Sabates Pointing Fingers In The Pits

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. –- Felix Sabates has never been one to hold back his emotions. And after Monday’s actions against his team by NASCAR, Sabates is certainly not in a good mood.

Sabates, who has a minority ownership in Chip Ganassi Racing, with drivers Sterling Marlin and rookie Jason Leffler, had some strong words to say Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway in the aftermath of a penalty from NASCAR against Leffler’s team using an illegal fuel additive in Daytona 500 qualifying Saturday.

As a result of his time being disallowed, Leffler is looking at the possibility of missing the Daytona 500, and Sabates isn’t happy about it. In addition, Leffler’s crew chief, Kevin Cram, was fined $10,000 and put on a four-race suspension beginning next weekend at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham.

Sabates said he believes the No. 01 Dodge team was set up by one of their fellow competitors.

“It's a big blow, but I know in my heart that it’s nothing we did ourselves,” Sabates said. “I hate to accuse anybody, but I’ve got a gut feeling that somebody put some stuff in the car. I don’t know what it was, but I think it was a little bit of jealousy. That’s a pretty hard accusation to make, but I believe in my heart, and I’ve got it narrowed down to who I think it is. It could be one of two possibilities.

“When you have contamination of the fuel after qualifying and the next morning you have twice as much fuel as you had the day before, that tells you that something is not right. NASCAR would have fined us a lot more and would have given us a bigger suspension if they thought we had tried to do something to enhance the performance. NASCAR realized what was in there wouldn’t have made the performance of the car any better. It was just contamination of the fuel, and the rules are very specific.

“I don’t have any problem with NASCAR. When we went in the trailer, all the powers that be were in there. I felt like I was going to confession. They were nice to us. They understood, but they said they had rules that are written. I don’t have any problem with what NASCAR did because they did the right thing. I believe in my heart somebody put that stuff in there on purpose. If we were doing ourselves, we would have drained the fuel cells after qualifying so there wouldn’t be any residue.

“When they came back the next morning, they found twice as much in the fuel tank as the day before. That tells you something. I believe it came from some other team. I have a pretty strong suspicion, but you can’t accuse somebody without proof. I don’t have proof, but my Cuban belly button is telling me that something is there that ain’t kosher.”

Sabates said he believes Leffler can overcome the adversity on Thursday when he attempts to make the Daytona 500 through one of the two 125-mile qualifying races.

“All the rookies are up against the wall,” Sabates said. “The best thing about rookies is
they become sophomores the next year. Jason is young, and he’s got a lot to learn. I think he understands that, and the best thing about Jason, I had a long talk with him yesterday, and he's excited about working with Sterling.

“Sterling is a veteran and he knows he can learn a lot from him. He’s going to struggle, but everybody has to struggle sometimes. You’re a rookie in the business world and you struggle. You’re a rookie in racing, you’re in a rookie in any other sport, it doesn’t matter. You still struggle. Chip (Ganassi) knew that when he hired him. He made a long-term commitment to him because eventually he's going to be a veteran.”

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