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Sabates slams Michigan, calls for NASCAR pullout UPDATE "In an attempt at humor I made some comments about the city of Detroit and the people of Michigan that were in poor taste and that I sincerely apologize for,” Felix Sabates said. “I have worked directly or indirectly with the auto industry for over 40 years as both an auto dealer and a NASCAR owner and it was never my intention to put down the auto industry, its workers, the city of Detroit or the state of Michigan. I have such respect for all of them.

“I am so frustrated over the challenges that this tough economy has brought to everyone in this country that I inadvertently joked about one of the areas hit the hardest. Those of us that have the luxury of getting to work in such a great sport like NASCAR owe a great deal to the city of Detroit and their support of the auto industry because without either, the sport of NASCAR would not be what it is today.

“In fact, Michigan International Speedway, even in this tough environment drew an impressive 100,000 fans to the track at their last race.

“My sincerest apologies to anyone that I might have offended, it was certainly not my intent to offend the racetrack, its employees and all the NASCAR fans that have supported us since 1968. The people of this state have earned their fun and Michigan International Speedway is committed to making sure they get it.

“We’re proud to be a part of this great state. And the phone calls and comments of support we have received from race fans, Detroit residents, and business and political leaders from around the state, have reflected the pride and resiliency people have in Michigan.”

01/28/10 Well, here's the first rivalry of 2010. Would you believe NASCAR team owner Felix Sabates vs. Michigan International Speedway?

Sabates, along with partners Teresa Earnhardt and Chip Ganassi, will field the cars of drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray this season. Sabates spoke to a reporter from the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer for a story published on Monday.

In the interview, Sabates offered up ways to fix NASCAR's declining television ratings and recent dip in attendance. Among his suggestions, Sabates said that the sport needs to look at a little contraction.

Sabates, if he were running the sport, wouldn't mind shortening the season by six races. Start with some of the tracks that have two races. Dump one of the two trips to Pocono, California, Atlanta and Phoenix.

Oh, yeah, and dump Michigan International Speedway while you're at it.

"I mean, there's nobody left in Detroit other than the police and unemployed," Sabates said. "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." zzzz

Hey, Felix, if that NASCAR thing doesn't work out for you, you can always get a job with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

Sabates looks at Michigan and its seating expansion from 51,000 in 1990 to a high of 137,000 15 years later as evidence of the NASCAR boom gone wild.

"I think we grew too fast," Sabates said. "Some of these tracks put in 140,000 seats. That's crazy.

"We had no business increasing those seats."

MIS President Roger Curtis doesn't see the state of NASCAR or the State of Michigan through the same glasses.

"It's a shame Felix Sabates doesn't see Michigan race fans are some of the most loyal, hard-working people in the world," Curtis said on Wednesday. "He clearly doesn't appreciate the natural beauty of our state or understand the challenges that Michigan, its residents and the city of Detroit will overcome. MLive.com

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