Two Sides To Every Story

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If you live to be my ripe old age, you’ll eventually see a lot of your close friends go through a divorce. Unfortunately, national statistics show that there is a good chance you will join them one day. One thing I have learned in watching the marriages of close friends implode is that there are usually two sides to every story, or possibly three – her side, his side and the truth that usually sits somewhere in the middle. That has been the case in almost every divorce I have witnessed – except for my own, of course.

This past Friday, I wrote about the split between Dragon Racing and driver Katherine Legge. I derived my information regarding the split directly from two media releases – one from Legge and the other from Dragon Racing. Legge’s statement went into more detail and (in her opinion) made it clear her sponsor and its “Empowering Women Initiative” had been poached by Dragon Racing and its owner Jay Penske. The Dragon statement was mostly worded with corporate jargon and contained the obligatory “…we wish Katherine well in her future endeavors.”

On Friday afternoon, I received an e-mail from Jay Penske. His complaint to me was that most people that consider themselves journalists will reach out to understand both sides of the story. He went on to express his disappointment that I had apparently chosen not to do so. Hmmm…

My first reaction was to chuckle. Surely, with everything Jay Penske is dealing with at the moment, he’s got better things to do than worry about what some over-the-hill, middle-aged blogger sitting in Nashville, TN has to say about him. I’ve said many times that I don’t consider myself a journalist. I am not. I am simply a fan who sits behind the anonymity of a keyboard three times a week and pounds out my opinions on current affairs regarding the IZOD IndyCar Series as well as some random reminiscing of years past. I am fortunate that over the years, I’ve built a loyal base of readers who sometimes agree with me, but don’t mind putting up a strong case for why they think I am wrong – which can be quite often.

After I got over my initial response, I asked myself if there was much more to this story than I know, that is common knowledge with most people involved with the sport. Am I so much of an outsider that I’m the only one gullible enough to believe everything I see in a press release? Katherine Legge was very explicit in her accusations, while Dragon offered no real explanation in their opportunity to respond. Without seeing the actual agreement between all parties, it appeared to this outsider that Legge had been wronged in a big way.

I stated in Friday’s post that I had never met any of the parties involved and had no personal ax to grind. That was true. Anyone who has followed this site very long knows how much I admire Roger Penske. Team Penske has been my favorite team ever since they showed up at Indianapolis with Mark Donohue in 1969. As an eleven year-old, I didn’t have a clue who Roger Penske was – but I quickly became a huge fan of Donohue by the way he carried himself and of course, for that beautiful blue Sunoco Special he drove. I was there the day that Donohue won in 1972 and was well aware who Roger Penske was by that time. I was a fan then and continue being a fan of Team Penske to this day. Their preparation and his passion for open-wheel racing are second to none and I will always be a fan of the team simply due to what Roger Penske has meant to racing.

When Jay Penske came onto the IndyCar scene at the 2007 Indianapolis 500, I was automatically a fan. His Luczo-Dragon team operated out of the Penske stables. Their car was strikingly similar to the Rick Mears Pennzoil car of the eighties. The younger Penske spoke in a stoic manner that was reminiscent of his father. In 2008, Luczo-Dragon ran a handful of races with Tomas Scheckter as the driver. They had set up their own shop, breaking away from Team Penske and charting their own course. Everything they did seemed to be following the path of building the team slowly and methodically – in other words, doing things the right way.

As recently as last January, I wrote a post proclaiming how 2012 was to be the Year of the Dragon and that after some rocky times – the renamed Dragon Racing had risen from the ashes and was poised to have a breakout season with their two new drivers; Sébastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge. So, if anyone thinks I’ve been on a crusade against Jay Penske, they are sadly mistaken.

