Lawyers: Kahne had right to leave Ford

Updated: July 20, 2005, 6:20 PM ET
Associated Press

DETROIT -- Lawyers for NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne asked a federal judge Wednesday to dismiss a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by Ford Motor Co., saying Kahne never agreed to race exclusively for the automaker.

Ford claims Kahne signed a contract that obligated him to drive its cars and appear in promotional activities. The lawsuit alleges Kahne left Ford to join a Dodge team owned by Ray Evernham in 2003, when he was racing in the NASCAR Busch Series.

But Kahne's attorney, David Baum, told U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland that the contract was merely an "agreement to agree" on a "mutually acceptable racing series with a reasonably competitive team." Baum said it wasn't an enforceable contract for Kahne to exclusively race for Ford.

Baum said Kahne did his part to try to reach an agreement with Ford, but the automaker didn't do enough to place the 25-year-old driver on a suitable team and refused to move Kahne up to NASCAR's Nextel Cup Series in 2004.

Ford lawyer Maurice Jenkins argued that Kahne received an offer from Ford to race with another team in the Busch Series, but Kahne already had decided that he hadn't gotten what he wanted.

Baum said Kahne wanted to stay with Ford but had to move on to advance his career.

"He won Rookie of the Year with Nextel Cup, and Ford didn't want to put him in Nextel Cup," Baum said after the hearing. "He could be sitting on the bench today without a car to ride if he was still with Ford."

Kahne was named NASCAR Rookie of the Year last season after finishing 13th in the points standings. So far this season, he ranks 12th in Nextel Cup Series money winnings with more than $2.76 million, but isn't among the top 20 points leaders.

Cleland didn't say when he would issue a decision on the motions.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press