By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Longtime motorsports owner, Felix Sabates, will be calling it a career with the end of the 2019 season and riding off into the sunset, Chip Ganassi Racing announced on Thursday.
The 74-year old first entered the NASCAR ownership landscape with the founding of SABCO Racing in 1989, winning seven races with Kyle Petty and Joe Nemechek before joining forces with Chip Ganassi in 2001, when Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates was born.
Fielding cars in NASCAR’s top two divisions, the duo won 43 races together, including the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400, as well as placing their cars in the Playoffs nine different times. The team’ current stable of drivers, Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch, both won races in 2019, with Larson moving on to the Round of 8 before being eliminated – the furthest any driver from the organization has made it in the postseason.
Along with the success in NASCAR, Sabates and Ganassi fielded entries in IMSA, winning seven championships, 64 races, including a record eight Rolex 24 At Daytona race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
“I look back to the 1980s when I first started in this sport, and I can tell you that the landscape has really changed,” said Sabates. “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.”
Though Sabates won’t be a fixture at the track any longer, Chip Ganassi noted in his comments about his fellow co-owner’s retirement that he won’t soon be forgotten for the impact he has had on the sport.
“Where do you even begin to describe Felix Sabates? He’s done so much for the sport of racing,” Ganassi said. “I teamed up with him almost 20 years ago, and he’s been a great business partner and an even better friend. 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.”