In the summer of 2006 wealthy owners of Kentucky Speedway launched a $1.2 billion lawsuit upon NASCAR in an effort to use the legal system to award the track a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Beneath the surface, the case had dramatically more threatening circumstances than the awarding of a single race. The case targeted the way NASCAR successfully conducted business for more than 60 years and threatened to destroy the business model. Tuckahoe Strategies’ president Ramsey Poston developed a successful communications strategy to counter the speedway’s claims.
NASCAR is a complex sport and how it operates is often miss-understood. A negative ruling could have changed the sport forever. The plaintiff’s were extremely wealthy businessmen who had no incentive to fold their hand despite millions of dollars of legal fees. Public opinion could have easily swung against NASCAR in the local market where the case was being decided.
Working in lockstep with NASCAR’s General Counsel and outside counsel led by David Boies, Mr. Poston developed a communications strategy to simplify a complex legal message while appealing to NASCAR’s fan base.
While the two sides battled over the definition of “relevant market” in court, Mr. Poston tactfully streamlined the message in the court of public opinion by grouping NASCAR into the same categories as the NFL, MLB and NBA, which each have the rights and power to decide where its events can be held.
NASCAR won each round in the courtroom to maintain its successful business model. It also won in the court of public opinion by demonstrating that it was acting in the interest of NASCAR’s 70 million fans, employees and vendors.
A U.S. District Court Judge initially dismissed the case in January 2008.
Likewise the appeal was won by NASCAR in December 2009 when a three judge federal panel from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court rejected claims by Kentucky Speedway that NASCAR violated antitrust laws by keeping it off the Sprint Cup Series schedule.