Nascar Team Owner Hall of Shame: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (and a few Rebounds)

It’s a common complaint about “stick-and-ball” sports that you hear more about superstars in the police reports than the sports pages.  It’s said that Nascar isn’t your average sport, and in this respect it’s definitely true—you’re more likely to see the OWNERS in legal trouble than the drivers.  From fly-by-night operations to championship-teams, from Nascar lifers to those who seemingly disappeared after a year or two, plenty of team owners have spent time behind bars (or barely avoided it).
Here is the first (to my knowledge) list of Nascar team owners who have had legal problems or have left their drivers and crew in the lurch monetarily.  NOT listed are team owners who had individual run-ins with the law that seemed to have no impact on their teams.  Call it the Nascar Team Owner Hall of Shame.

Dale Jarrett passes Johnny Benson
for the lead at the Daytona 500,
Tyler Jet Motorsports' finest moment
Tim Beverley—Tyler Jet Motorsports
THE GOOD: Tim Beverley made his fortune in the aircraft sales world, then turned his attention to Nascar in 1998.  Beverley first purchased Darrell Waltrip’s race team, then combined it with ISM Racing (see below).  After an unremarkable year in 1999 with David Green, the team stunned the Nascar world by leading late in the 2000 Daytona 500 with driver Johnny Benson and a last-minute sponsor in Lycos.
THE BAD: The Lycos “sponsorship” was soon revealed to be a complicated online advertising deal, one that would see the team remove Lycos from the car for non-payment.  Beverley wound up selling the again-unsponsored team to a partnership of MB2 Motorsports and new sponsor Valvoline.
THE UGLY: Beverley was indicted on 29 counts of bank fraud and money laundering, spending almost five years in federal prison.  These charges were related to his airplane business dealings, which reportedly also included ties to a Mexican cartel.  Beverley has returned to the airplane business since his release.

Donnie Allison in a DiGard-owned
(and sponsored) car
Mike DiProspero and Bill Gardner—DiGard Motorsports
THE GOOD: Running from 1975-1986, the brothers-in-law had a slew of wins from drivers such as Donnie Allison, Darrell Waltrip, and Bobby Allison, with whom the team would win the 1983 Winston Cup championship.
THE BAD: Despite sponsorship from companies such as Gatorade and Miller Brewing, the team was notoriously late and short at paying its bills.  Both Donnie Allison and Waltrip complained that they weren’t being paid, and a deal to supply engines to the new Curb Motorsports devolved into litigation.
THE UGLY: Less than a year after winning the championship, the team lost driver Bobby Allison, who took sponsor Miller with him to Stavola Bros. Racing.  The team limped along for two more years before finally dissolving midway through 1986.

George Gillett—Evernham Motorsports/Richard Petty Motorsports
Reed Sorenson (43) essentially raced
for no pay near the end of his single
season with RPM, while Elliott
Sadler (19) was forced to sue to keep
his ride
THE GOOD: George Gillett made his first fortune through such diverse holdings as the Harlem Globetrotters, TV stations, ski resorts, and meat packing plants.  After losing most of his empire in a junk bond market crash, Gillett made a second fortune concentrated on meat packaging before turning his attention to sports, buying the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL, English soccer power Liverpool FC, and Evernham Motorsports, combining it with the remnants of Petty Enterprises to create Richard Petty Motorsports (in which Gillett, despite the team’s name, was the largest shareholder).
THE BAD: The global recession hit Gillett’s finances hard, and he defaulted on a $90 million loan he used to buy into Evernham/RPM.  Embarrassingly, the RPM cars were impounded by creditors late in the 2010 season, with the team operating on a day-to-day basis on the brink of bankruptcy.  After barely surviving the season (mostly due to Richard Petty re-taking control of the team), RPM was bought-out by a partnership of Andrew Murstein, Douglas Bergeron, and Petty himself.
THE UGLY: Gillett has disappeared from the public eye since his sports empire collapsed.  He remains persona non grata in the Nascar world, and is one of the most-hated owners in English soccer history.

