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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]
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Elliott takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon.  (Photo by Ashley R Dickerson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, races to a fourth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 as Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage (L) and John Godwin of Duck Commander (R) look on at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, leads Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #14 Janssen Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation Chevrolet SS, finishes in seventh place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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