Dan­ica pulled into mid­dle of law­suit with spon­sor

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - SPORTS - By Mark Long

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. >> Na­ture’s Bak­ery vowed Thurs­day to fight Ste­wart-Haas Racing in court, say­ing it wouldn’t be bul­lied by one of NASCAR’s top teams over a $31 mil­lion breach-of-con­tract law­suit filed in a spon­sor­ship dis­pute in­volv­ing driver Dan­ica Pa­trick.

The Reno, Ne­vada-based food com­pany, one of the small­est pri­mary spon­sors in NASCAR, sev­ered its spon­sor­ship agree­ment with SHR and Pa­trick after the first year of a three-year deal. SHR re­sponded with a scathing law­suit in which it ac­cused Na­ture’s Bak­ery of hav­ing cash­flow is­sues and con­coct­ing rea­sons for pulling out.

Na­ture’s Bak­ery CEO Kelly Allin said the com­pany was “thrown off by SHR’s law­suit” and had plans to meet in Char­lotte, North Carolina, days be­fore the suit was filed.

“Con­trary to its im­age, SHR is run by big-busi­ness types that took ad­van­tage of Na­ture’s Bak­ery,” Allin said. “They now are threat­en­ing scorched-earth lit­i­ga­tion against a multi-gen­er­a­tional fam­ily com­pany. We’re ob­vi­ously not go­ing to let them bully us. We may be a small brand, but we do not think what they are do­ing is right. We look for­ward to de­fend­ing our­selves in court.”

Na­ture’s Bak­ery said it will file a de­tailed re­sponse and coun­ter­claims shortly that will “shed light on SHR’s con­duct both dur­ing the race sea­son and after.”

“They can file what­ever they want. We’re con­fi­dent with our po­si­tion,” said SHR pres­i­dent Brett Frood.

One of SHR’s par­tic­u­larly nasty al­le­ga­tions was that Na­ture’s Bak­ery had re­cur­ring mold is­sues with its bars, which con­trib­uted to fi­nan­cial prob­lems. SHR also al­leged its own em­ploy­ees were forced to re­move moldy bars from in­ven­tory that was slated for mar­ket­ing ef­forts at races.

SHR also said Na­ture’s Bak­ery re­peat­edly asked for mod­i­fied pay­ment sched­ules and then missed pay­ments. SHR said the com­pany de­vised “a scheme to avoid fur­ther pay­ments” by claim­ing Pa­trick had been en­dors­ing com­pet­ing prod­ucts and was not us­ing her so­cial me­dia pres­ence enough to pro­mote Na­ture’s Bak­ery.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS — FILE PHOTO

One of Dan­ica Pa­trick’s spon­sors has stepped up to fill a sud­den fund­ing void cre­ated when Ste­wart-Haas Racing sued her pri­mary backer for $31mil­lion in a breach of con­tract suit. Aspen Den­tal said Tues­day it will be the lead spon­sor for Pa­trick and de­but on her car in the Feb. 26 sea­son-open­ing Daytona 500.

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