Two Ginn cars on-track--neither of
which would survive the year
Bobby Ginn—Ginn Racing
THE GOOD: Bobby Ginn got his start in Hilton Head, South Carolina, developing luxury resorts and making enemies along the way (“Honk if Bobby Owes You Money” bumper stickers were rife in the area in the 80’s).  In the go-go 90’s Ginn re-emerged on a national scale, developing massive golf resorts and communities across the country.  Before the 2007 season, Ginn bought the former MB2 race team, making wholesale changes to the driver and sponsor lineup.  Things started with a bang as part-time driver Mark Martin nearly drove the Ginn 01 car to victory lane in the Daytona 500, losing to Kevin Harvick by a few feet.
THE BAD: By mid-season Ginn’s teams were in hot water, with the 13 car shut down due to lack of sponsorship, and the 14 team shuffling drivers for the same reason—this despite the fact that the team SEEMED to have close-to-full sponsorship at the start of the season.  Around the Brickyard 400, the team found a lifeline by merging with DEI, upon which the 01 was (essentially) the only car to survive.  In an ominous allusion to the past, a plane flew over the fall race at Charlotte towing a banner reading: “How Much Does Bobby Ginn Owe You?”
THE UGLY: The eventual merger of the revamped DEI with Ganassi Racing would see Bobby Ginn bow-out completely as a team owner.  Although his mansion was foreclosed upon in 2014, he has re-emerged developing a massive resort in the Bahamas.

Gene Haas—Haas CNC Racing/Stewart-Haas Racing
The first Haas-owned Cup car
THE GOOD: Gene Haas was an engineer-turned-marketer, making his fortune in the high-tech world of CNC machines.  Originally entering Nascar as a sponsor at Hendrick Motorsports, Haas formed his own team, Haas CNC Racing, in late-2002.  Despite strong sponsorship, a state-of-the-art race shop, and Haas’s own considerable financial backing, the team was an also-ran until partnering with driver (and new co-owner) Tony Stewart prior to the 2009 season, starting the team on a path that would lead to a pair of championships.
THE BAD: Haas was arrested in 2006 by the IRS for a litany of tax-related crimes.  After reaching a plea bargain, Haas pled guilty to conspiracy to commit tax evasion, serving 16 months in federal prison and paying $75 million in penalties.
THE REBOUND: Haas’s team in prison did little to slow Stewart-Haas Racing’s progress, as the team has since grown to four full-time teams in the Sprint Cup Series.  Furthermore, Haas has independently started his own Formula One team as well.

After relaunching the team, Darrell
Waltrip ran a Chevy at the Brickyard
400.  Despite a solid run, Tabasco execs
were furious that a driver AND
manufacturer change had been made
without their input.
Bob Hancher—ISM Racing
THE GOOD: Hancher’s ISM Racing team lasted less than a year in Nascar, being started, raced, sold, and merged over a period of twelve months from mid-1997 to mid-1998.  Arguably the team’s greatest accomplishment in Nascar was the securing of Tabasco as a full-time sponsor.  The team also ran in IRL.
THE BAD: Hancher sold his team midway through its lone season to fellow Hall of Shame member Tim Beverley, leading to the infamous “Tabasco Fiasco” which saw the hot sauce giant leave the sport.  Hancher disappeared from the Nascar world.
THE UGLY: Years later, Hancher ran into simultaneous legal issues in 2010-2011.  He was forced to pay almost $3 million in restitution in a civil fraud case involving a number of companies of which he served as an executive.  Meanwhile, investigation continued into a mysterious fire that destroyed his home.  Hancher was eventually sentenced to eight-plus years in federal prison stemming from a criminal indictment related to his civil case.

