NASCAR: Michael Waltrip Racing sued by former pit crew member

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A Charlotte Observer report says that Brandon Hopkins, a former tire changer for Michael Waltrip Racing, has sued the team – alleging that he was fired one day before surgery for a shoulder injury he sustained in a September 2013 race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Hopkins’ lawsuit was filed in Mecklenberg County (N.C.) Superior Court on Tuesday per the Observer’s Joe Marusak. The 28-year-old alleges that MWR officials “blacklisted” him after an August 2014 surgery by falsely accusing him of stealing a pit gun used to put on and remove a wheel’s lug nuts.

Hopkins contends that because of the actions of the MWR officials, he lost an unpaid internship with another NASCAR Sprint Cup team and a paying gig with a Camping World Truck Series team.

In his suit, Hopkins admits to taking a pit gun home before surgery but asserts that he mistakenly thought it was his own personal pit gun; from his perspective, he hadn’t wanted to leave it at team headquarters since he would be gone for an extended period of time.

The start of the saga came when Clint Bowyer’s car accidentally hit him while he was changing tires on his car during a pit stop in the aforementioned 2013 race.

Hopkins suffered continued pain in his right shoulder and neck afterwards, and when rehab failed to solve the problem, he asked MWR to open a worker’s compensation claim early last year according to the suit.

He later underwent an MRI that discovered a torn labrum, and in March 2014, he was advised by a doctor to undergo surgery. But Hopkins told a team official that he would delay that action.

However, after losing feeling in his arm following the April 2014 race at Texas Motor Speedway, he finally made a surgery request. Instead, Hopkins says a team official asked him to wait until season’s end or until they knew if they would be involved in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Hopkins then worked through the summer on his bum shoulder until he underwent successful surgery on Aug. 7, 2014. His suit says that he was cleared to return to work in October following weeks of physical therapy, but MWR officials told the Cup and Truck Series teams that had retained him about his supposed theft of the pit gun in question.

Marusak’s piece notes that the suit calls that particular charge “demonstrably false,” adding that Hopkins had the duty of transporting the team’s pit guns from race to race.

MWR’s spokesman did not comment to the Observer, and the lawyer in charge of defending MWR, Bill Diehl, did not respond to Hopkins’ allegations either. He did say something, though.

“We don’t try our case in the newspaper, and we’ll see the plaintiff and his ‘I need some publicity’ lawyer in the court when it’s time,” Diehl said.

As for Hopkins’ lawyer, Joshua Van Kampen, he shot back: “I understand that defense counsel would like the public not to know what his client is accused of, but we have public court houses in America for a reason.”

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.