Davis Sued By Dodge

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Dodge Motorsports is suing car owner Bill Davis for allegedly helping rival Toyota prepare for its NASCAR debut, a partnership that could have yielded many trade secrets for the Japanese automaker.

Dodge ended its association two weeks ago with Davis, who fields Winston Cup cars for 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton and Kenny Wallace, and sued him for allegedly building Toyota a truck.

Davis, who was one of Dodge's first car owners when it returned to Winston Cup racing in 2001, received substantial factory support from Dodge and had access to sensitive information, technology advances and competitive plans.

If he also had a side deal going with Toyota -- as Dodge alleges -- Davis had the ability to open up Dodge's playbook for Toyota to study.

The allegations provide a rare behind-the-scenes look at the back-room deals that often occur in the highly competitive, technology-driven world of NASCAR.

The lawsuit, filed in Oakland County (Mich.) Circuit Court, claims that Davis' employees built Toyota a truck with a Dodge engine, then installed and accompanied it to an April 30 wind tunnel test in Marietta, Ga..

The suit alleges that one or more of Davis' employees claimed to be a representative of Toyota at the test, and that the truck had Bill Davis Racing Co. decals on it in several places.

That broke a clause in the contract that says neither Davis nor his employees can "represent, endorse, or otherwise promote the vehicles, parts or service of a DaimlerChrysler competitor."

Dodge also contends that Davis obtained a license to do business at an address in High Point, with the sign on the front of the building reading "Tundra Race Truck Center." Toyota plans to make its NASCAR debut next season in the Truck Series by running Tundras.

Their arrival has angered some fans who point to NASCAR's policy of only allowing American-made cars to run in any of its series. Toyota skirts that requirement by manufacturing several of its cars and trucks in the United States.

The smaller teams are worried they won't be able to challenge Toyota's seemingly unlimited access to cash and technology.

"It's going to turn our world upside down," Dodge driver Bill Elliott said Tuesday. "It's going to be interesting. They're going to throw a lot of money at it, and a lot of smaller teams ... won't be able to compete." Dodge made sure Toyota won't get any of its secrets for free by terminating its contract with Davis -- one of the original car owners DaimlerChrysler recruited when it returned to NASCAR in 2001.

In a six-year deal reached in February 2000, Dodge agreed to give Davis cash, cars, access to information and use of its Michigan wind tunnel for his Winston Cup teams. Because Dodge does not compete in the Busch Series, Davis was free to use Chevrolets in that series for driver Scott Wimmer.

But Dodge is heavily invested in the Truck Series. Twelve of the 33 drivers entered in last weekend's race in Dover, Del., were competing in Dodge Rams, and Dodge driver Bobby Hamilton is the series points leader.

So if Davis wanted to compete in the Truck Series, Dodge certainly would want him using its trucks.

Dodge has declined further comment on the split with Davis other, than to confirm that it was for a breach of contract.

Davis has not commented since word of his split with Dodge became known last week, and a spokeswoman for his teams said Tuesday he still has no comment.

The suit asks that Davis give back any unspent money Dodge gave him this year as a reward for running Intrepids. Dodge estimates he's spent 50 to 60 percent of his cash, which is believed to be in the seven-figure range.

The suit also asks the court to prohibit Davis from revealing any confidential information or trade secrets he has learned in his two-plus seasons with Dodge.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2003

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