“Angela Harkness” & Gary D. Jones—Angela’s Motorsports
Mike McLaughlin with his intended
ride for the 2003 season
THE GOOD: There’s not much good to say about what is arguably Nascar’s biggest ownership scandal.  Fatemeh Karimkhani, under the name Angela Harkness, was a stripper with a mysterious background who partnered with her lover, the married (not to her) Gary D. Jones of Wells Fargo.  The two hatched a scheme to start a Nascar Busch (now Xfinity) Series team, entering two cars in the 2002 finale as a warm-up for a full run in 2003.  Mike McLaughlin was hired to drive, Harold Holly was hired to crew chief, and the team appeared to have sponsorship from Wired Flyer, an online travel agent.  In pre-season testing for 2003, McLaughlin was fastest.
THE BAD: The team’s checks started to bounce, and most of the blame was placed by Harkness/Karimkhani on the owners of Wired Flyer, who, in turn, claimed they were not the primary sponsor, but merely an associate who had fulfilled their financial obligations.  The team’s main creditor, Robert Yates Racing, confiscated their equipment and the two owners disappeared.  McLaughlin was able to run the first race of the season with help from fans and Darrell Waltrip, but his career essentially ended.
THE UGLY: Jones was quickly found and was found guilty of bank fraud, sentenced to three-plus years in jail.  Harkness/Karimkhani fled the country but was found in Dubai, returned to the US, and eventually sentenced to three-plus years as well.

Harmon's infamous wreck at
Mike Harmon—Mike Harmon Racing
THE GOOD: An independent owner-driver, Harmon has raced primarily in the Busch/Nationwide/Xfinity Series, frequently running his own equipment.  Other than an aborted attempt at Cup racing for Junie Donlavey in 1999, Harmon’s most-notable moment was his vicious practice crash at Bristol in 2002.
THE BAD: Harmon was arrested in 2013 for being the “point man” in the theft of racing equipment from Jennifer Jo Cobb.  Complicating matters was the involvement of Dave Novak, a former business and romantic partner of Truck Series racer Jennifer Jo Cobb.
THE UGLY: Upon finding the missing equipment at Harmon’s garage, Harmon turned himself in, although still claiming his innocence.  Later, Cobb asked that the charges against Harmon were dropped, which they were, and all involved have seemed to move on.

Rick Hendrick—Hendrick Motorsports
Geoff(rey) Bodine driving the then-
All-Star Racing car to its first win--
the following year the team would
change its name to Hendrick
THE GOOD: One of the most-celebrated owners in Nascar history, Hendrick entered the sport in 1984, almost immediately winning races.  With the financial backing of major sponsors and his own extensive auto dealership network, Hendrick built his team into a Nascar juggernaut, fueling the careers of champions such as Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Terry Labonte.
THE BAD: In 1996 Hendrick’s empire came under siege, as he was charged with mail fraud for bribing Honda executives to receive preferential treatment in the disbursement of the popular cars.  Sick with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, Hendrick avoided jail time by plea bargaining down to a $250k fine and 12 months of home confinement, during which he was prohibited from having any contact with this race team or auto dealerships.
THE REBOUND: Both Hendrick’s business and motorsports interests continued to flourish before and after his sentence—during which his leukemia went into remission.  His team has remained one of the premier organizations in motorsports ever since.

Ernie Irvan at an Indianapolis Motor
Speedway tire test for MMM
Larry McClure—Morgan-McClure Motorsports
THE GOOD: Business partners Tim Morgan and Larry McClure launched their Cup Series team in 1983.  They steadily grew into a race-winning operation, famously winning three Daytona 500’s.
THE BAD: The team’s struggles began with an ill-fated move to Pontiac in 2003.  The following year the team lost long-time sponsor Kodak and was forced to make-due with mid-level sponsorships and second-rate equipment.
THE UGLY: In 2009 McClure pled guilty to a number of tax-related crimes, namely for filing a false tax return and then lying during the investigation.  He was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and the team officially shut down shortly afterwards.

