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signage appeared on Marco Andretti’s car in preseason testing and the season opening race in St. Petersburg, but was withdrawn after that race.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

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.