Daytona Felix Sabates quotes

FELIX SABATES (Car owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) DISCUSS THE DODGE DIFFERENCE “I was with General Motors for 14 years, including a couple of years with the Busch team, the major difference I...

FELIX SABATES (Car owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)

DISCUSS THE DODGE DIFFERENCE “I was with General Motors for 14 years, including a couple of years with the Busch team, the major difference I see between the two manufacturers is that Dodge actually cares for its teams. General Motors had its favorites. A few got all the money and the rest of them got all the crumbs. Dodge is a fair deal. They try hard to work with everybody and share information. We’ve got more information shared with us in three months with Dodge than we did in 14 years for General Motors. I think the commitment is to make sure all 10 cars act like one team. With General Motors, it was two teams against the rest of their field with Chevrolet, and it was two teams against the rest of the field with Pontiac, so that’s the main difference. Dodge believes in its teams and care for the teams. They spread the wealth among everybody. They’ve been great to work with. Anything you ask them, they try to give you an answer. If they don’t have an answer, they try to go find it for you. They don’t hide. I don’t know how much money GM spent with their top teams. I know they didn’t spend a lot of money with us, but I’m sure the old axiom, ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer’ was true with GM. I don’t think that’s the case with Dodge. I think Dodge spreads the money a little more evenly.”

WHAT DID YOU SEE FOR DODGE IN THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT? “I was listening to Bill (Elliott) on the radio and he complained that his car was pushing. Elliott is one of the best drivers of all times. If you give him a car that’s competitive, he’s going to stick his nose in there. His car was pushing real bad. Why should he take a chance and go out and wreck to gain a few positions? The Budweiser Shootout doesn’t pay any money anyway. That’s just something that’s good for Budweiser and terrible for everybody else. I’m glad we didn’t have a car in the Bud Shootout because you spend a lot of money to run 70 laps, and what do you gain for it? Nothing. At the end of the day, if you wreck you tear up a bunch of equipment. If you don’t wreck, you have to prepare one more car, two more engines and all that stuff. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t care if we’re ever in the Budweiser Shootout.”

IS JASON LEFFLER’S BACK AGAINST THE WALL NOW? “All rookies are up against the wall. The best thing about rookies is hat they become sophomores the next year. Jason is young, and he’s got a lot to learn. I think he understands that, and the best thing about Jason, I had a long talk with him yesterday, and he’s excited about working with Sterling. Sterling is a veteran and he knows he can learn a lot from him. He’s going to struggle, but everybody has to struggle sometimes. You’re a rookie in the business world and you struggle. You’re a rookie in racing, you’re in a rookie in any other sport, it doesn’t matter. You still struggle. Chip knew that when he hired him. He made a long-term commitment to him because eventually he’s going to be a veteran.”

WILL THE FINE AND CREW CHIEF’S SUSPENSION BE A BIG BLOW TO THE 01 TEAM? “It’s a big blow, but I know in my heart that it’s nothing we did ourselves. I hate to accuse anybody, but I’ve got a gut feeling that somebody put some stuff in the car. I don’t know what it was, but I think it was a little bit of jealousy. That’s a pretty hard accusation to make, but I believe in my heart, and I’ve got narrowed down to who I think it is. It could be one of two possibilities. When you have contamination of the fuel after qualifying and the next morning you have twice as much as you had the day before, that tells you that something is not right. NASCAR would have fined us a lot more and would have given us a bigger suspension if they thought we had tried to do something to enhance the performance. NASCAR realized that what was in there wouldn’t have made the performance of the car any better. It was just contamination of the fuel, and the rules are very specific. I don’t have any problem with them. When we went in the trailer and all the powers to be were in there, I felt like I was going to confession. They were nice to us. They understood, but they said they had rules and it’s written. If we find contamination, you’ve got to be suspended. I don’t have any problem with what NASCAR did because they did the right thing. I believe in my heart that somebody put that stuff in there on purpose. If we were doing ourselves, we would have drained the fuel cells after qualifying so there wouldn’t be any residue. When they came back the next morning, they found twice as much in the fuel tank as the day before. That tells you something. I believe it came from some other team. I have a pretty strong suspension, but you can’t accuse somebody without proof. I don’t have proof, but my Cuban belly button is telling me that something is there that ain’t kosher.”

