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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]
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Serta/Menards Chevrolet SS, finished ninth and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Great Stuff Chevrolet SS, finished 28th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS, finished eighth and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS, finished 35th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished fifth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, finished fourth and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished twelfth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and his team celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Doublemint Toyota, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 STP Ford, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualified for seventh position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Busch is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualified for sixth position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Johnson is seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, qualified for second position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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