But after his well-documented arrest at Nantucket last August, my perception and opinion of Jay Penske totally changed. It was at that point that I started re-examining his relatively short career as an IndyCar owner and realized just how checkered it really was. I privately scratched my head when he hired rookie Rafael Matos as his driver for the team’s first foray into full-time competition in 2009. To this day, I’ve never heard an explanation as to what happened between Jay Penske and former co-owner Gil de Ferran, whom I’ve always considered one of the classiest men in the paddock. The haphazard way the restructured team stumbled through the handful of races it ran in 2011 also became more amplified after the arrest. It also made me question the finger-pointing between Dragon and Lotus at Spring Training last year, when the two drivers could only share one car due to a payment dispute with Lotus. With so many shady and questionable occurrences, it seemed totally believable that Katherine Legge’s allegations were true.

Then there was the bizarre turn that “Dragongate” took this weekend. Friday afternoon, Legge’s former teammate, Sébastien Bourdais, took an unusual course by discussing Legge’s release with ESPN.com. He sited a test with the team at Fontana in December where Legge’s performance was “just weak”, which played into the decision to release her. On Saturday morning, Legge released a statement saying Bourdais’ claim was a “complete and utter fabrication”. She went on to explain to the Associated Press that she had not been in a race car since the IndyCar season finale at Fontana in September – a race in which she finished ninth.

Teams are required to have all tests approved by the series. INDYCAR records show that Legge tested at Sonoma in August and at an open test at Fontana in early September, prior to the season finale. They also show that only Bourdais took part in Dragon’s December test in Fontana. It seems Bourdais would have remembered whether or not Legge was there. Maybe not. By Saturday afternoon, the story on ESPN.com was later revised with the Bourdais quotes regarding Legge’s December test removed. Very bizarre.

In my opinion, drivers should not come public to denounce other drivers in team personnel matters. These are decisions made at the top. I don’t think you’ll ever hear Will Power speak out regarding Ryan Briscoe’s departure from Team Penske. In fact, in the near half-century that I’ve followed this sport – I can never recall a driver trashing a former teammate immediately after a parting of the ways. It may happen decades later in a tell-all book or a candid interview long after the fact, but not just days after the departure is announced. If Bourdais actually said this (which it appears he did) – it displayed very poor judgment on his part to insert himself into a very controversial matter.

But the “other side” comment in Jay Penske’s e-mail kept running through my head. So I did some digging – lots of digging. I am not a journalist and don’t practice “sourcing”, but I do have some friends that are a lot more on the inside than I am. I contacted several of them and asked if it were possible that Jay Penske was the innocent party here. Overwhelmingly, they assured me that there was much more to the story than I had presented.

I will not betray the confidence of any of my friends by telling the other side of the story, since they all asked for confidentiality. Suffice it to say that while I still question the character and decision-making of Jay Penske, he is not the only one to blame in this break-up. Between Jay Penske, TrueCar CEO Scott Painter and Legge herself – there is enough bad behavior from each one to lay the finger of blame on. Over the weekend, I saw bits and pieces on Twitter that alluded to the same things that I heard from my friends. I feel certain that over time, we’ll learn more and more about what actually happened, but the full story will probably never come out.

So is this an apology to Jay Penske for the things I wrote about him on Friday? Absolutely not. But it is an acknowledgement that he was correct in saying that I should have dug deeper before proclaiming Katherine Legge as the innocent victim in this mess. And believe me, this is a mess that is becoming a bigger mess by the minute. As in most break-ups, there are usually at least two sides to every story. That is apparently the case here, as well.

George Phillips

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20 Responses to “Two Sides To Every Story”

  1. Bourdais’s two bits only added to the entertaining aspect of this reel. Hang in there George and let’s reach for the popcorn while the adventure continues because “silly season” is almost over.
    Btw, how about that women power?! Former INDYCAR driver, Danica Patrick, is on the pole at Daytona. Somebody explain Daytona to me and why it is heralded NASCAR’s version of Indy.

  2. Since Jay Penske is reading this, I’d like to say there are a whole bunch of women that deserve to have their boots pissed on.

