SBD/October 7, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Sabates Testifies In Divorce That Bill France Jr. Provided Funding For Grand-Am Team

Sabates is trying to close the doors of his Grand-Am team
A motion filed last month in the divorce case of NASCAR team owner FELIX SABATES "provides a window into the financial condition of Grand-Am Racing," according to Rick Rothacker of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The court filing "raises questions about possible conflicts of interest in a sport that is already under scrutiny over ethics." Sabates testified late NASCAR Chair BILL FRANCE JR. offered him and partner CHIP GANASSI $1M "out of his own pocket" to start a team. Sabates said that France would also guarantee $400,000 in annual profits." Ganassi and Sabates entered Grand-Am racing in '04. Sabates in his testimony said that NASCAR Chair & CEO BRIAN FRANCE "kept up the payments when his father later became sick, but that the payments stopped when Bill France died" in '07. CAROLYN SABATES, Felix Sabates’ ex-wife, said in the filing that it would "look bad for Brian France to have financial ties to a championship-winning team." Team driver SCOTT PRUETT "has won the Grand-Am’s Rolex series five times." Former SMI President & CEO HUMPY WHEELER said that it is a "little-known but common practice for race promoters to help finance teams." Wheeler said, "It’s been going on forever. When you’ve got a startup series like Grand-Am, you’ve got to have cars." Sabates' team is "still competing" in Grand-Am Racing, but he "paints it as a money loser." Sabates: "We're trying to close the doors without embarrassing ourselves, the France family and embarrassing (the) Grand American Series. There is no money. There is no purse. There's nothing." Rothacker noted Sabates' "ownership role in the team is unclear." Sabates attorney BILL DIEHL said, "It's Ganassi's company. He runs the ship for better or worse. Felix goes to the races and sits in the pits. I don't think he put much into it, and he didn't get much out of it" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/6).
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