Ganassi-Sabates Enjoy Victory

Jamie McMurray's thrilling win in Sunday's 52nd running of the Daytona 500 gave long-time team owners Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates a chance to bask in the glory of winning "The Great American Race."

When McMurray took the checkered flag Sunday night, it brought Earnhardt Ganassi Racing its first win in the biggest race of the NASCAR season.

"Unbelievable," said Ganassi, who now has victories as a team owner in the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. "You hear all the time, these athletes saying when they win big things, it didn't really sink in yet, maybe it will sink in tomorrow. I know exactly how they feel right now."

For Sabates, the victory came after a long career as a NASCAR team owner.

"I've been trying for almost 25 years to find Victory Lane on the 500," he said. "Been a few times with Chip on the Rolex Series, Nationwide Series, but, like Chip said, it hasn't sunk into me yet. I got this big ring. This was a helluva nice Valentine's Day present, Jamie, to us. He said today, I love you, brother. He must have loved me because it's Valentine's Day.

"I mean, I don't get lost for words very often, but I'm lost for words tonight."

McMurray had been with Ganassi earlier in his career and scored his first Sprint Cup win behind the wheel of his No. 40 Dodge in 2002.

After leaving to join Roush Fenway Racing, he returned to the fold this year and Ganassi says it is the perfect fit.

"Well, you know, I've said before, you know, when it's time to hire a driver, you always take the best guy that's available," Ganassi said. "And that's a mantra that our team has lived by for a long time.

"We obviously had a history with Jamie. I might point out to you to those of you who weren't outside, this was his second first win with us. For those of you that were around back in the day in Charlotte there, that was a pretty emotional day as well for us."

Ganassi's team hit some bumps in the road in terms of sponsorship after McMurray left and a merger was formed with the former DEI organization to create what is now known as Earnhardt Ganaasi Racing with Felix Sabates, who believes McMurray's win is a validation that his team will be a contender for victories and possibly a championship.

"We got beat up a little bit, but mostly by some of the people in this room, the press, we've taken our criticism," Sabates told the media gathering after Sunday's race. "But Chip is a very focused person. If you cut his veins, he got motor oil coming out of 'em. He never wavered from the plan he had. Sometimes it takes a lot of money to implement these plans. Money these days don't grow on trees."

Neither do wins overall, let along in the Daytona 500. But Ganassi sees even brighter days ahead.

"I think it's just important we stay winning and we keep trying to get better week in and week out, in whatever series we're in," he said. "That's why we're there, to get better, raise the bar, do the right thing for our partners and our sponsors. You know, I just love being in this sport."

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