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Foreclosure could force Fenley to lock racing garage for good
Published: February 26, 2002

Foreclosure could force Fenley to lock racing garage for good
The Fairview Avenue race shop that once was home to such legendary drivers as Dale Earnhardt and Cale Yarborough has been foreclosed on and scheduled for sale at public auction.

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By Tom Langhorne
Recent stories by this writer

The Fairview Avenue race shop that once was home to such legendary drivers as Dale Earnhardt and Cale Yarborough has been foreclosed on and scheduled for sale at public auction.

The decision against Fenley Motorsports Inc., Spartanburg County’s last tie to NASCAR Winston Cup racing, came after a two-hour hearing in Equity Court Tuesday morning.

Ruling in a real estate mortgage foreclosure action brought by Dawsonville, Ga.-based Ernie Elliott Inc., Master-in-Equity Roger L. Couch set the auction for 11 a.m. April 1 in the Spartanburg County courthouse.

Afterward, Fenley Motorsports President Robert Fenley and brother Randy Fenley, owner of Challenge Motorsports Inc., said Challenge has landed a sponsorship deal that will allow it to compete in the 2002 Busch Grand National Series and in some Winston Cup events.

The Fenleys said the Challenge race team, which had shared the shop at 400 N. Fairview Ave. with Fenley Motorsports, now must find a new shop.

It is too early to say whether that shop will be located in Spartanburg County, the Fenleys said. They promised to announce more details about the sponsorship by the end of March.

“We didn’t expect to get our butts whipped in court today,” Robert Fenley said. “We’ll have to vacate the building by April 1, remove some miscellaneous equipment that we still have there and make a decision.”

Fenley said in early December that Fenley Motorsports was on the verge of signing a sponsorship deal that would put its race team back on the Winston Cup circuit for four years.

But Fenley said before Tuesday’s hearing that the deal never materialized. He said he probably would close Fenley Motorsports and go to work for Challenge.

After the hearing, Fenley said he has not decided whether to appeal Couch’s ruling. He acknowledged, however, that the ruling is probably the final nail in the coffin for his company, which essentially has been defunct for nearly two years.

Derrike Cope, Fenley’s driver and a former Daytona 500 winner, and Ernie Elliott attended Tuesday’s hearing.

Elliott testified that in June 2000, Fenley put up the race shop and grounds as security and agreed to pay $793,348.34 within six months in exchange for leased engines, an engine technician and other services.

Elliott said Fenley had paid nothing on the money owed, so he wanted the race shop and grounds sold to satisfy the debt.

Fenley testified that his company was struggling financially in early 2000 and was unable to consistently field a race team for lack of a major sponsor. But he still believed the $793,000 lease agreement entitled him to lease engines from Elliott if he got a sponsor.

When a prospective sponsor did emerge in late summer, Fenley said, Elliott told him he would have to pay an additional $35,000 per race if he wanted engines.

Under questioning by Elliott’s Spartanburg attorney, Max B. Cauthen Jr., Fenley acknowledged that he had asked Elliott what he would charge Fenley Motorsports to let the company lease Elliott’s engines to other race teams.

Cauthen said Fenley wanted Elliott to let the other teams pay Ernie Elliott Inc. and have the money deducted from Fenley’s debt, but Elliott said he wanted to receive payments from Fenley.

Recalled to the witness stand by his attorney, Elliott testified that Fenley asked him what he should charge anyone else wanting to use Elliott’s engines, so he recommended $35,000. Elliott said he never tried to charge Fenley for anything that was not in their agreement.

Explaining his ruling, Couch said Elliott had made engines available to Fenley Motorsports whenever they were needed.

Cope, who did not testify Tuesday, is standing in line behind Elliott as a judgment creditor against Fenley Motorsports. So is the South Carolina Department of Revenue, which has tax liens on the race shop and grounds.

Cope, who left the Fenley operation in April 2000, claims it still owes him an unspecified portion of a $667,236 judgment an arbitrator awarded him a year ago.

Cope had claimed in legal papers that Fenley violated his contract by failing to enter some NASCAR Winston Cup events. The driver also accused Fenley of being late with his February and March 2000 payments and failing to make the April 2000 payment.

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