  3. After seeing both press releases, as well as Sebastien Bourdais intemperate comments,I was reminded of-I’m going to age myself here as well-a line from a song called “Dangerous” by the Canadian rock band Loverboy from 1985. The line read “there’s three sides to every story. Well then there’s your side, there’s my side, and then there’s the truth.” Usually, things fall between those three categories. We probably will never know what really happened here, but I can understand on some level why some have rushed to Katherine’s defense-and in the interest of full disclosure I am a Katherine Legge fan. I believe, however, that the reasons some have defended her have little to do with her as a driver and have more to do with:

    She’s a former Champ Car/ Atlantic driver.
    She’s not the driver-who-shall-not-be-named.
    People dislike Jay Penske for his actions.

    Bottom line, we probably won’t see Katherine Legge in an INDYCAR seat this season. As sad as that is for some, I am focused on who is in the seats and the season to come.

  4. All right. So there’s more than one side to this story. So what’s Jay Penske’s side? All we’ve got so far is the standard PR pablum, not a truly informative explanation.

    I’m of course not saying that Penske and Dragon do not have a legitimate defense. Not at all. Rather, I’m a bit put off by the fact they’re complaining that they’ve not been heard, yet they haven’t offered up what it is they say is wrong with the current narrative or what it should really say. It’s a silly bit of tantilization, and teasers like that should be reserved for drama and fiction, not real-life events.

    • This was basically spot on my thoughts. I always get a chuckle out of those who want to keep their dealings private but then complain if they don’t like how they are perceived. If a person, or corporation, doesn’t like the public opinion about them or their company then do something to change the opinion. Leave it up to the rumor mill and you risk being labeled the bad guys. Either offer something different or put on the big boy pants and deal w/ it.

  5. Casually mentioning emails from Jay Penske is a bit self-serving, dont you think?

    • Not when his e-mail is what prompted me to dig deeper and find that there was another side. Plus, I’ve already mentioned that we’ve never met. It’s not like I’m name-dropping and insinuating that we converse on a regular basis. – GP

    • LMAO – A bit self-serving? Ahhh, that is what the article is all about; Penske’s e-mail rebuttal sent to George. Swooooosh!

  6. My main complaint in this whole affair is with Truecar. Their marketing story to race fans was all about the empowerment of women racers. That’s a good story that can attract attention and fan interest. Now, out of the blue, they seemingly abandon the whole concept without comment. If Truecar, for whatever reason, didn’t want to sponsor Katherine any longer, that’s acceptable. Just sponsor Ana, or Pippa, or be an associate for Simona, or whatever. But don’t pretend like the race team of women drivers never existed. At a minimum make a statement of explanation (and spend a few minutes updating the website please).

    • TrueCar is an up & coming company that launched a new marketing plan in 2012. Previously, the company branded South American MEN in Star (now Pro) Mazda. Also TC lost a helluva lot of $$$ in 2012.

      Sponsoring 5-6 women in the ICS, Star Mazda, USF2000, SCCA World Challenge + Playboy MX-5 Cup is pretty damn expensive! I’ve heard TrueCar acted like Marlboro did in F1…brokering their sponsorship real estate to other companies. For example, Virgin joined Dragon midseason. Ryan Briscoe was also rumored to be in line to be Bourdais’ 2013 teammate… but he obviously did NOT bring the personal sponsorship than Saavedra could.

    • This this this.

      Personally, I’m not a massive Kat fan, and I don’t especially care if she has a ride (and I *really* don’t care about vague alleged “bad behavior”) but I *do* care about, y’know, gender equality. And that is much, much bigger than Truecar/JP, or IndyCar, or even racing as a whole.

      So I don’t think most people would have even been annoyed if they had issued a statement saying, “sorry, we’d really love to continue the ‘Women Empowered’ program but can’t due to extreme lack of money,” and then canceled the whole thing. Or even, “Kat sucks, so we’re busy finding a woman to replace her, and in the meantime have a Saavadra.” Instead they seem to want to make the whole thing disappear and replace it with a generic racing program. Which is not okay and will never be okay; contracts and performance clauses don’t even enter into the question.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    It’s times like this that I hate legal remifications and tact. Without those things, we’d know the whole nasty truth by this afternoon.

