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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]
The crew of Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, celebrate Johnson`s victory, Sunday, May 31, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. This was Johnson`s 10th win at Dover, his career 74th. (Photo by Tim Parks/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, races to victory with third place finisher Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, Sunday, May 31, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. This was Johnson`s 10th win at Dover, his career 74th. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, takes the chequered flag, Sunday, May 31, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. This was Johnson`s 10th win at Dover, his career 74th. Following in second and third place are Kevin Harvick, driver of the # 4 DiTech Chevrolet SS and Kyle Larson, driver of the # 42 Target Chevrolet SS. (Photo by David Tullis/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory, Sunday, May 31, 2015, after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. This was Johnson`s 10th win at Dover, his career 74th. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 31, 2015 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, races Trevor Bayne, driver of the #6 AdvoCare Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 31, 2015 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Cares Toyota, races the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 31, 2015 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Timothy Peters, driver of the #17 Red Horse Racing Toyota, races Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 200 at Dover International Speedway on May 29, 2015 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Daniel Shirey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s/Cessna Chevrolet SS, qualified for eleventh position, Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS, qualified for 33rd position Friday, May 29, 2015, for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. McMurray is 8th, Patrick is 18th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Tim Parks/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 DiTech Chevrolet SS, qualified for sixth position, Friday, May 29, 2015, for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualified for third position, Friday, May 29, 2015, for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Larson is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualified for second position, Friday, May 29, 2015, for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Truex, Jr. is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finished in ninth place, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a sixth place finish, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr, driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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