Monday, January 24, 2011

NASCAR's Felix Sabates: Unplugged

Felix Sabates, part owner of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, is never a loss for words, even if they sometimes get him in hot water. Sabates was on hand Monday for the first stop of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway and he had plenty to say on a variety of topics.

On his relationship with the late Dale Earnhardt: We had a pretty good relationship away from the race track. Dale was a man’s man. For him, a race car was something that had four wheels and you had to drive it and how you drove it was up to you not up to somebody else. He is probably saying today, ‘These cars drive by themselves.’ Which they don’t because you still have to have the guy pushing the gas. He would have had a hard time adjusting to all these new things that we have now.

On team owner Chip Ganassi: Chip is very quiet and very easy going, but don’t take that the wrong way. When he has to, he has to, but his style of management is completely different from my style of management and his obviously works better than mine did because he’s winning. Chip is hands on. He’s on the phone everyday with everybody from the drivers to the crew chiefs to me and the man only knows one thing and that’s racing. He might watch a football game every now and then, but his whole life is around a race car. He’s very well respected. He’s not feared, he’s respected. A lot of people are feared. I think Jack Roush is feared by his people. Chip is not feared, but they respect him.

On the difference he sees in driver Jamie McMurray: I can see a huge difference and I think mainly, when Jamie (McMurray) drove for us before, I don’t think we were the race team that we are today to begin with. I think those four years that he spent away from us – people change a lot and Jamie was probably one of the most changed person that I have ever seen in my life. He’s a completely different person. Jamie became an old guy this year. He was always a kid. People looked at him as a young kid and he wasn’t a young kid anymore.

His thoughts on a proposed change by NASCAR to alter how it distributes points in races: I think is great to change it because the system we have right now, I will never figure it out. If there is one of you guys that tells me that you understand the points system, you’re crazy and you’re lying. The new points system that they are talking about – the 1 to 43 –
I think is great, but I think that they need to give the four worst races of the year and throw them away. So only count, for the Chase, only count 22 of 26 races. That would change the whole dynamics of the Chase.

Ryan Newman talks about being a dad

Ryan Newman was asked Monday about how conversations among Sprint Cup Series drivers have been changning with so many of them becoming new fathers. Newman's wife, Krissie, gave birth to the couple's first child, Brooklyn, in November.

Q. The motorcoach lot has changed quite a bit. Do the other drivers talk about this whole kids (thing) and what you’re going through? Because your lifestyle is very unique compared to anyone else in the world with the travel and the motorcoaches and everything. Do you share stuff and talk about the kids when you’re hanging out?

We have, more recently. Just like testing last week, (I) talked to Jimmie (Johnson) about it. He’s further ahead, so I can learn from him. Jamie McMurray and myself were about the same time going through the same thing, so we can compare what’s right and wrong and women and kids and everything else.

I guess, ultimately, you might see some more trailers behind golf carts in the motorcoach lot. That’s about it. We are just adapting to it. It’s a big change for us and I think it’s weird if you look back at the history of the sport. I’ve heard the stories of the Pettys and all that stuff back in the day. It’s like it skipped two or three generations, it seemed, and now there’s a big influx of mass production of kids, it seems.

There are guys who are doubling up quicker than we ever thought. So it’s different, for sure. It changes the conversation from set-ups to baby cribs and things like that.”