Just when you think you’ve heard it all:
An inmate in federal prison has filed a $23 million lawsuit claiming NASCAR is responsible for his laundry list of criminal activity, from speeding to credit card fraud.
Jonathan Lee Riches filed suit in U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va., stating that watching races “influenced him to speed … doing 135 mph and getting tickets.”
And that’s not all. He said his NASCAR addiction caused him to use “illegally obtained credit cards to attend races,” and once there, he used more stolen credit cards to purchase products hawked by race drivers.
“I used (Kyle) Petty’s Discover Card to buy Mark Martin Viagra,” states the tardy complaint. (Viagra no longer sponsors Martin’s car.)
Riches said he bought race tickets using credit cards that he admitted were fraudulent, “but the defendants insisted they did not care and encouraged me to buy Budweiser beer and funnel cake with more stolen funds.”
He concludes by claiming that Jeff Gordon’s Dupont-sponsored car “poisoned me with Dupont chemicals. I pray this court will grant my motions for relief. I don’t want to die in prison.”
Shakespeare said it best: “A noble mind is here or’thrown.”
And in other news:
Dandy Daytona: Despite rain washing out the final 48 laps of last Sunday’s Daytona 500, the race still drew over 16 million viewers and topped several major sports events in the ratings.
The Fox Sports telecast drew more viewers than the NCAA Final Four (15.4 million viewers), Beijing Olympics (15.2 million viewers), NBA Finals (14.9 million viewers), Kentucky Derby (14.2 million viewers) and the final round of The Masters (13.1 million viewers) and US Open (12.1 million viewers).
It overwhelmed last year’s Indy 500 telecast (7.2 million viewers).
As high as the Daytona ratings were, industry analysts predicted they would have been much higher had the final laps been completed. During last year’s race the ratings jumped 16 percent during the final half-hour of the telecast.
The race was a sellout (approximately 200,000).
Despite an offseason of doom & gloom, NASCAR seems alive and well.
Petty peeved: Kyle Petty, left out of a merger that absorbed Petty Enterprises, said it was “a little bit of chicken crap diplomacy” not to consult him about running his old car’s paint scheme at Daytona.
Kyle was not happy when the family-owned team was purchased by Boston Ventures last year and moved from Level Cross, N.C., to nearer Charlotte. He was unhappier still when it was absorbed by Gillette Evenrham Motorsports earlier this year.
Kyle said he was “blind-sided” and “crushed” when he didn’t receive an invitation to an announcement about running the retro colors of his old No. 44.
Even though the new team carries the Petty name, colors and famous 43 number, Kyle said the real Petty team “ceased to exist’’ when it moved from Level Cross where it had raced for four generations.
Larry Woody is a veteran sportswriter in Nashville. He has covered auto racing since the early 1960s.