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Brennan Poole’s lawsuit against Chip Ganassi Racing and his former agency Spire contains a host of allegations against the team and agency, including that Spire — which had relationships with both Poole and Chip Ganassi Racing — worked to take sponsor DC Solar from Poole’s Xfinity Series car to Kyle Larson’s Cup Series car.
Here are some of the suit’s biggest allegations and the details that surround them. Full disclosure, lawsuits often tell just one side of the story and Chip Ganassi Racing declined comment on the suit to ESPN and Spire told ESPN that it had not yet seen it.
The lawsuit also includes reference to Poole having a better rookie season in the Xfinity Series than Kyle Larson’s 2014 Xfinity Series season. That is not true, as Larson led more laps, had more top 10s and had a better average finish in 2014 than Poole did in 2016. Larson’s rookie season in the Xfinity Series was in 2013.
Why Poole believes there’s a conflict of interest
Spire is a significant player in the NASCAR agency world. Poole signed them as his management company and paid them a retainer in addition to a percentage of all other business-related revenue. According to the suit, there was a sentence added to the agreement between Poole and the team that said DC Solar was his primary sponsor and not a primary sponsor of the team.
The sentence “was added to the non-solicitation provision in order to express the parties’ understanding and agreement that Brennan Poole would have the ability to continue his sponsor/driver relationship with DC Solar without interference from CGR and continue to receive sponsorship support from DC Solar following the termination of the [driver services agreement].”
The suit alleges “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 DSA.”
DC Solar is now one of Larson’s primary sponsors in the Cup Series. Poole claims he found out in September 2017 that Spire president Jeff Dickerson was also working as a consultant for CGR.
That happened a year after Poole said he was informed that Spire had a contract with DC Solar to manage its racing-related businesses. When that happened, Poole said he was told that Spire would be watching out for his interests and that Spire would continue to influence DC Solar to stay with Poole.
Was Poole promised a Cup Series ride at CGR?
Poole drove in 17 races for CGR in 2015 at a sponsor cost of $2.5 million, according to the suit. Full seasons over the next two years were over $5 million each.
After the 2015 season, Poole wanted to move from CGR to JR Motorsports. According to the suit, Spire told him that it would cost over $7 million in sponsorship to go to the team. That was an inflated number, the suit says, and Spire kept him at the team by saying Jamie McMurray would retire after the 2016 season and Poole would take over his car.
That hasn’t happened. Poole is currently without a ride in NASCAR and McMurray is still driving the No. 1 car for Ganassi.
Did Richard Childress want Poole to drive for him?
Poole claims he was approached by Richard Childress Racing about moving to the Cup Series in 2018 and was surprised at the team’s overture. When RCR personally approached him, a representative from the team allegedly told Poole that the team had tried to contact Spire twice about his availability and Spire told RCR that Poole was not interested in the ride.
Poole said he told Spire of RCR’s approach and the agency said RCR was “fool’s gold” and the team really didn’t want him to drive the car. He also says Spire then started a rumor that Poole was a candidate for the No. 5 car at Hendrick Motorsports.
As part of the RCR interest, the lawsuit says RCR wanted $10 million for a full Cup Series season’s worth of sponsorship from DC Solar. The president of DC Solar “responded that, if RCR could bring business to DC Solar, then DC Solar would provide the necessary sponsorship funds.”
The suit then alleges that a deal didn’t materialize because DC Solar was told by Spire that RCR would actually want $15 million.
Target left Larson’s car after 2017
Target’s departure from Larson’s No. 42 Cup Series car played a significant role in luring DC Solar to the Cup Series, according to the suit.
“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 between Brennan Poole and DC Solar and facilitating the diversion of DC Solar’s sponsorship from Brennan Poole to CGR.”
The suit also alleges that Cessna, a sponsor of Chip Ganassi Racing, offered DC Solar the use of a plane if DC Solar moved up to the Cup Series. The Poole family says it had no idea this discussion took place and “reasonably continued to believe” Poole would have a Cup ride at CGR in 2018.
It says Poole and his father were informed in July of 2017 that Dickerson was consulting for CGR, meaning Spire had business relationships with Poole, the sponsor and the race team.
“[Dickerson] stated to the effect that “drivers and sponsors come and go” but Spire’s relationships with teams do not.” Dickerson stated that race teams were more important to Spire’s racing-related business than race car drivers because eighty percent of Spire’s racing related revenue was derived from team clients. McGhee [Spire employee] later informed Tom Poole that Spire received a seven percent commission on all sponsorship money DC Solar paid to CGR (on information and belief, $910,000 in this case). Until Tom Poole’s conversation with Dickerson in July 2017, Spire had never stated … that Spire pursued and accepted employment with race teams, much less a race team that employed Spire’s own driver client.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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