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Racing Teams, Tracks and Mobility Startups Received PPP Loans. Who Actually Deserved Them?

The CEO of one of the companies that received aid often tweets about how rich he is and criticizes others for taking handouts.

When the federal government announced that it would be issuing forgivable loans to businesses that pledged to hold on to as many employees during the pandemic as possible, most of us probably assumed that the cash would be doled out to small businesses that would be out of luck otherwise. What we now know, however, is that many of the businesses that took funds to stay afloat were large organizations with well-funded owners or investors. That includes a lot of businesses in the world of cars and racing.

So who actually deserved those loans? That’s likely to be a pretty divisive question. 

The Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration released a national list of companies that received loans of $150,000 or more under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and though there may be less drama to be found in the list of automotive industry-related companies than elsewhere, there are a few eyebrow-raising names on that list.

Some of those included:

  • Turo: the car-sharing company received between $5 million and $10 million to protect an undisclosed number of jobs
  • Circuit of The Americas: America’s only F1 track received between $2 million and $5 million to save 75 jobs
  • Bird: the troubled e-scooter company got between $5 million and $10 million, but it should be noted that company reps have denied that Bird received loan funds
  • Gerber Kawasaki: the investment firm received between $350,000 and $1 million, while at the same time CEO and Tesla mega-stan Ross Gerber was tweeting about the program being a scam
  • Several racing teams such as Roush Fenway Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing also received funds

Gerber, a famously bullish Tesla investor, spent the better part of the last few years bragging about his wealth on Twitter and called the PPP a “scam,” but couldn’t step in to save his businesses. 

Trying to make a determination on who should get loan funds and who should fund their own business out of their own pockets is a slippery slope, but taking free money while criticizing others for it, all while acting the opposite of what most people would expect from the leader of a troubled business, seems to be in poor taste.

It’s also worth noting, while we’re all hoping for motorsports to make a return to normal as soon as possible, seeing racing teams on that list is a tough pill to swallow, depending on the team. It’s true that some are small, family-owned enterprises that had their livelihoods threatened like many of us. But others are definitely not in that camp. 

Roush Fenway Racing is partially owned by a billionaire and Jack Roush, who himself is no financial slouch. It’s certainly not fair to call on every business owner to personally sink themselves to float a business, but the “vital loan funds” received by some would have just been a footnote in the owners’ balance sheets. And Chip Ganassi himself is hardly hurting for money

Finally, we’ll point out that several companies look and sound like entities with connections to Elon Musk, but so far appear to be unrelated, though some may have worked with Musk & Co. in some capacity, such as Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. Tesla Forecasting Solutions is also found on the list, though our research points to an “energy industry forecasting company”—whatever that is, with operations in the U.S., Europe, and Asia that isn’t owned or chaired by Musk.

See the full list here.

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