Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NASCAR Co-Owner Sabates Not Shy about Sharing Opinions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NASCAR Co-Owner Sabates Not Shy about Sharing Opinions

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble, Times-Union sports writer

CONCORD, N.C. -- It took Felix Sabates a while to get used to his newfound freedom of speech. But once he got the hang of it, he hasn't stopped talking.

As a child in Cuba, Sabates wasn't allowed to speak his mind. Now that he's escaped Cuba to become a citizen of the United States, Sabates is thinking all the time -- and unafraid to talk about it.

On issues like terrorists, his fuse is short.

"We have too much patience," he said. "I would have nuked them by now."

On the rash of racing deaths and the public's cry for increased safety measures, he is matter-of-fact.

"When you hit the wall the way these guys hit the wall, I don't care how many HANS devices or Hutchens devices you have, you're going to get hurt," he said.

Sabates is a co-owner with Chip Ganassi of cars driven by Sterling Marlin and Jason Leffler on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Ganassi brings the money and the racing muscle to the table; Sabates delivers the inspiration.

In a climate of correctness and pretentiousness, Sabates remains direct in a world of network television marketing and Fortune 500 sponsors. He doesn't believe in "no comment" or relying on public relations mouthpieces to do his talking. Ask and he will answer.

For example, there has been a lot of speculation in the last week that Jimmy Spencer would wind up driving one of Sabates' cars next year. The rumor mill has Leffler getting his termination and Spencer getting the job aboard the No. 01 Dodge Intrepid. Other ingredients in the shakeup include the loss of sponsor Cingular One and the possibility of Ganassi's CART IndyCar sponsor, Target, coming over to stock cars.

But who needs speculation when Sabates is in the garage area?

"You asked, so I'm going to tell you: As far as I'm concerned, we don't have anything signed with anybody other than Sterling," Sabates said. "We had a situation with Cingular, and I don't think it was a very healthy situation for us. …

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