The Frontstretch: Tearing Apart the Trucks : Green Light Racing Owner Sued by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Friday June 27, 2008

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Tearing Apart the Trucks : Green Light Racing Owner Sued

Beth Lunkenheimer · Friday June 27, 2008

 

Earlier this week, the Texas State Attorney General’s office filed a civil suit against Green Light Racing owner Gene Christensen claiming he, along with board members of his charity People Against Drugs (PAD) Affordable Housing, violated the Texas Nonprofit Corporation Act. Christensen is accused of using nearly $2 million to fund both his Craftsman Truck Series team and his failed congressional race earlier this year. The apartment complex in Garland, Texas, was created to be a drug-free and subsidized rent community, but the complex has been run as a regular apartment complex, charging full rent, and fails to offer any drug programs.

According to the filing, publicly available on the Texas State Attorney General’s website, “PAD has claimed on its tax returns that the expenses of operating the race team, including millions of dollars paid for car parts, drivers, mechanics, etc., were program services and the $1,226,882 that PAD spent on race parts in 2005 was part of its charitable program.” The claim is that NASCAR has served as another niche for the non-profit organization to get their message out when in fact, they’ve only placed a “small PAD logo on each of the trucks.”

The Texas Nonprofit Corporation Act states “a nonprofit cannot distribute any part of its income to its members, directors or officers.” Gene Christensen is accused of violating that act and awarding himself a company car, benefits and an annual salary of $181,000 as the executive director of the program. The suit also charges Christensen with loaning himself nearly $95,000 to fund a congressional campaign earlier this season.

In addition, the suit lists several items charged to the non-profit organization’s credit cards, including but not limited to, iTunes purchases, lodging charges in Venezuela, Hawaii and China, regular payments to Northstar Gymnastics in McKinney and multiple purchases at restaurants, retail, convenience and grocery stores in McKinney, Texas. Also PAD has not filed a federal tax return for 2006 or 2007, however, records show “during a period beginning in July 2006 and ending on March 31, 2008, a total of $545,000 was transferred from two of PAD’s checking accounts to Christensen’s personal checking account at the same bank.” A hearing is scheduled for July 21st in Austin, Texas.

To hear about this in my own back yard was shocking. I imagine my husband and I have driven by the apartment complex at least a few times in the past, and never before did I expect Green Light Racing would be funding their team illegally. While I know these are only accusations, attorney general Greg Abbott most likely wouldn’t have filed the suit without clear evidence supporting it. Even more interesting is the fact that nascar.com and truckseries.com failed to pick up on the civil suit.

While it in no way compares to the current $220 million lawsuit NASCAR is facing, this suit can still impact the series to a small degree. The series is already struggling to fill a field of 36 drivers, and this lawsuit affects the two trucks fielded full-time by Green Light Racing. It wouldn’t surprise me to see those two trucks struggle with the financial aspect of running a NASCAR team since the owner was apparently obtaining operating costs illegally.

At the beginning of the season, Green Light Racing and SS Racing merged to combine their financial resources. A visit to the team’s website, greenlightracing.com, lists Bobby Dotter and Ken Smith as owners of the No. 08 and No. 07 Craftsman Trucks. When the merger was announced, Christensen stated, “My racing responsibilities will be much less going forward so that I can concentrate my efforts of the Congressional run.” Apparently, those responsibilities did not include the financial side of the team.

The waiting game starts now; until July 21st, it’s unlikely we’ll know anything more about the suit or the fate of the team.

Where is He Now?

Brad Keselowski has come a long way since racing in the Craftsman Truck Series last year at Memphis, posting a Nationwide Series win and nine Top 10 finishes this season.

One year ago this weekend, Brad Keselowski stepped in to drive the No. 9 for Ted Musgrave who was suspended for one race after an on-track altercation with Kelly Bires at the Milwaukee Mile. Musgrave, after heavy contact with Bires, drove up the track right into the No. 21 and claimed he could “hardly steer” his truck. Bires and NASCAR had a different view; Musgrave was parked the remainder of the race as well as the race the following week at Memphis Motorsports Park.

Brad Keselowski went out to impress at Memphis Motorsports Park in Musgrave’s place, qualifying the No. 9 on the pole in only his third race of 2007. Keselowski spent most of the night in the Top 10 and led 62 of the 200 laps run in the race. Late race contact from Travis Kvapil knocked Keselowski out of contention and down to a 17th-place finish in what should have been his first series win.

Since his impressive run at Memphis a year ago, Keselowski has started racing for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series, and in 17 races this season has scored his first career win, one pole and nine Top 10 finishes, a feat made more difficult by the large number of Sprint Cup Series regulars in the series. He also sits second to Clint Bowyer in the championship standings.

Did You Know…

  • There have been nine winners in eleven races so far this season? Kyle Busch and Ron Hornaday, Jr. are the series’ only multiple winners this season with two wins each.
  • The current championship race is the second-closest ever in the history of the Truck Series? Positions one through ten are separated by just 221 points; in 2003 that split was 217 points at this point of the season. In 2007, the split was 556, and the series saw a tight battle that wasn’t over until the checkered flag flew at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
  • Willie Allen, the 2007 Raybestos Rookie of the Year, will return to the track this weekend? In his first start since beating Tim Sauter for top rookie honors, Allen will pilot the No. 46 Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau / Lowery Plumbing Chevrolet for Morgan Dollar Motorsports; he made his series debut with MDM in 2005 and finished sixth.

Quotable

“This short track is a lot of fun to race on but can get pretty intense out there trying to get up front. This team has really kicked it into another gear the last two weeks and I hope it continues.” Erik Darnell, driver of the No. 99 Northern Tool and Equipment Ford

“Survival. You can’t say Memphis without focusing on staying out of trouble.” Mike Hillman, Jr, crew chief for Todd Bodine

“Memphis is a hot, tough race so everyone has to be prepared mentally and physically.” Bobby East, driver of the No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford

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