IS STERLING READY TO WIN HIS THIRD DAYTONA 500? “He’s ready to win his third, fourth and fifth one. I told Sterling I’m going to kiss him in victory lane if he wins. Chip gave me an Indianapolis 500 ring. That’s pretty neat. I’d like to replace that with a Daytona 500 ring. I think the car we have is a good car. There are probably some better cars out there, but Sterling can make up for that with experience. If you’ve got a car that’s a 10 and one that’s an eight, you give the 10 to an inexperienced driver and the eight to Sterling, he’s going to beat you with the 8. I hope by the end of the day Sterling is running up front, and if he is, he’s going to have to figure out how to get to the checkered flag first.”

HOW HAS THE SPORT CHANGED FOR YOU NOW THAT YOU OWN 20 PERCENT OF THE TEAM? “This is no longer a sport, it’s a business. It used to be you’ve got a car and engine and tires and you could be competitive. Today, you have to worry about the operation of the car to begin with but more important is your sponsor because without a sponsor you don’t race. This new TV package, I’ll figure it out in about four or five years. I think it’s going to take that long to figure it out. If Fox and NBC do the job they promised they’re going to do with new creative graphics, and digital stuff, I think they’re going to attract a whole new interest into racing. It’s going to make the TV ratings go way up, and that’s what it’s all about. It keeps your sponsor happy. If your sponsor is happy, they give you more money. If they are not happy, they don’t give you anything. It used to be that this was a sport. Now it’s a business. You look at all these race teams. You’ve got PR people. You’ve got marketing people. You’ve got licensing people. When I was racing in the early 90s we had a total of 11 people in the shop and that included the engine shop. We had two guys building engines, seven guys working on the car and a part-time secretary. Now we’ve got more people than that in the front of the building. It’s big business. You look at the dollars people are spending today. You’ve got to perform, but you’ve got to perform away from the track as well. When we were negotiating this year with Coors, they love Sterling Marlin. When we asked Coors for more money, they were scratching their head. They said they didn’t have any more money, and the distributors coughed up the money. They love what Sterling does for them, they love what the Brew Crew does for them. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about winning or losing races anymore. You’ve got owners out there that are all about winning and losing. Chip is one of those. If he has to spend 28 million-zillion dollars to win, he’s going to do it. You’ve also got owners out there that have to make a living out of racing. It’s a fine line between the two. You try to be in the middle. It’s kind of hard to be in the middle, but you try to balance and equalize yourself.”

SO HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR NEW ROLE AS MINORITY OWNER? “It’s like this. When I walked in the garage gates last year, it felt like I had a 1,000-pound gorilla on my back. When I walked through there the other day, I felt like all I had was a 200-pound monkey on my chest. Now Chip has an 800-pound gorilla on his back. It feels pretty good, I’m a cheerleader. That’s my job with the team, and I help with the licensing and sponsors. I don’t get involved in the daily operation of the team anymore. I didn’t want it anymore. I’ve always said the day it stopped being fun I wasn’t going to do it, and it stopped being fun a couple of years ago. I was very fortunate Chip came along because Chip is such a racer. The man has got motor oil in his veins. All he talk about is racing. I got tired of it. I’m not getting any younger, but I love the racing and I love the people. I’m not going anywhere. I’m probably going to as many races as I did before. Now I won’t be asking Tony Glover why we’re running bad. I’ll be asking the marketing people how come we’re not getting any more dollars, but that’s my involvement. I have nothing to do with the race car, and I kind of like it that way.”

- Dodge Motorsport

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Chip Ganassi , Felix Sabates
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing