Elliott Sadler has filed a lawsuit seeking an undisclosed amount of money allegedly withheld by former team Richard Petty Motorsports because of a dispute over the apparent defection of race sponsor Hunt Brothers Pizza, a report said Tuesday.
The suit accuses RPM of denying payment when it charged Sadler of, he says, wrongly influencing Hunt Brothers to leave RPM and sponsor him at Kevin Harvick Inc., SceneDaily.com reported.
Sadler, who drives Nationwide races for Harvick, filed the suit in North Carolina Superior Court in Concord, N.C., under a claim against RPM, which was sold by George Gillett Jr. to an investment group that consists of Petty, Medallion Financial Corp., and DGP Investments last November.
The suit says RPM did not make a scheduled April 20 payment.
"What they allege is the Hunt Brothers sponsorship came to KHI as a direct result of Elliott negotiating that, or words to that effect. ... Elliott had absolutely no involvement in that," the website quotes Sadler attorney John Buric as saying. "Hunt Brothers sent out requests for proposals, requests for bids to many race teams and it just so happens that KHI was awarded the sponsorship."
An RPM spokesman told Scenedaily.com Tuesday he had no comment on Sadler's lawsuit.
Sadler has taken a step back this season after a dozen years racing in NASCAR's elite Cup division in order to get his career on track. He's now one level down, in the Nationwide Series, driving on Saturdays for Harvick's team.
Sadler bolted Robert Yates Racing in the middle of the 2006 season for Evernham Motorsports after sponsorship issues eventually made the situation at Yates shaky.
That's where things went bad. Evernham sold majority interest in the team to George Gillett, and a merger eventually morphed Gillett-Evernham Motorsports into Richard Petty Racing.
All those business deals made Sadler the odd man out, and he previously had to threaten to sue to stay in the car when the team tried to dump him.
Sadler kept his ride, but layoffs and money woes took its toll and the team was not competitive. Sadler's performance suffered -- he had only 16 top-10 finishes over the last three years -- and nobody at his organization wanted to hear about his problems.
"I see all you guys in here with your cool computers and you probably have the latest and greatest technology," Sadler told reporters. "Say I give you a story right now to break, it'll be the biggest story ever and I give one of you guys a computer and I give one of you guys a hammer, a chisel and a stone. I want you to write the story before the other guy finishes it. If not, I don't want to hear no excuses, you should be able to do that.
"That'd kind of be the same thing I went through."
RPM was restructured and scaled down to a two-car organization this season, and Sadler was sent on his way.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.