Texaco to sue Newman-Haas over Andretti departure?

Newman-Haas is facing a lawsuit from one of its major sponsors after Texaco began motions to sue the team in a Manhattan federal court this week

Texaco to sue Newman-Haas over Andretti departure?

Texaco - America's third largest oil firm - signed a five-year, $97.5million sponsorship deal with Newman-Haas in 1998. But it was unhappy when star driver Michael Andretti left the team at the end of the 2000 season and was replaced by Brazilian Cristiano da Matta - a driver who the oil firm says is "of much less renown and stature" than American Andretti.

Texaco claim it signed the deal with the belief that Andretti was going to be the driver and therefore should not now have to pay the remaining $19.5million. The oil giant says it attempted to settle the dispute out of court, but was unable to come to an agreement with the team.

In the lawsuit, Newman-Haas contends that it did not break the contract with Texaco because it named a replacement driver for the car when Andretti left.

It is believed that Newman-Haas released Andretti after the team refused to meet his 2001 wage demands. Whatever these demands were, they are sure to be substantially less than the $19million in sponsorship it could lose if Texaco's lawsuit is successful.

Andretti will now drive for Team Green in the 2001 season.

This lawsuit follows news that Kmart, sponsor of Newman-Haas' other car, driven by Christian Fittipaldi, announced that it is pulling out of all of its motorsport commitments after posting losses of $67million in the third quarter.

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