In NASCAR's Land of Opportunity, Some Reveal Their True Faces

Roberta CowanContributor IFebruary 11, 2010

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 21:  NASCAR team owner Felix Sabates speaks with the media during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at Embassy Suites on January 21, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

On Jan. 28, 2010 Felix Sabates took a swipe at an industry that made him rich.

For years he took their money and shook their hand and smiled. Who could have ever known that he held such contempt for the American Auto Industry, its employees, or the way of life that it helped create?

In statements that he later recanted he said,  "I mean, there's nobody left in Detroit other than the police and the unemployed. I'd cut Michigan off the schedule altogether. Michigan–I'm talking about the state–is never coming back to what it used to be, so why go there and throw good money after bad money?"

When Detroit responded to his remarks with anger, he publicly apologized and stated he was just joking. But the rest of the remarks in that interview were just as poisonous against other tracks and communities, such as Pocono, Atlanta, and Phoenix, making the believability of his apology and claims that he was joking difficult to believe.

Rewind the clock back to the early and mid 90s when Sabco racing was a mediocre team with a colorful young driver named Kyle Petty.

Although Sabco won a few races, it never achieved a place of prominence or dominance. During that period Felix Sabates' favorite target was Dale Earnhardt and at times his wife Teresa.      

“Dale has a tremendous amount of talent, but when he pulls the helmet over his head, he knocks some sort of switch that makes him an idiot.” Sabates said after an incident at Charlotte in 1998. He commented in 2007 during the time of the split between Dale Jr and DEI. “If it wasn't for him, (Teresa would) be working at Hooters,".

Yet today, in USA Today, Sabates plays the card that Dale Earnhardt was the ultimate and only great racer of NASCAR, saying in regards to Dale Earnhardt Jr., "He has not been the leader. If he wants to be his father, he has to act like his father. If he doesn't, he needs to be a rock star and go pick a guitar somewhere and quit driving."

Since Dale Earnhardt Jr. has stated time and time again that he does not want to be his father but that he merely wants to follow in his footsteps and be himself, it would seem that the remarks were simply more of the Michigan comments style search for attention.

One has to ask: Why was Sabates asked for an opinion in the first place?

Because his controversial remarks combined with the Dale Jr. name sells papers and gains Internet hits.

The article that appeared in today's USA Today had been hyped and announced for over a week. Its substance was old news except for remarks from Sabates and Bruton Smith. Sabates' minimal involvement with EGR does not give him the right to take pot shots at anyone.

Obviously, he believes that no one would remember his attacks on Dale Earnhardt or his wife. Obviously, he believes that the country that he has made an incredible living off of selling talking teddy bears and video games and now yachts is illiterate and does not remember an event that occurred less than two weeks ago.

In a time where Nascar is working very hard for parity and diversity, Sabates is the last character that they need working for them. His callous and insensitive remarks along with his own personal issues of philandering, deceit, and disloyalty to a wife who was recovering in the hospital when he filed for divorce and moved in with a mistress who was a close family friend, led one to say 'yo pot this is kettle...'.

Sabates doesn't speak for NASCAR fans. He doesn't even speak for other owners, and he certainly doesn't speak for the Hispanic community or their drivers. He merely speaks because he can.

Perhaps if Sabates is so upset with Nascar, its stars, its families, and the American auto industry, he should just give back all the money he has accumulated from them, including the fans and the tracks that have given him the opportunity to become such a fickle and antagonistic spokes person.

An educated guess would be that faced with that possibility, Sabates would not only apologize but also withdraw his remarks of recent weeks.


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