be as CEO of the organization,” the statement said.
So who will?
The name that continues to surface is Zak Brown, founder and CEO motorsports marketing agency Just Marketing International. Brown had previously said he was interested in only a board position with IndyCar or a consulting role, but his name also appeared in series founder Tony George’s proposal to buy the series.
George’s proposal last October included a management team in which Brown would act as CEO of the series. Now, with IndyCar still looking for a leader six weeks before the season begins, Brown appears to be the best option for the series.
If Brown was to move to IndyCar, he’d be wise to demand autonomy from the series and ensure the board of directors would not interfere in his management. Bernard had neither and was shown the door with two years remaining on his contract.
German takes spot with MWR
Tom German will return to NASCAR after the season-opening Daytona 500 as the chief technical officer for Michael Waltrip Racing.
German spent almost 15 years with Penske Racing, but left midway through the 2011 season to attend the MIT Sloan School of Management. His departure came after a highly-publicized incident with driver Kurt Busch, who blasted German and the Penske team in an expletive-laden rant on his team radio during a race at Richmond.
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