Alex Meshkin—Bang! Racing
Bang! Racing--and Toyota's--first win
THE GOOD: Self-styled self-made millionaire Alex Meshkin (a 20-something who claimed he’d made a fortune day-trading, then dabbling in the tech sector) partnered with Larry McReynolds to start one of the first Toyota teams in Nascar in 2004.  The Truck Series team—named Bang! Racing—tallied two wins in it’s first (and only) season.
THE BAD: Early into the team’s lone season in Nascar, Meshkin’s partners (specifically Larry McReynolds) were growing impatient with the team’s seemingly-endless cashflow problems.  McReynolds left the team midway through the year, and it took intervention from Nascar itself to stop Toyota from cutting the team’s manufacturer funding.  Shortly afterward, McReynolds commented that, “There's been 50 owners who have come through this sport and haven't made it. Alex Meshkin is No. 51.” (Meshkin later showed up at a race with a t-shirt that had a “51” with a slash through it).  Rumors of a move to the Busch Series (with Dodge support) surfaced late in the 2004 season.
THE UGLY: Meshkin wound up shutting down the team before the start of the 2005 season, and has since been involved in a number of business ventures.  Much like his earlier “successes” very few of these activities have much proof of success or profitability.

"STACY"-sponsored/owned cars
Jim “JD” Stacy—JD Stacy Racing & others
THE GOOD: Having made his millions in coal mining, Stacy bought the failing former-K&K Insurance team in 1977.  The combination of Stacy, driver Neil Bonnett, and crew chief Harry Hyde won a pair of races that year, which, incidentally, wound up being the last wins for Mopar cars for decades.
THE BAD (part 1): After a solid but unspectacular 1978 season rumors began to spread that Stacy was bouncing checks.  Shortly after lawsuits were filed against Stacy, things went from bad to terrifying as a bomb was found under his car.  Stacy disappeared from the Nascar world for the next two years, his former team petering out shortly after the start of the 1979 season.
THE BAD (part 2): Stacy’s return would come in the middle of the 1981 season, when he suddenly bought the defending-champion race team of Rod Osterlund.  Driver Dale Earnhardt left the team shortly thereafter, taking sponsor Wrangler with him.  No matter for Stacy, who simply put his own name on the hood and quarter-panels of the car and Joe Ruttman in the driver’s seat.  In 1982 Stacy started a second team—again self-sponsored—and personally sponsored FIVE other race teams.  “Personally sponsored” is the best way to describe the deals, as the cars simply read “STACY”, not promoting any specific business or organization (although occasionally they would feature “STACY-PAK”, a vitamin company).  Eventually a relatively-unknown Tim Richmond would join the team, picking up its last wins.
THE UGLY: Stacy’s sponsorship payments started arriving late, then bouncing, then not arriving at all.  Stacy ruined whatever goodwill he still had by getting into ugly disagreements with the sponsored-rides of Dave Marcis and Terry Labonte.  In 1983 Stacy—now down to a single self-owned car—hired another unknown, rookie Mark Martin, but the team wouldn’t survive the season.  Stacy disappeared shortly thereafter, this time for good.

Jeff Stec—Peak Fitness Racing

A Peak sponsored/owned car
THE GOOD: Stec—owner of the Peak Fitness chain of gyms—bought into the former SCORE Motorsports team in 2005.  Peak Fitness Racing lasted for little more than a calendar year, running with journeymen Hermie Sadler (the former SCORE owner), Mike Garvey, and Kevin Lepage.
THE BAD: With mounting questions about his business dealings, Stec sold the team midway through the 2006 season to Front Row Motorsports.
THE UGLY: Stec wound up indicted for both fraud and code violations in Peak Fitness.  Controversy has continues to stalk Stec through another venture, ZX Fitness.

Goodyear Tire Experts Answer Your Questions

Dear Goodyear—I was driving to work the other day, and I think I ran over a nail or something, because I had a bad blowout and had to get a tow.  Is there anyway I can prevent that from happening?  D. Gill, Severna, Maryland
"No, not me"

Dear D. Gill—Obviously we try to work as hard as we can to provide drivers with the highest-quality tire possible.  However, too many drivers force the issue and run their cars with far too much camber.  For that reason we cannot accept blame for this issue.

Dear Goodyear—Admission time: I let my tires go too long without replacing them.  The other day I noticed that the front two are almost totally bald, but I have a big exam at school tomorrow—can I still drive on them for one more day?  —D. Douglas, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dear D. Douglas—While we work as hard as possible to provide our drivers with the best innovations in tire technology, far too many owners run their brakes too hot, which results in a melted bead.  If the brake system on your car has been altered in any way, we cannot take responsibility for the performance of your tires tomorrow.

