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Report: hhgregg group sues Andretti Autosport over payments

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On Friday, a group representing hhgregg has filed a lawsuit against Andretti Autosport, and seeks to regain $1.5 million in sponsorship, via a report in the Indianapolis Business Journal.

The group is called the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors of Gregg Appliances Inc., which was formed in March to recover what are known as “preferential payments” to creditors.

The suit says hhgregg made four money transfers to the team between December 1, 2016 and February 1, 2017, which totaled more than $1.5 million.

Per the suit, the hhgregg sponsorship amount paid to the team would be $2.75 million annually for one car, and the company was labeled as a “co-primary sponsor” signed to a multi-year deal (revealed in the suit as a two-year deal from 2017 to 2018). It had had a prior business relationship with Andretti Autosport in an associate and occasional primary sponsor role as well in 2016.

The company filed for bankruptcy in March, then closed all its stores shortly thereafter.

The hhgregg signage appeared on Marco Andretti’s car in preseason testing and the season opening race in St. Petersburg, but was withdrawn after that race.

The suit claims the first payment to the team was “preferential” as Michael Andretti was part of hhgregg’s Board of Directors, but in a statement from Andretti Autosport, that claim is denied.

A statement from Andretti Autosport supplied to NBC Sports reads as follows:

Andretti Autosport 2, Inc. (“AA2”) has learned, based on recent press reports, that the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors of Gregg Appliances Inc. (“Committee”) initiated a lawsuit against AA2 on November 17, 2017 in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana.  The Committee’s lawsuit is an attempt to “claw back” or seek the return of sponsorship fees properly paid to AA2 pursuant to valid written sponsorship agreements between it and hhgregg.

Despite the Committee’s claims, the sponsorship payments were not “preferential” because they were made in the ordinary course of business and according to ordinary business terms and, therefore, are not subject to claw back.

AA2 provided rights, benefits, and services pursuant to the sponsorship agreements, which were entered into prior to Michael Andretti joining the hhgregg Board of Directors.  As a result, he had no influence, control, or management over the business affairs of hhgregg or the payments made to AA2 under the sponsorship agreements.  Accordingly, AA2 intends to vigorously defend against the claims made in this matter.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.