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Kurt Busch 'owes new chance to Sabates'

Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing co-owner Felix Sabates has revealed that he played a key role putting together the deal that kept Kurt Busch in Sprint Cup in 2011.
Kurt Busch's new Sprint Cup race seat at Phoenix Racing is in no small part part thanks to Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing co-owner Felix Sabates, the long-time NASCAR team owner revealed on Tuesday.

"We didn't have an opening [at EGR], and he was having a hard time finding a place," Sabates told reporters during the second day of NASCAR's preseason media tour at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "At 11 o'clock one night, I called two people and I said: 'I want you to hire Kurt Busch;' and to the other I said: 'I want you to build the engines.'"

The former was Phoenix Racing team owner James Finch, and the latter was Hendrick Motorsports boss Rick Hendrick.

"I pushed Finch and I pushed Rick Hendrick to supply the engines for them," Sabates confirmed. "Then I called Kurt and I said: 'You need to call these guys and be real sweet and nice to them.' And he was hired."

After a volatile season that left him out of favour with his 2011 team boss Roger Penske and the team's sponsors Shell Pennzoil, Busch left Penske Racing after the season ended "by mutual agreement." Despite being a former Sprint Cup champion, it looked likely that Busch might not be able to find a new team for 2012 - until Sabates' intervention.

"I put the moving parts together for him, and I'm glad I did," said Sabates. "Everybody deserves a second chance. What he did was wrong, and I don't think he has ever made an excuse for what he did. It was stupid, but ... I think he learned his lesson."

"Felix Sabates stuck his neck out for me and helped," confirmed Busch. "This sport is so tightly connected in all directions that a guy like Felix Sabates can help me get another chance."

Sabates said he had always got along well with Busch down the years. "I'm probably one of the few guys who, whenever he was around, I've always been very friendly with him," he confirmed. "I've asked him to do charity events. Last year I asked him to go to dinner with some of my friends because my guys wouldn't do it. He's always been great."

The irony is that Sabates act of kindness toward Busch might prove to be a headache for him and for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing on the track once the season gets underway.

"I think he's going to be great," he said. "He's got something to prove, not only to everybody else but he's got to prove to himself that he's still got it.

"I think if the #51 beats some of the Penske cars, Roger might be jumping from the top of the building ... If he starts beating all of us, I'm going to kick myself in the butt!"



Related Pictures

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Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing co-owner Felix Sabates with Hendrick Motorsports boss Rick Hendrick [Photo credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Felix Sabates, photographed during the Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing presentation at the second day of NASCAR`s preseason media tour at Charlotte Motor Speedway. [Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, wins the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, and his daughter Elladee take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 21st position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Newman is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 5th position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick is 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 2nd position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined on the front row by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS who won the Pole position. Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, won the pole position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined by Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS on the front row. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, speaks during a press conference prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 7, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Fastenal Ford, climbs out of his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 7, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 8, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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