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NASCAR

Team Owner Felix Sabates Retiring After 2020 Racing Season

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Chip Ganassi Racing

CONCORD, NC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Owner Felix Sabates, one of Chip Ganassi’s business partners in NASCAR and Sports Cars, is retiring following the 2020 racing season.

Sabates started SABCO Racing in 1987 and sold a majority stake to Ganassi in 2001.  Their partnership produced 43-wins in the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity/Busch Series, including wins in the 2010 Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400.

“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.”

The partnership was unable to produce a NASCAR Championship.  The closest the team came was in 2001 when Sterling Marlin captured 2-wins and finished third in the Championship in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge.

The partnership was able to produce in Sports Cars; 7-Championships and 63-wins, including eight in the Rolex 24-Hours at Daytona as well as victories in the 24-Hours of LeMans and 12-Hours of Sebring.

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“I’m proud of what I’ve done over the last 30 years,” continued Sabates. “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.”

Sabates was instrumental in helping acclimate Ganassi to the NASCAR world when they started their partnership but it goes much farther than that according to the Fox Chapel resident.

“Where do you even begin to describe Felix Sabates?” said Ganassi. “He’s done so much for the sport of racing. 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.”

Sabates, who has been a Charlotte resident since 1963, has always had a soft spot in his heart for sports. In 1988, he became an original owner of the Charlotte Hornets basketball team and played a key role in negotiating with the NBA to grant Charlotte a franchise. He also is the only person who had ownership in the original Hornets to still have an ownership stake with Michael Jordan in the Charlotte Hornets. He also has been an owner of the East Coast Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers, which won the league championship in 1995. In addition, in the early 1980s, he started the first indoor professional soccer team and was one of the first investors of the World Football League.

Sabates is well known for his many philanthropic contributions and has received several honors and awards for his generosity. Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina has named its dining hall after him, Elon College and UNC Charlotte bestowed upon him Honorary Doctorate degrees and he received a “Special Blessing” in writing from Pope John Paul II. Sabates became a member of the philanthropic Dream Makers Society of the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County, Fla., in recognition of his 12-year commitment to and support of special fundraising events. In his honor, the Felix Sabates Athletic Center was dedicated in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in November 2000. The facility is the largest Boys and Girls Club in the state. He also is a large contributor to the Levine Children’s Hospital, which bears a special plaque in his honor is in the main lobby. Sabates has contributed much money to and served on the board of Atrium Health Care system for over 30 years while also being a member of the Atrium Health Foundation Board.

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NASCAR

Brad Keselowski joining Roush Fenway Racing as partner

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CHARLOTTE, NC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Brad Keselowski is joining Roush Fenway Racing for the 2022 NASCAR season as both driver and minority owner.

Keselowski was named the driver of the No. 6 RFR Ford Mustang for 2022 and beyond on Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  In addition to the driving duties Keselowski is joining the team as minority owner.

“There were four key components for me,” said Keselowski of what he was looking for in a new deal. “To have a long-term driving contract was something I valued. I want to stay in one place and be there for a long time, hopefully for the rest of my career. That’s the intent and the goal.

“The second position which was really important to me was to be in a leadership role… to be able to express myself creatively and be able to lead the company and team to be the best it can be. That was really critical to me.

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“The third thing was of course the ownership position. That’s quite a unique opportunity that really excites me… It represents growth for me, personally and professionally, which is very important. And that’s really the fourth point, to have a role in the sport after I’m done driving.”

Jack Roush, 79, is not done as an owner either, but he now has a succession plan in place.

“I welcome him as a partner, and I look forward to what we can do together,” said Roush. “There are no retirement plans for me in my immediate future. I intend to keep going to the race tracks and to be as much of a nuisance and a distraction to my drivers and my crew chiefs as I have been in the past.”

Ryan Newman, the current driver of the No. 6 RFR Ford, could drive a third RFR Ford on a part-time basis but nothing has been decided as of yet.

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NASCAR

Aric Almirola wins NASCAR Cup race at New Hampshire, qualifies for playoffs

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Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

LOUDON, NH (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Aric Almirola’s disastrous 2021 season is taking a turn for the better after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Almirola came into the race without a win, mired in 27th place in the Cup Series points standings thanks in-part to only 1-Top 5 and 2-Top 10’s this season, where he’s led only 26-laps before Sunday’s win.

