Danica pulled into middle of lawsuit with sponsor
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.
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.