Rahal sues Sharp because Sharp sues Rahal

Posted by Iannucci | 11/29/2007 | 3 comments »
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An update on the previous post, this time from USA Today:

Days after Rahal Letterman Racing was served with a breach-of-contract lawsuit by driver Scott Sharp, the Ohio-based team countered with a suit.

Sharp, 39, filed suit in Florida last week seeking his release from RLR, citing the team's inability to be competitive in his first season there.

He finished eighth in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar standings with a best finish of third place (twice) in 2007. Sharp is a nine-time winner in the IRL's top series, but hasn't won since August 2005.

"He's not going to be driving for Rahal next year," Sharp's lawyer Michael R. Josephs said Wednesday night.

You can sue for an "inability to be competitive"? Really? Man, the Arizona Cardinals are gonna have a serious class action lawsuit on their hands with this news.

Seriously though, this doesn't bode well for RLR. Losing Danica Patrick late last year was the tipping point for a team that within two seasons also lost Buddy Rice, and Vitor Meira (as well as Paul Dana under far more tragic circumstances). Halfway through this past season Jeff Simmons was also abruptly let go in what many saw as an attempt to keep the Ethanol sponsorship from going to a more successful team.

So if Sharp and his sponsor are gone that leaves one still driverless car at RLR sponsored by Ethanol, assuming the EPIC(Ethanol) folks don't decide to do the same thing as Sharp and go elsewhere - with or without Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Regardless, The Bobby's Christmas Card list gets even shorter.

UPDATE: From the braintrust at TrackSide Online.

From what we've learned, Patron pays Scott Sharp (or one of his companies), and Sharp then contracts with Rahal Letterman to provide the racing equipment and team (reportedly paying well in excess of $5million to the team per season). Because Sharp is bringing the money, fairly standard practice in this business would be that Sharp's contract would be full of specifics on what the team will provide from an equipment and people standpoint. In short, Sharp is renting a race team, and he gets considerable say in what it'll look like.

It's notable that Rahal Letterman let go of engineers Ray Leto and Jeff Britton early in the off-season - it would not be a surprise if this played a part in either Sharp or Rahal's case.

BTW, TSO checked with Panther Racing and they said that Sharp is not on his way to their operation.
So this is not unlike renting a car for two days, bringing it back after one day and saying you're going to rent from someone else instead. Just with more zeroes involved. And lawyers.


  1. Johnny // November 29, 2007 8:34 AM  

    Although he's been uncompetitive for a couple of years now and had already let his most marketable commodity slip through his fingers, this still isn't good. Looks a little Champ Car even.

  2. Anonymous // November 29, 2007 12:16 PM  


    If you can now file suit on the grounds of "inability to be competitive", there's going to be a lot of drivers breaking out in a cold sweat right about now.

    Johnny, I think Rahal-Letterman Racing has been on the downslope since Target Chip Ganassi and Penske signed on to run Honda engines in 2006. Rumor had it that RLR and Andretti Green were the "factory" efforts for Honda in the big Toyota\Honda battle. Once Penske and TGCR came on board and Toyota left, no more advantage. Andretti Green had to work harder to match Penske and TCGR (and obviously it paid off in '07), but RLR seems "lost at sea" since then. It's almost like Bobby's heart isn't in the game anymore. One wonders if he's marking time until Graham comes to the IRL (if at all, and A.J. Foyt or Michael Andretti may have some choice words for him about putting relatives in racing cars that you own).

    BTW, Johnny, if it was Champ Car Sharp would've been tossed out before Chicagoland and a new talent (with lots of $$$$$$$$) would be in the #8 with no explanation.

  3. Johnny // November 29, 2007 12:26 PM  

    Well, "lots of $$$$$$$$" being pretty relative. Like I've said in some private emails and on my podcast last week, I know dirt track guys pulling down more than CCWS drivers at this point. That just seals me ever discussing them seriously again.

    But on this, it's less funny the more it goes on and a black eye on the IRL to have such an at least at one time highly respected champion like Rahal in this kind of a situation. My prognosis is he'll be out of the sport sooner rather than later and maybe still kicking around the ALMS and being a "helicopter parent" for Graham in his futile pursuits at F1.