Dear Goodyear—My truck has your Wrangler tires on them, but I can’t find that certain model here anymore.  As long as I keep them all-Goodyear tires, will it be ok?  —S. Blackman, Annville, PA.

Dear S. Blackman—We work round the clock to provide our customers with the best tires possible.  However, if tire pressure is below the recommended PSI, we cannot be held responsible for what happens.  Similarly, if the tire pressure is too high, we cannot be held responsible for what happens.

Dear Goodyear—Yesterday one of your tires failed on me after only about 80 miles.  Today, the same thing happens.  What’s your problem?  —Ky. Busch, Fontana, California

Dear Ky. Busch—We’d love to discuss your issues with you—please meet us on-air post-race.

Auto Club “News” and Notes

—Fun Fact: “Auto Club” refers to the Southern California chapter of the AAA—not just a generic placeholder name!
—It’s the big Batman vs. Superman battle on the track this weekend, and much like the upcoming movie, I don’t really care.
—Proof that we’re going into an off-week: The Nascar media is trying sooo hard to make “Harvick to Hendrick” a thing.

—F1 starts their season this weekend, and it will be the official start of the US’s re-entry into the sport, Haas F1 Racing.  Good luck and hope you do better as a team than Michael Andretti did as a driver.

Spade Racing’s Power Rankings

For the first-time ever, Spade Racing jumps on the Nascar journalism bandwagon and presents to you its Power Rankings for the season so far:

1. Pacific Gas & Electric

2. Southern California Edison

3. Florida Power & Light

4. ConEd

5. Georgia Power

6. Virginia Electric & Power

7. DTE Energy

8. PSE&G

9. Duke Energy Carolina

10. Consumers Energy

Clint Bowyer Announces Plans to Build Time Machine to 2017

Despite another lackluster effort today at Phoenix International Raceway, Clint Bowyer was upbeat after the race, announcing that he is beginning work on a time machine to take him to the 2017 season.
"...I like money"
“Oh, it’s coming along”, Bowyer said.  “We have all the blueprints together, some of my buddies are getting the materials as we speak.  I’m hoping I can get ‘er up and running by the Easter off week.”
Bowyer had anticipated spending the 2016 running for the mid-level HScott Motorsports team—however, the team has been completely non-competitive in the first four races of the season.
“Harry Scott’s a great guy, but what’s the point of running for a team that never contends—heck, I’m Clint Bowyer, not Matt DiBennedetto”, Bowyer said.  “Besides, every time i type in ‘HScott’ on my phone, it autocorrects back to just ‘Scott’—that’s SO annoying!”
Bowyer was less-expressive on the details of how his time machine would work.
“Well, I just need to go forward about eight months—it’s not like I need to go back and forth between eras or anything.  In fact I’m only going to use it once—the dang thing could break right afterwards and I’d still be fine.”
Bowyer said that, while he hopes that the time machine will solve his problems, he is willing to stick it out for the rest of the season if necessary.

“Look, if I have to show up and run at the back of the back every race, so be it”, Bowyer said.  “But I’d rather just jump ahead to the good stuff.  Heck, good stuff ALWAYS happens to me after bad stuff, just look at what happened with MWR!”

Phoenix “News” and Notes

—I’m starting to think that Nascar could hold a race indoors and there would still be a rain delay somehow.

—Kevin Harvick gave a great “non-committal commitment” to Stewart-Haas Racing (and, by extension, Ford) today.  It’s like when someone asks you if you want to go to a party, and you respond with the old “Well, I don’t see why I WOULDN’T be able to go!”

—The next “Acceleration Nation” commercial should show Carl Edwards trying to explain to the kids how 39 cars entered in a 40 car field is considered “full”.

—Just a reminder that IndyCar returns Sunday afternoon after a long offseason for the Penske-Ganassi battle (…and not much else).

