LAWSUITS ASKING for nearly a quarter of a billion dollars are seldom pretty, but the one filed against NASCAR by former Nationwide Series inspector Mauricia Grant is shaping up to be especially unpleasant. Grant alleges appalling behavior from her colleagues; the $225 million suit, filed in New York City on June 10, lays out dozens of specific instances of sexual, racial and gender discrimination, including accusations that coworkers called Grant "Nappy-Headed Mo" and made repeated references to the Ku Klux Klan. (Last Friday, NASCAR suspended without explanation two officials Grant accused of exposing themselves to her.)
Last weekend Grant's lawyer showed how nasty he was willing to get. In an interview with SI.com, Benedict Morelli called NASCAR "an old-boys' club" that "isn't a sophisticated operation; this is a bunch of nudniks hanging around together." He also took a swipe at NASCAR chairman Brian France, the grandson of NASCAR's founder, Bill France. Grant claims she was fired from her $30,000-a-year job in 2007, after nearly three years, in retaliation for complaining about the alleged harassment. But France said that Grant never formally complained and as a result he didn't hear any of her allegations until the lawsuit was filed. "Mr. France, if he is being truthful that he never heard about any complaints with reference to Mauricia—I think you're not such a good CEO," Morelli said. "You either have set up a culture where they know you don't want to hear about it, or you're not telling the truth and you did hear about it, or you're not doing your job.... It could be any of those. But the problem with those choices for NASCAR is that they all suck."
On Monday, Grant spoke at length with SI.com. She said that rampant insensitivity was a product of what she saw as NASCAR's insular culture. "They need to stop hiring ignorant sisters, cousins and uncles [of theirs] and start hiring qualified, educated people to work their billion-dollar business," she said. "Stop giving Uncle Frank a hookup knowing that he's ignorant."
NASCAR has not disclosed why Grant was fired, but France said that in her exit interview Grant did not mention any harassment. He said that had he been made aware of Grant's claims, they would have been immediately investigated. "But it didn't happen," he said. "She chose to make this about money and about a lawsuit, and we'll deal with that."