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Panther sues IndyCar, Rahal Letterman over sponsor deal

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Indianapolis-based Panther Racing Inc. has sued Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, IndyCar and others, saying it lost a $17.2 million sponsorship with the Army National Guard because of bid-rigging and other improprieties.

The lawsuit filed Feb. 19 in Marion County Court in Indianapolis follows a ruling earlier this year by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The GAO denied Panther's appeal of moving the Army National Guard sponsorship to Graham Rahal's car for the upcoming IndyCar season.

The Brownsburg-based Rahal organization sought the sponsorship last fall, but Panther Racing appealed to keep the contract it has held since 2008. All military sponsorships are reviewed annually.

Panther Racing had used a variety of drivers in the car since J.R. Hildebrand crashed on the final lap while leading the Indianapolis 500 in 2011.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified economic and punitive damages, accuses IndyCar of breach of contract, contending Panther Racing had exclusive right to provide Fan Village access rights and benefits to the Army National Guard, which was a requirement of the contract, but that IndyCar CEO Mark Miles wrote a letter last November saying Rahal had the right to provide that access.

The lawsuit alleges IndyCar is liable for all economic damages to Panther arising from that breach. A message seeking comment was left Friday for an IndyCar spokesman by The Associated Press.

The lawsuit also alleges Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was aware of Panther Racing's exclusive rights to provide access to the Fan Village and falsely claimed ownership of the contractual right.

Rahal racing officials said in a statement released Friday that Panther is raising many of the same issues it raised with the GAO.

"The GAO also noted that there was no evidence supporting many of Panther's allegations, and that the National Guard's decision was driven by the basic fact that Panther's base per-year price was approximately $5 million more than RLL's price," the statement reads.

Landing the funding was a big step that will help the overall growth of the Rahal organization. Bobby Rahal added his son to the team last year, and he has overhauled the program since midway through last season, when he brought in engineer Mitch Davis. He's also added engineer Bill Pappas and recently named veteran John Dick head of research and development.

Rahal called the lawsuit "unfortunate and disappointing."

The lawsuit also names a company called Document Packaging Brokers, known as Docupak, based in Alabaster, Ala., which it says performed services to administer the National Guard sponsorship agreements, and someone in the National Guard contracting office of conspiring with Rahal racing to influence the bid process.

A telephone message was left Friday for a Docupak spokesman by the AP.
 

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  • Marshall Pruett in Racer.Com
    Nice article by Mr. Pruett. I'm now a John Barnes supporter and hope he gets his just due. Indycar and the IRl and Rahal are killing the sport with this collusion. Down with Rahal, down with Indy. Down with the IRL LLC.
  • CART's fault (again)
    You're too funny....LOL. I doubt your analysis holds any merit 'primarily' just because your whoopie cushion is constantly deflating here. Give it a rest old puffer, John Barnes made his own bed and he can lie in it. Asking for $5Million more than the next bidder looks increasingly opportunistic, even for IRL standards. IRL bred owners are dropping by the wayside. What happening?
  • Self Immolation Revisited
    The vitriolic nature of these legal actions is the result of many factors, primarily the 'destroy all other competitors on and off the track' mentality championed by those who ran the twice failed cart series. Now that those players have re-assumed control of the sport, are essentially led by one of their own, and with ownership willing to bend over without asking any questions, results are predictable. Many folks are quick to blame 100% of this problem on John Barnes, based mostly on rumor, innuendo and hearsay about past transgressions, not to mention his early roots as an early IRL owner. Honestly though, if you were in Barnes shoes and were subject to some of the back stabbing and slithery behavior that contributed to the sponsor departure would you not lawyer up? Sure he is rightfully upset about losing a primary sponsor but probably not enough to challenge that aspect in court. What has him taking this action is the sleaziness of some individuals involved in making it happen. He deserves his day in court. Unfortunately that kind of publicity is something the series does not need. Given the tone of rhetoric in this thread and all other IndyCar threads that inevitably devolve into mostly 'I hate IndyCar' epithets by miscreants I believe we can safely say the bailout in 2008 mercifully positioned as 'unification' is anything but. Par for this particular course.
  • Natural causes
    Thats right if the IRL hadn't been hatched then CART could have died on it's own and Tony George could have been a hero by starting the IRL when it died. But seeing as Tony started a rival IRL series he unnaturally severed the sport. Destroyed the DNA of the sport. So now you got what you got, virtually a worthless series and a meaningless spec 500 on memorial day.
  • If only there'd never been an IRL.
    I wish Tony George had never started the IRL. Because then the street race/foreign driver only CART would have gotten it's brains bashed in by NASCAR that much quicker and we would now be going on 10 years without Indy car racing and the Indy 500. I wish this primarily because I'm curious where these whining troglodytes would then place the blame.
  • Collusion
    Why is Mark Miles/IMS involved in this at all? This is payback for the Randy Bernard firing. Now, all we need is AJ out and it'll be IRL free. Oh, except for the cling-on named Barnhart. That guy must know where the bodies are buried. Too.
  • sue HG as well
    As we know this whole situation is the result of the HG family. They should sue them as well. The end is near!! Only a few short months and this is over!! No more Indy Car!! Put it to bed!! bawaahaahaa!!

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