Near death last year, Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner Felix Sabates returning to track soon

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Last October, Chip Ganassi bought a blue suit to wear to the funeral of Felix Sabates.

Fortunately, he hasn’t had to use it.

Sabates, the co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing, recounted the story and other details of a serious ailment that felled him last August during an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Late Shift” on Monday.

Sabates said he was in intensive care for 73 days and in a coma for 29.

“I was really sick,” Sabates said. “There were times that my family and the doctors didn’t think I was going to make it.”

One of those times was the week of the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which was held Oct. 9.

“During the week of the Charlotte race, my daughter texted Chip in Pittsburgh and said ‘He may not make it through the night,’ and Chip was coming down for the race,” Sabates said. “He went out and bought a blue suit to go to my funeral.

“They thought I was going to die that night. That’s just the way it was. Fortunately, the good Lord kept me here.”

Sabates, 71, said he’s at “95 percent good” and “ready to go.” He plans to return to the track (for the first time since his illness last year) either at Richmond International Raceway or Texas Motor Speedway.

“I can’t get in a plane and fly,” Sabates said. “I’m still not in a good enough shape because my lungs won’t take it.”

Sabates has been a co-owner with Ganassi’s NASCAR operation since 2001 but has been a NASCAR owner since 1989 when he started SABCO Racing. He owned the No. 42, which Kyle Petty drove from 1989-96.

He’ll make his return to the track with CGR enjoying its best success in years. Kyle Larson, who is on top of the Cup point standings, captured his second series win Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

That was after the 24-year-old finished second in three straight races and led the Daytona 500 at the white flag before running out of gas.

Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet, is sixth in the standings after earning three top 10s in the season’s first five races.

Both teams are improving on the momentum from last season when the team drivers qualified both of its driver for the playoffs in the same year for the first time.

“Last year we realized some engineering advantages that we were not doing,” Sabates told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Chip made the commitment that we were going to hire the best engineers, the best people that we could, and we did. If you remember the second half of the year last year, both Jamie and Kyle ran pretty well. Both cars made the (playoffs). That was pretty remarkable for where we were at the beginning of the year.

“I got an email last night from Jamie, from the plane (saying), ‘Our cars are so much better than they were in the past that it makes it fun to drive again.'”

Knowing his team’s co-owner is still around to see it probably makes it even better.

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