Spade Racing Motion Picture Previews: Spring Edition

Spring is trying to sprung, and if it refuses to where you live, you’ll probably want to find a nice warm movie theater to while away your afternoons.  Here’s some upcoming movies with Nascar-themes for you to see:

Allegiant—The story of how three guys started a low-cost airline with one goal in mind: To fund a mid-level Truck Series team for one of the guy’s sons.

Miracles from Heaven—Through divine intervention, Jeff Green is able to finish out of last place in a non-plate race.

The Bounce Back—Brian France proudly announces that things are on the upswing in Nascar—tv ratings are only down in the single-digits!

Midnight Special—A recording of Wolfman Jack rambling on about Chubby Checker is played in place of Darrell Waltrip’s attempts at humor.  Ratings skyrocket.

The Disappointments Room—Todd Kluever, Danny O’Quinn, and Erik Darnell reveal where it all went wrong for Roush Racing (namely, that the three of them were considered the future of Roush Racing).

Rings—An attempt at making Nascar an Olympic sport is followed by 90 minutes of laughter.

Collide—The John Wes Townley Story!

Brad Keselowski Gives Inscrutable Victory Lane Interview

"Yeah, they don't let me near the beer cooler
After hunting down and passing Kyle Busch with mere laps remaining, Brad Keselowski cruised into victory lane in the Kobalt 400, leading to a dense, layered post-race interview.
“Well really, this was a team effort, even if it shows as more of an individual effort”, Keselowski opined upon exiting his car.  “Any time you can win against the best this sport has to offer, you’re happy, but you still remember how much it can change in an instant, so you stay humble, you stay hungry, even as you enjoy it.”
The assembled media corps listened in silence, either enraptured by the well-spoken driver’s words, or completely confused at what he was saying.
“We silenced a lot of haters today with our performance”, Keselowski continued.  “Then we had them cheering our efforts, so we silenced the silencers.  You want to give the fans a great show, but never remember the real reasons why you’re doing this out here.”

After fading at the end of the race, Kyle Busch was much more concise in his post race interview, simply saying “leave me alone”.

Las Vegas “News” and Notes

—The 2016 Winner of the Why Do People Care About This award is…not having 40 cars in a 40 car field!

—Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will have Sunny D as a sponsor for a few races this year, but only after they were turned down by Soda, OJ, and the lucrative Purple Stuff rights holders.

—Yeah, we’re in the first of two nearly-month-long breaks in the Truck Series schedule.

—SHR might have lost access to privileged information from Hendrick Engines, but they have an ace up their sleeve: Tony Stewart, a cocktail dress, and a lonely security guard at the HMS gate.

—For the Xfinity race, Clint Bowyer will be in the booth, so expect about a million jokes about running into the barrier at that Supercross event.

Timmy Hill to Run Washington Generals Tribute Paint Scheme

Longtime Nascar rookie driver Timmy Hill will attempt to run his first Cup race of the year this weekend and will do so running a car paying tribute to the recently-defunct Washington Generals basketball team.
The Generals, inspiring Timmy Hill
“We’re disappointed that we couldn’t make anything come together for Daytona, but we’re glad to be back at the track in a Cup car…or, at least, an ARCA car that can pass Cup inspection”, Hill said.  “The chance to pay tribute to such a hallowed, historic team as the Washington Generals is just generic icing on the generic cake for me.”
The Generals team was best-known for it’s legendary rivalry with the Harlem Globetrotters, spanning decades and thousands of games.  Shortly after the death of the team’s owner/founder/coach Red Klotz, the team disbanded.
“As a Maryland native, I grew up rooting for all the great Washington sports teams—the Diplomats, the Federals, the Commandos—“, Hill continued, “but I’m grateful to my longtime sponsor *Crispy Hexagons* for allowing us to run this very special tribute to a very special team.”
Hill has said that his plans for the rest of the season are still very much up-in-the-air, though he claims that the new “Charter system” instituted by Nascar is not much of a hindrance.

“I’ve been up against it since the beginning”, Hill said.  “from lack of funding to Matt Kenseth wanting to kill me.  But if the Washington Generals taught me anything, it’s this: When in doubt, just keep losing.”