“There’s been so many people that have just continued to support us through, like, the crappiest year ever,” said Almirola on the front stretch after the race.  “All the guys that work on this car, they just keep fighting, they just keep digging, bringing the best race car they can bring every week and it is no doubt we have struggled but guess what, we’re going playoff racing.”

Almirola’s victory clearly shook up the NASCAR Playoffs standings.  Sixteen drivers will qualify for the playoffs.  Only race winners and the remaining teams inside the top 16 qualify.  With Almirola’s win, only three spots remain

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell finished second, just missing the weekend sweep after taking the Xfinity Series checkered flag on Saturday at New Hampshire.

Bell was not happy that NASCAR shortened the race because of darkness.

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“I didn’t know how may laps they cut it short, but definitely whenever I saw the board and saw that we were eight laps short, it stings man,” said Bell.  “We didn’t start out the greatest and then we were really good, probably the best we were all day right there at the end of the race. That’s all you can ask for is to have a shot at it and just wish we had eight more laps.”

The Team Penske trio of Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney rounded out the Top 5.

Kyle Busch started on the pole position and led the first 5-laps and was heading into turn one on Lap 6 when a wet track surface caused Busch and teammate Martin Truex Jr to spin and crash.

“We started the race under a mist,” explained Busch. “It never should have gone green to begin with, but then it kept getting worse and worse lap over lap. We’ve been talking about it for two laps that it was raining. There’s no sense in saying what I want to say, it doesn’t do you any good.”

Several drivers at the front of the pack also realized the track was wet and some spun and some were able to slow down.

Busch got the worst end of the deal as his car could not be repaired and was loaded on the truck.  Busch was credited with a 37th place finish.

The NASCAR Cup Series is off next weekend.

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Dirt Racing

Chase Elliott wins SRX finale at Nashville, Stewart wins Championship

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NASHVILLE, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Elliott joined the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) for their season finale at Nashville Fairgrounds and took home the checkered flag beating Tony Stewart and his father Bill Elliott in the feature.  The win was the first series victory for the younger Elliott.

Chase Elliott was on the inside with Stewart on the outside on a restart with 7-laps-to-go followed by Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte in Row 2.

Chase Elliott beat Stewart into turn one and two with Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte side-by-side for third.

Caution came out with 5-laps-to-go when Paul Tracy made contact with Marco Andretti, sending Andretti into a spin after picking up three spots following the restart.

Chase Elliott got the jump on Stewart on the restart and held on to pick up the win. Stewart finished second and took home the inaugural series Championship.

“Man it was so much fun,” said Chase Elliott.  “I had a ball.  I got to race against two of my heroes tonight and I got to race against Dad there throughout the race and those are moments that I’ll cherish forever.  Thanks to Ray (Evernham, Series co-owner) and Tony (Stewart, Series co-owner) and I appreciate NAPA being on the car.”

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NASCAR Hall-of-famer Bill Elliott, 65, finished third and picked up a win in the first heat race where he started side-by-side with his son Chase.

“I messed up in one not getting all the stuff (marbles) off my tires,” said Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Cup Series Champion.  “Man I tell you it was a lot of fun. I knew the way the tires were on these cars and the way Chase manages his stuff he was going to be tough to beat.”

“I don’t know what lit a fire under him tonight,” said Chase Elliott.  “But he was as aggressive as I have seen him in years.  It was amazing and a lot of fun.  I thought it was going to be between he and I but he got a little high going into (turn) one.”

The win was also special for the Elliott Family as they were able to park the No. 94 in Victory Lane.  Casey Elliott, the late son of legendary engine builder Ernie Elliott, raced the No. 94 in the ARCA and Busch (now Xfinity) Series before his life was cut short by cancer.

“Obviously a special number too,” said Chase Elliott.  “My late Cousin Casey Elliott ran the 94 for years and years and it’s always special to run that number and I’m glad we were able to get it in Victory Lane at Nashville.”

“How could you ask for more than to finish between two Elliott’s, that’s pretty bad-ass in itself,” said Stewart. “To win this Championship is awesome.  I really appreciate Marcus Lemonis and everyone at Camping World for stepping up and helping us get this thing off the ground.  To be the last guy to win an IROC Championship and the first one to win an SRX Championship means a lot.”

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