One of the two former fairgrounds racing operators sued by Metro says he felt “blindsided” when he learned he was listed as a defendant in the city’s effort to collect more than $100,000 in unpaid racetrack fees.
Former NASCAR drivers Chad Chaffin and Bobby Hamilton Jr. headed the group Fairgrounds Speedway USA LLC, which the fair board in 2011 awarded a two-year contract to host auto-racing events at the fairgrounds speedway. But last fall, the board found the organization had breached its contract with Metro after the group failed to deliver on a $53,100 contractual obligation to use the track in 2011.
Months later, Metro and the fair board in March targeted the speedway operators in a suit that cites a separate $53,100 rent payment due for the 2012 season as well as $3,000 in bad checks that bounced. In all, Metro is seeking $106,200 in financial damages.
Both men are listed as defendants even though Hamilton and Chaffin had a well-documented public split not long into last year’s racing season, leaving Hamilton as the track’s lone operator. Tennessee State Fair Director Buck Dozier, as well as the fair board itself, recognized the separation publicly at board meetings. Nonetheless, Metro attorneys have sued not just Hamilton but Chaffin as well.
“When I was served the lawsuit, I was shocked,” Chaffin told The City Paper. “I did enter into a lease with Bobby [Hamilton Jr.] to lease the racetrack. That’s a fact.
“But my dealings with Bobby Hamilton Jr. were about the same as the [fair board’s] dealings with Bobby Hamilton Jr.,” he said. “Our relationship didn’t last long. I wanted to continue with the track, but he was adamant he wouldn’t let that happen. So, basically I left. I let him buy me out.”
Chaffin, who is represented by attorney Pat Flynn, declined to elaborate on the cause of the split.
According to Chaffin, when he left the businesses partnership Fairgrounds Speedway USA wasn’t behind in rent payments nor had the group written bad checks. Chaffin said fairgrounds staff members never once contacted him to try to collect money, adding that he doesn’t hold any liability for the contract breach.
“Apparently, Metro’s attorney feels there is a cause to come after me,” Chaffin said. “I certainly disagree with that.”
Metro attorney Chris Lackey, heading the case for the city, declined to comment when asked why Chaffin is listed as a defendant.
Chaffin and Hamilton are both listed in the original Fairgrounds Speedway USA contract with the fair board, which likely explains why both men were served suits.
After a disappointing year of fairgrounds racing, underscored by financial woes, the fair board hired racing promoter Tony Formosa Jr. to hold auto racing at the city-owned track this summer.
The board picked Formosa’s proposal over a bid that Chaffin, NASCAR driver Sterling Marlin and Nashville businessman Bill Freeman submitted.