    Bourdais seems to hate tact all of the time…

  8. I understand ESPN edited their story because their writer goofed up on where the test was. Seems like Frenchmen Bourdais messed up his California geography.

    Katherine Legge, with a Chevy engine looked pathetic at the ’12 Sonoma race. An event where Sebastian Saavedra nearly put his P/T Andretti Autosport Dallara into the Fast 12 & out qualified F/T teammate Marco Andretti. Ms Legge was almost 2 seconds off her Dragon teammate Sebastian Bourdais. Now he says her test was sub-par as well. Anyone who knows SB is familiar with his no nonsense, straight talk approach. He wasn’t tossing Legge under any damn bus… he was keeping it real.

    I’m also not the biggest Jay Penske fan… I think he wasted Rafa Matos’ time & effort, but I also many enjoyed painting this dude as the big,bad, devil. Making Ms. Legge their innocent “angel” in this 2013 Silly Season story

    I subscribe to your new position that there is two sides to this True Car/Dragon story…

    • All I can chip in is that Sebastien did clear up what test he was talking about over the weekend on Twitter. He was referring to the Sonoma test, not the December test at Fontana. I personally can’t speak to anything beyond that.

      On the other hand, I can also say that I hope that we hear the truth about what happened someday, though I suspect we never will. Another one for the “remember when?” chronicles…

    • “Anyone who knows SB is familiar with his no nonsense, straight talk approach”

      Anyone who knows racing knows that there is an unwritten ‘racers code of ethics’ and you don’t publicly trash a teammate. It’s obvious to me that Penske/TrueCar are feeling the backlash to their unpopular decision and probably encouraged Bourdais to trash Legge’s driving skills to make them look better which, if true, is cowardly of Penske and Bourdais. BTW, I haven’t seen the term innocent “angel” applied to Legge by anyone other than arrowz45.

  9. I find it a bit disingenuous to label your column “Two Sides” and then keep the other side to yourself. You have left your thousands of loyal readers just hanging. Throw us a bone, something……

  10. Tim Cronin Says:

    You contacted others who have contacted Jay Penske. How about contacting him, given that he reached out to you?

  11. Reach out and you might find a friend!

  12. hadrianmarcus Says:

    I think your comment about just being ‘over-the-hill, middle-aged blogger sitting in Nashville’ is where you sorta lost me. You have a blog, you have a following, and the responsibilities of sound journalism apply to you as well. Like it or not, you are no longer viewed by others as simply a ‘fan’. You are the part of the press…as it is in this new journalistic age. You can’t have it both ways…and Penske contacting you means he reads your site as do others in the racing industry. Time to grow up…and that is meant as a compliment. Your opinion matters…so stop name dropping..and acting wide-eyed…and write as a journalist.

    • I respectfully disagree.I’m not a journalist and don’t pretend to be. My degree is in Marketing, not Journalism. I get no money for this site and do not feel that “the responsibilities of sound journalism” apply to me or any other blogger. I have my own standards, but I always write what I want to write about. That’s the fun in being a blogger. We do what we do because we love this sport. We (bloggers) all have a following, simply because our readers enjoy reading our opinions – and that is a service that we gladly provide. But I don’t kid myself into thinking that I do the same thing that actual respectable IndyCar reporters do for a living.

      I seriously doubt that Jay Penske or most other owners visit this site. That’s not being “wide-eyed”, that’s just the way it is. More than likely, Jay Penske has a Google Alert set up and it alerted him that his name was mentioned several times in my article – a practice that most prominent people follow. Either that or someone he knows alerted him to it.

      As for “name dropping” – I hope that mentioning the fact that Jay Penske sent me an e-mail wasn’t interpreted as name dropping. As I explained above. The only reason that it was even mentioned is that it was the catalyst for me digging deeper to find another side of the story…a story that I will keep to myself. but I sincerely appreciate you visiting my site and your comments, regardless of the fact that we disagree. – GP

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