FILE - In this June 8, 2012, file photo, driver Katherine Legge watches before IndyCar Series qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Legge has threatened legal action over her termination from Dragon Racing on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, one day after the team said Sebastian Saavedra had been hired to drive the No. 6 this IndyCar season. (AP Photo/Ralph Lauer, File)
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 5:15 pm
Legge threatens legal action against Dragon Racing
By JENNA FRYERAP Auto Racing Writer
Legge started last season driving the car, then split seat time with Dragon teammate Sebastien Bourdais after an engine manufacturer switch forced the team to run only one car. In a terse statement, Legge said she had a two-year contract with Dragon and the team stole sponsor TrueCar for Saavedra.
"I firmly believe that Dragon Racing and TrueCar cannot proceed without me and I will be taking legal action to protect my rights," Legge said.
The TrueCar sponsorship allowed Legge to return to IndyCar last season after racing in the European DTM series. She alleged Wednesday she brought the sponsorship to Dragon because team owner Jay Penske, son of Roger Penske, promised additional sponsorship from Penske Dealerships.
That sponsorship never materialized and the Dragon cars, saddled with Lotus engines, struggled through the first four races of the season. Penske then sued Lotus for a release from the contract. He agreed to a deal with Chevrolet that got him two engines for the Indianapolis 500, but only one engine for his two cars for the remainder of the season.
Legge wound up running 10 of the 15 races. The English driver failed to finish four times, and had a season-best finish of ninth in the finale at Fontana. She was 22nd at Indy.
"It was a very difficult season last year, we did very little testing and I was made to sit out of some of the races," said Legge, who also alleged her quest for sponsorship was hurt by Penske's arrest in August for allegedly breaking into the Nantucket Yacht Club and later urinating on the boots of a woman who confronted him in the parking lot.
"Jay Penske's actions in Nantucket really hurt my ability to find additional and personal sponsors, and it was highly embarrassing, especially with the message that we were trying to portray regarding the empowerment of women in motorsport," Legge said.
Dragon Racing did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Legge said he was informed in January she was not going to be back with the team, and has been unable to find another job in IndyCar since. She also said she hoped IndyCar intervened on her behalf in the dispute with Dragon and TrueCar.
"I can tell you that I feel like I have been treated very unfairly in all of this and the last thing I feel at the moment is `Empowered!'" she said in her statement. "I have fought very hard, every step of my career, to get the opportunities that I have created for myself and I will continue to do so. I want to thank everybody for their support during all of this, it has been very tough for me to watch it unfold."
Dragon, meanwhile, said Tuesday it has hired Saavedra to be teammates this season with Bourdais, the four-time Champ Car champion. The team said TrueCar will sponsor Saavedra, a 22-year-old Colombian.
WHO'S IN CHARGE?: It's been nearly four months since IndyCar fired CEO Randy Bernard and there's been almost no buzz whatsoever within the series since his termination.
That picked up briefly this week when it was rumored that former president of competition and racing operations Brian Barnhart would be named CEO. That was quickly dismissed by IndyCar in a statement attributed to the series.
"Brian continues to be an executive member of IndyCar and his understanding of our sport continues to provide our organization with valuable input. However, Brian's future role with IndyCar will not be as CEO of the organization," the statement said.
So who will?
The name that continues to surface is Zak Brown, founder and CEO motorsports marketing agency Just Marketing International. Brown had previously said he was interested in only a board position with IndyCar or a consulting role, but his name also appeared in series founder Tony George's proposal to buy the series.
George's proposal last October included a management team in which Brown would act as CEO of the series. Now, with IndyCar still looking for a leader six weeks before the season begins, Brown appears to be the best option for the series.
Roger Penske last week told The Associated Press he'd be in favor of Brown taking the CEO job, but noted Brown would have to relinquish his marketing agency and might be unwilling to give up JMI. Brown has declined to comment on any potential interest in the job.
But one thing is certain: If Brown was to move to IndyCar, he'd be wise to demand autonomy from the series and ensure the board of directors would not interfere in his management. Bernard had neither and was shown the door with two years remaining on his contract.
PAPIS GETS A SEAT: Veteran road racer Max Papis has put together a limited deal with Richard Childress Racing this season for three Nationwide Series races.
Papis will drive the No. 33 Chevrolet at Road America and Mid-Ohio, and on the oval at Iowa.
"Having the trust and support of a man like Richard Childress ... shows me how far I have come in NASCAR," the Italian said. "With RCR and ECR Engines, I will have the best opportunity in my career to accomplish my goal of winning a NASCAR race. It fills my heart with joy to know that I did enough to earn an oval race opportunity and I will make everyone proud of their decision."
WELCOME BACK: Tom German will return to NASCAR after the season-opening Daytona 500 as the chief technical officer for Michael Waltrip Racing.
German spent almost 15 years with Penske Racing, but left midway through the 2011 season to attend the MIT Sloan School of Management. His departure came after a highly-publicized incident with driver Kurt Busch, who blasted German and the Penske team in an expletive-laden rant on his team radio during a race at Richmond.
Busch took specific aim in his meltdown at German, blaming the technical director for what he deemed to be ill-handling race cars.
German left to pursue his master's degree at MIT shortly after, and Penske officials insisted German's departure had been long planned and was unrelated to the Busch incident.
Now he's back in NASCAR at upstart MWR, which was able to offer German it's highest ranking technical position after Nick Hughes said he was returning to his native Australia.
"This is such a bitter-sweet announcement for MWR," said team co-owner Michael Waltrip. "It is so rare that a person of Tom German's experience and education comes along, period. It is even more remarkable that he became available at the perfect time. Nick has done such an amazing job and has become one of the most respected behind-the-scenes guys in NASCAR."
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