Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery earlier this month for breach of contract.
Danica Patrick’s former sponsor, Nature’s Bakery, disputes Stewart-Haas Racing’s claim the snack food company breached its contract and says it won’t be bullied by the NASCAR team co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas.
SHR filed a $31.7 million lawsuit on Feb. 3 alleging Nature’s Bakery failed to meet scheduled payment dates and was seeking money owed, plus interest. In its suit, SHR claims Nature’s Bakery began experiencing cash flow problems shortly after signing a three-year contract in 2015 to serve as Patrick’s primary sponsor in 20 to 28 Monster Energy Cup Series races beginning with the 2016 season and asked if it could restructure the terms of the deal.
SHR also contends Nature’s Bakery concocted “a scheme to avoid further payments” by claiming Patrick did not sufficiently use her social media accounts to promote Nature’s Bakery in addition to endorsing her own homemade edibles such as meals, snacks, and smoothies.
Nature’s Bakery manufactures fig bars marketed toward those seeking a healthy lifestyle, and is among the smallest companies to sponsor a preeminent NASCAR team with one of the sport’s most marketable drivers. On Thursday, it issued a statement acknowledging the severing of the contract while also rebutting SHR’s position that the Reno, Nev.,-based company failed to act in good faith.
“We were thrown off by SHR’s lawsuit,” Nature’s Bakery CEO Kelly Allin said. “SHR and its owners are no stranger to aggressive litigation. Ours is a family business that repeatedly sought to resolve our issues privately. In fact, we were scheduled to meet in Charlotte just days before they sued us.
“Contrary to its image, SHR is run by big-business types that took advantage of Nature’s Bakery. They now are threatening scorched earth litigation against a multi-generational family company. We’re obviously not going to let them bully us. We may be a small brand, but we do not think what they are doing is right. We look forward to defending ourselves in court.”
Nature’s Bakery exit as Patrick’s anchor sponsor leave SHR in a lurch with the season-opening Daytona 500 just a week away. Aspen Dental announced Tuesday it was upping its commitment to back Patrick’s No. 10 team from four races to an unspecified “double-digit slate of races,” while TaxAct and Code 3 Associates will each sponsor Patrick in three races apiece.
However, that leaves Patrick without a primary sponsor for roughly half of the 36-race season. SHR also must find additional sponsorship for Clint Bowyer, who joined the team this year to replace the retiring Stewart, as Bower has sponsorship for a only a handful of races.
SHR’s other drivers, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick, are both fully sponsored.