Brennan Poole is suing his former team, Chip Ganassi Racing, and former agency Spire Sports and Entertainment on claims that they illegally conspired to move the DC Solar sponsorship from Poole in the Xfinity Series to Kyle Larson in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Poole, according to the complaint filed last week in North Carolina Superior Court, brought the DC Solar sponsorship to Ganassi, which got $2.5 million for a 17-race Poole schedule in the Xfinity Series in 2015; $5.2 million for a full Xfinity season in 2016; and $5.5 million for another full Xfinity season in 2017.
Poole claims clauses in his Ganassi contract -- primarily a two-year, non-solicitation clause -- prohibit the sponsorship remaining at Ganassi without Poole's consent. The amount in damages he is seeking is not specified. He is not seeking an injunction to keep DC Solar from appearing on Larson's Cup car, as it has this season.
Finishing eighth in the Xfinity Series standings in 2016 and sixth in 2017, Poole has eight top-5s in 83 career Xfinity starts. He earned a $225,000 base salary at Ganassi plus 50 percent of the purse for a first-place finish, 40 percent for a top-10 and 30 percent for a top-20. He has been without a ride in 2018.
Poole, who according to the lawsuit paid Spire $67,416 in base retainer and commissions from September 2014 through December 2017, alleges that misrepresentations by Spire thwarted potential deals. He claimed that Spire told him JR Motorsports wanted $7.5 million for an Xfinity ride in 2016 when the actual price was $3.2 million.
He also alleges that Spire misrepresented to DC Solar that if it wanted to sponsor a Cup car at Richard Childress Racing in 2018, it would cost $15 million. RCR actually wanted $10 million, according to the Poole complaint, and would arrange business deals for DC Solar worth $6 million profit. DC Solar only offered $8 million to RCR and the deal never materialized, according to the complaint.
Poole's allegations include that Spire's signing a contract as a consultant for Ganassi in its sponsorship search to replace Larson sponsor Target also created a conflict of interest.
"Spire unfairly, illegally and fraudulently procured the diversion and misappropriation of Brennan Poole's primary sponsor, DC Solar, from Brennan Poole to CGR, also a client of Spire," the complaint states.
The lawyers representing Chip Ganassi Racing issued a lengthy statement Friday disputing Poole's claims. Cary Davis and James Voyles, attorneys with extensive racing litigation experience, are representing Ganassi.
"Brennan Poole's lawsuit, like so many based on so-called 'information and belief,' is long on conspiracy and insinuation and woefully short on the relevant facts," Davis and Voyles said in the statement. "As will be shown by actual evidence, nobody conspired to steal a sponsor away from Brennan Poole."
The two lawyers said Poole had no contract with DC Solar and that DC Solar decided to move to the Cup Series without Poole and then, after talking to several teams, opted to back Larson. They said the non-solicitation provision is not applicable because once DC Solar ended its relationship with Poole, the driver lost any right he had to stop DC Solar from sponsoring any race team.
"CGR regrets that Mr. Poole refuses to accept that his three-year run with CGR and DC Solar came to an end not because of some nefarious plot against him, but because he never won a race despite the advantages of the best equipment in the garage," Davis and Voyles said.
Spire's attorneys, Cindy Van Horne & Lee Spinks, released a statement Friday night saying the agency is committed to the success of its clients and the racing industry.
"Spire considers it extremely unfortunate that Brennan Poole has chosen this course of action in light of the strong support he received from Spire, DC Solar and CGR," the statement said. "Although Spire has not been served, it understands the general nature of the allegations, denies them, and intends to vigorously defend these unfounded claims.
"Spire is gratified to be an active contributor to the success of many drivers, sponsors, race teams and manufacturers in NASCAR. Spire is particularly proud of its success securing for Brennan an Xfinity ride for the past three years with an excellent team, CGR, and in assuring that DC Solar, his former sponsor, continued its support for Brennan throughout that time."
Spire had not yet been served. Poole's attorney declined comment.