CONCORD, N.C. — Venturini Motorsports is suing two former employees, including 10-time ARCA Menards Series champion Frank Kimmel, for allegedly stealing team secrets.
The lawsuit, filed in North Carolina Business Court on Jan. 22, alleges Kimmel and another former employee, Griffin Rider, “engaged in a scheme designed to steal VMS’ most sensitive intellectual property.”
“Just before terminating their employment with VMS, both Defendants engaged in a scheme designed to steal VMS’ most sensitive intellectual property, and they did so for the purpose of taking that information for their own use and benefit, and likely, for the use of their new employer, Perfect Circle Racing, Inc. d/b/a KBR Development (“KBR”),” the complaint alleges. “This is an action to secure immediate injunctive relief to prevent continued irreparable harm to VMS’ business, and to recover substantial monetary damages as a result of Defendants’ brazen theft of Plaintiffs intellectual property.”
According to the complaint, Kimmel is accused of taking photos and videos of the underbody of Venturini Motorsports race cars while members of the Venturini Motorsports senior management weren’t present at the team’s shop in Concord, N.C.
“On Dec. 16, 2019, while VMS’ senior management was away from the facility, VMS’ security camera captured Kimmel removing a mobile telephone from his pocket, whereupon numerous flashes of light reveal that Kimmel then took photographs and/or video of the underbody VMS’ cars in the setup room,” the complaint stated.
On Dec. 18, Kimmel resigned his position with the team and on Dec. 21 it was announced he had joined KBR Development, a competitor to Venturini Motorsports in the ARCA Menards Series. Kimmel had worked as a crew chief at Venturini Motorsports since 2018.
Also on Dec. 16, Rider is accused of removing a computer from the setup area in the Venturini Motorsports shop and taking it outside to a team trailer.
“On Dec. 16, 2019, while VMS’ senior management was away from the facility, VMS’ security cameras captured Rider removing VMS’ crew chief computer, otherwise referred to as the “Pull Down Computer,” from the setup area of VMS’ race shop in which it is housed,” the complaint stated. “The recording depicts Rider carrying the computer out to the parking lot and into an unlocked VMS trailer, whereupon Rider spent approximately eleven (11) minutes with the computer. The recordings then depict Rider carrying the computer (initially concealed in a seat cover) back into the setup area, and returning it to its original position.”
According to the complaint, a forensic analysis of the computer showed that an external USB drive that had not been previously used on the computer was installed and specific setup files were downloaded during the time Rider had the computer in his possession.
Like Kimmel, Rider resigned his position with the team on Dec. 18.
On Friday a judge issued an order requiring Kimmel to return any videos or photos of Venturini Motorsports cars to the Venturini team by Monday. He has also been ordered to provide his phone for forensic analysis.
Venturini Motorsports is asking the court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, in addition to damages in excess of $25,000.
The ARCA Menards Series season opens on Feb. 8 at Daytona Int’l Speedway.