Does Katherine have a 'Legge' to stand on?
As you probably know, Legge was dropped from Jay Penske's team last month in favor of Colombian Sebastian Saavedra with news of this decision became public last Tuesday. Of course, the likable 32 year-old Brit, was instrumental in bringing TrueCar sponsorship to Penske's team before the start of last season. Unfortunately, both Legge and Dragon would endure a trying 2012 season, some of which, was not entirely their own doing.
Remember, Dragon opted to get out of their two-car Lotus engine lease last May in favor of a one-car Chevrolet effort. Legge and teammate Sebastien Bourdais were forced to rotate for most races during the latter part of 2012, resulting in Legge making a mere 10 starts, with disappointing results. With an anticipated full-season effort in 2013, it was presumed the popular Legge would get a "fair" opportunity to display her talents.
Fair or unfair, it wasn't to be. Within 24 hours of the announcement that Dragon would be replacing Legge both team and driver released statements, articulating their version of the events.
Generally speaking, public sentiment, has and probably will continue to be on the side of Legge. While there are differing views regarding her talents in a race car, Legge is incredibly likable. And her endearing persona outside of the car, has won her a legion of, if not fans, certainly sympathetic supporters. Penske, of course, is an entirely different natter.
The 33 year-old son of legendary racing mogul Roger Penske, entered IndyCar racing as an owner in 2007, and has competed for all or parts of each season since, thus far with little success. Although accomplished in his own right as a very successful media entrepreneur, the young Penske is clearly something of an uncomfortable, detached public figure. Of course, the afore mentioned "Pissgate," this past summer in Nantucket, RI, in which he and his brother Mark allegedly urinated on a woman, didn't help endear the publicly awkward Penske to anyone.
Nevertheless, both Penske and Legge released statements this past week, regarding Legge's departure from Dragon. Certainly, the most interesting bit of information came from Legge's statement, in which she claimed she might pursue legal action against Dragon, as she believed she had a rightful claim to the seat.
While I don't have access to the contract between Legge and Dragon, which presumably was for two years, I'm guessing that Legge has little recourse. And how would I ascertain this? Well, reading the statement Legge herself made. (I have attached the statements from both Legge and Dragon below.)
I'll say this: in an age when quality public relations, particularly P.R. work within IndyCar and racing in general, is something of a lost art, Legge's statement is very well-written. It succeeds in making Legge appear to be the victim of underhanded and unprofessional treatment. It also paints Legge as a loyal lieutenant, who endured a series of unfortunate circumstances, which were not her own doing, noting "It was a very difficult season last year, we did very little testing and I was made to sit out of some of the races."
Also, Legge, or whoever composed the statement, discredits both TrueCar and Jay Penske without attacking either directly. It notes how the recent news sheds doubt on where TrueCar and associate sponsor Virgin "stand on the "Women's Empowered Initiative' going forward." Without directly attacking either, the statement calls into question the direction of both companies, based on their recent actions. Good P.R. work.
With regard to Jay Penske, the statement mentions the "actions in Nantucket." Although everyone knows what actions Legge speaks of, the statement does not say Jay is a scumbag, who pissed on a woman. It says Jay's "actions....hurt my ability to find additional and personal sponsors, and it was highly embarrassing." That elicits sympathy for Legge. Again, good P.R work.
Here's the problem: none of what the statement says has any legal/contractual ramifications. Certainly, what was said may make TrueCar a hypocrite, who talk about empowering women out of one side of their mouth, then change their tune when a bigger check comes along. Certainly, the statement paints Jay Penske as a less than sterling individual. Certainly, public sentiment is inevitably going to be against the young Penske. Certainly, the statement insinuates he did not exactly make a good-faith effort with Kat, something the public is already inclined to believe.
In short, Legge as she has always done, did an excellent job building public sympathy. Still, if the issue is whether Legge contractually deserves to be in the #6 TrueCar Chevrolet, none of what Legge says matters one bit.
See, when Legge does address the legal/contractual matter, she notes it is her firm belief "that Dragon Racing and TrueCar cannot proceed without me." Sure, that may be Legge's belief. However, we all know for a fact, that Dragon and TrueCar did proceed without Legge last season, for 5 races.
Also, Legge briefly addresses what I thought might be a complicated triangular matter between herself, Dragon and TrueCar, saying Penske intended to bring "Penske Dealerships onboard with TrueCar if I signed with Dragon Racing." To me, that clarifies an important point: Legge's contract was with Dragon. She herself said "I signed with Dragon Racing." She just so happened to bring along TrueCar, who we now know with the Saavedra announcement is contracted to Dragon, and apparently not Legge.
And if Legge's contract was not set up as a package deal with TrueCar, it would appear the matter is simply between her and Dragon.
Now, in other sports like baseball or basketball if Legge had a two-year deal, a team could terminate said deal, but still have to pay the balance of the contract. Lets' say for example, Legge's contract to Dragon was binding, in that Penske would have to pay her whatever her wages were for the balance of the deal. Given the modern economic climate of IndyCar, I imagine that was a nominal amount, if anything. My guess is Legge was probably set up to earn a portion of prize money, with a small base salary. Thus, Penske could still be paying her relatively paltry base salary in 2013.
In short, Legge's statements may make Jay Penske a less than upstanding individual. They may confirm TrueCar is not staying true (pun intended) to its self-proclaimed mission. They may confirm she was a loyal lieutenant, who made the best of a difficult situation. They may indicate that her loyalty was not reciprocated by her employer. They may indicate that she is an upstanding individual, who deserved better.
But as far as determining whether Legge has a legal/contractual right to the #6 Dragon Chevy, Kat's statement did not convince us she has, for lack of a better term, a 'legge' to stand on. And if anything, it probably confirmed the contrary.
Brian Carroccio is an IndyCar columnist for AutoRacing1.com. He grew up around racing as the son of a longtime SCCA crewman. His first vivid memory of Indy car racing is Danny Sullivan’s 1985 “Spin and Win,” at Indianapolis. Brian lives in Rockville, MD. As a lifelong fan of the Washington Redskins and passionate supporter of Manchester United.
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