NASCAR Cup Series

Ganassi co-owner Felix Sabates announces 2020 retirement

2 Mins read
Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR

In 2001, Felix Sabates partnered with with Chip Ganassi to create Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. In the two decades since, Ganassi and Sabates have enjoyed a prolific partnership in the NASCAR Cup Series and sports cars. On Thursday, Sabates announced his time in motorsport ownership will come to an end in 2020.

“I teamed up with him almost 20 years ago, and he’s been a great business partner and an even better friend,” Ganassi said. “In that time, the only thing we’ve had an argument over was who was picking up the tab at dinner. Felix helped me develop as an owner as well as an individual. His track record in this sport certainly sets the bar high for anyone that follows. I’m proud to call him a friend and wish him all the best.”

A Cuban-born entrepreneur whose business ventures include the original Charlotte Hornets basketball team, Sabates began his involvement in NASCAR in 1989 when he formed SABCO Racing with assets from Hendrick Motorsports‘ research-and-development programme. Kyle Petty was the team’s first driver; running the #42, he and SABCO won their first race the following year. Petty would go on to enjoy a fairly successful run with the team, winning five races from 1990 to 1996 with two consecutive fifth-place points finishes in 1992 and 1993.

The team began fielding a second car, the #40, in 1993 for Kenny Wallace. Three years later, SABCO Racing was renamed to Team SABCO. Other drivers for the team include Bobby Hamilton, Robby Gordon, Wally Dallenbach Jr., Sterling Marlin, Joe Nemechek, Kenny Irwin Jr., and Ted Musgrave. Nemechek won the team’s seventh and final race in 1999.

Ganassi and Sabates began their partnership in 2001, with Marlin and Jason Leffler working as team-mates. Since, the team would enjoy thirteen visits to Victory Lane with Marlin, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Larson, and Kurt Busch. McMurray also won two crown jewel events in 2010 with the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. Busch and Larson, who drive the #1 and #42 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for CGR, will return to the team for the 2020 season.

The duo’s success also stretches to sports cars, where CGR has enjoyed victories in IMSA‘s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the WEC‘s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I look back to the 1980s when I first started in this sport, and I can tell you that the landscape has really changed,” Sabates stated. “It’s been challenging at times, and tremendously rewarding watching the sport grow. When I started the NASCAR team, it was just a different time—a smaller regional sport. Then NASCAR grew and grew into a big business and continued to grow after my partnership with Chip.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done over the last 30 years. I have friendships that will last a lifetime. I hope that what I have tried to give back to the sport — whether it be bringing NASCAR to Mexico or being instrumental in starting the sports car program with Chip — will be equal to what the sport has taught and given me. I’ve always said that I never wanted to be an old man walking around at the track; this is my way of honoring that commitment I made to myself years ago. I wish Chip and his teams all the success in the world and will be keeping a close eye on the sport from afar and maybe even make an appearance from time to time.”

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History major at San Jose State University and lifelong motorsports fan who covers NASCAR and the Stadium Super Trucks.
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