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Nature’s Bakery says Stewart-Haas Racing ‘could not control’ Danica Patrick

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Danica Patrick’s former sponsor files counter lawsuit against Stewart-Haas Racing.

NASCAR: Can-Am 500-Practice Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Nature’s Bakery’s counterclaim against Stewart-Haas Racing breach of contract lawsuit states SHR “could not control” driver Danica Patrick from promoting competing products and that the NASCAR team lied to the snack food company about the health of the sport.

In a claim filed in North Carolina Superior Court, Nature’s Bakery alleges SHR promised a return of at least “four times” on its annual $15 million investment from sponsoring Patrick and her No. 10 NASCAR Cup Series team. Nature’s Bakery says that minimum return was expected due to Patrick’s celebrity within NASCAR and her mainstream crossover appeal.

Nature’s Bakery’s counterclaim states: “Danica Patrick was the ‘most marketable personality in NASCAR,’ an ‘unrivaled brand ambassador’ with broad appeal and ‘massive reach’ who would dramatically increase Nature’s Bakery’s visibility and sale.”

Nature’s Bakery also alleges SHR could not promise the Reno, Nev.-based company it would have exclusivity as Patrick’s sole “on-the-go” food sponsor because Patrick was already endorsing a rival product produced by Six Star Pro Nutrition.

“It was as if Michael Jordan decided to wear Adidas while being paid by Nike,” Nature’s Bakery’s countersuit states.

Nature’s Bakery entered into a three-year deal with SHR in July 2015 to sponsor Patrick beginning with the 2016 Cup Series season. The company terminated the contract on Jan. 19. Nature’s Bakery was slated to be Patrick’s primary sponsor in 25 Cup races but could sell upward of five races if it chose.

In its lawsuit filed Feb. 3, SHR claims Nature’s Bakery soon experienced cash flow problems and attempted to restructure the payments as soon as January 2016. The team co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas is seeking $31.7 for monies owed for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, plus interest.

Nature’s Bakery said after six months it was clear the partnership was not working. The company also took exception with NASCAR’s continued issues with declining television ratings and attendance, which SHR did not disclose.

"Nature's Bakery required significantly more support and guidance than SHR was providing, and the brand failed to realize any of the promised return on its investment," the counterclaim states.

The severing of the Nature’s Bakery-SHR relationship has created a sponsorship void on Patrick’s No. 10 car for the 2017 season. She has primary from Aspen Dental for a minimum of 10 races, along with TaxAct (three races) and Code 3 Associates (three), but still needs sponsorship for roughly half the 36-race schedule.

The 2017 Cup Series begins with the Daytona 500 Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.