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Dale Earnhardt Jr. has ‘some interest’ in being part of group that buys Carolina Panthers

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not one of two race car drivers who are part of Felix Sabates’ group seeking to buy the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, according to the Associated Press.

NASCAR’s 15-time most popular driver told the AP he hadn’t been asked by Sabates to join the group. But Earnhardt said he reached out to Marcus Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., about the possibility of being part of an effort to pursue the team.

SMI own Charlotte Motor Speedway and seven other NASCAR tracks.

“I said, ‘Hey, Marcus, if you guys are in the middle of it and you think it’s a good business deal, I definitely have some interest,'” Earnhardt told the AP. “But I am not one of the guys that Felix is talking about.”

Sabates, co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing, told the Charlotte Observer last week he was part of a local group in the Charlotte area seeking to buy the Panthers. Sabates said he is not in position to be the majority owner by a “long shot.”

Sabates’ group includes five businessmen, two of the team’s existing minority owners and two race car drivers, who Sabates declined to name.

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is selling the team after it was revealed in December by Sports Illustrated that four former Panther employees received “significant settlements” for workplace misconduct that included “sexual harassment against female employees and for directing a racial slur at an African-American employee.”

NASCAR recently denied a report that CEO and Chairman Brian France was part of a group interested in buying the team.

Earnhardt, a noted fan of the Washington Redskins, recently retired from Cup racing after 18 full-time seasons on the circuit.

“I wouldn’t have the kind of money where I would move the needle too much, but it would be something to have a lot of pride in, and a good Charlotte NFL team is good for the city of Charlotte,” Earnhardt said. “I wish them success because of what it does for our community, not only from a pride standpoint, but an economical standpoint. I wouldn’t be a big player, and it wouldn’t be an investment that would really create a big change in my life.

“But I certainly would love to be supportive to the team and the success of the team to the community. That means a lot to me.”

Earnhardt will make his debut as a member of the NBC Sports broadcasting family next month during coverage of the Super Bowl and winter Olympics.

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson throwback scheme honors Kyle Petty, Felix Sabates (video)

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Kyle Larson‘s throwback scheme for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 looks very familiar to NASCAR on NBC and NASCAR America analyst Kyle Petty.

It should. Petty drove a similar paint scheme for Felix Sabates during his own racing career, including 1995 when he earned the eighth and final win of his Cup career (at Dover).

MORE: Retro rundown — 2017 Southern 500 throwback paint schemes

Check out the unveiling of Larson’s car, other car themes as well as Petty and Sabates talking about the scheme.

Also, for the longer discussion between Petty and Sabates about their relationship and also Larson’s likelihood of becoming a NASCAR champion, check out the following video.

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Felix Sabates on life in Cuba, near-death experience from illness last year (video)

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For nearly a month last year Felix Sabates was at death’s door.

The fears were so great that Sabates might not wake up from a coma he spent 29 days in, Chip Ganassi bought a blue suit for the possibility he might have to attend his co-owner’s funeral.

But the 71-year-old made a full recovery through a rehab process that included learning to walk again.

NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty and Sabates have a special relationship. Petty drove the No. 42 car for Sabates’ SABCO Racing for eight years in the 1980s and 1990s, winning six of his eight Cup races for the millionaire owner from Cuba.

Sabates sat down with Petty to discuss his life in Cuba before immigrating to the United States and his ordeal last year, which began in January when Sabates began feeling ill during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I came home and woke up the next morning and I (couldn’t) breath,” said Sabates, who drove himself to the hospital. “The minute they saw me I was in intensive care.”

Sabates was in the hospital for two-and-a-half weeks before he was released, but Sabates “should’ve know I wasn’t cured.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner returned to his usual grind until it caught up to him in August.

“My blood pressure was through the roof, my oxygen level was 55, which you should be dead then,” recalled Sabates, who has no memory of a three-month stretch. “They thought was I was brain-dead. They were pretty much going to disconnect me. So 4 o’clock in the morning, they took my tubes out.”

That’s when Sabates began the process of waking up.

“I’m lucky to be here,” said Sabates, who aside from being back at the track is also back to playing golf.

“I used to worry about little things,’ Sabates said. “Now I don’t even worry about big things.”

Watch the above video for the full feature.

NASCAR America: Felix Sabates: ‘I’m lucky to be here’ after near-death experience from illness last year

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For nearly a month last year Felix Sabates was at death’s door.

The fears were so great that Sabates might not wake up from a coma he spent 29 days in, Chip Ganassi bought a blue suit for the possibility he might have to attend his co-owner’s funeral.

But the 71-year-old made a full recovery through a rehab process that included learning to walk again.

NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty and Sabates have a special relationship. Petty drove the No. 42 car for Sabates’ SABCO Racing for eight years in the 1980s and 1990s, winning six of his eight Cup races for the millionaire owner from Cuba.

Sabates sat down with Petty to discuss the ordeal, which began in January 2016 when Sabates began feeling ill during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I came home and woke up the next morning and I (couldn’t) breath,” said Sabates, who drove himself to the hospital. “The minute they saw me I was in intensive care.”

Sabates was in the hospital for two and half weeks before he was released, but Sabates “should’ve know I wasn’t cured.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner returned to his usual grind until it caught up to him in August.

“My blood pressure was through the roof, my oxygen level was 55, which you should be dead then,” recalled Sabates, who has no memory of a three-month stretch. “They thought was I was brain-dead. They were pretty much going to disconnect me. So 4 o’clock in the morning, they took my tubes out.”

That’s when Sabates began the process of waking up.

“I’m lucky to be here,” said Sabates, who aside from being back at the track is also back to playing golf.

“I used to worry about little things,’ Sabates said. “Now I don’t even worry about big things.”

The full feature will air Sunday on Countdown to Green, which begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN before the Cup race at Pocono.

Kyle Larson: NASCAR should encourage stars to race at short tracks

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Kyle Larson will race almost anything if you let him.

As one of the rising stars in the NASCAR Cup Series, Larson says his time indulging in his passion for sprint car racing across the country is beneficial to his full-time job.

Larson believes the NASCAR should “encourage” its stars to show up and race at short tracks in lower series, as he, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have done over the years in sprint cars. Larson says these efforts help shore up the “grassroots” fans he believes NASCAR has lost touch with in recent years.

“I get asked that question all the time when are they going to shut you down,” Larson said Friday at Martinsville Speedway. “But I feel like everybody needs to encourage me and others to go race at your local short track and all that because I feel like we’ve lost touch with our grassroots race fans. And, I really think with me going back and doing that stuff and Kyle Busch running Late Model races throughout the year, it really kind of gets the local fans back excited about NASCAR.

“I feel like the last decade or so they’ve kind of lost touch with it. Yeah, I feel like everybody should instead of making (team owners) Chip (Ganassi) and Felix (Sabates) feel like they have to shut me down, should encourage them because it helps our fan base out.”

Larson, who is allowed by Chip Ganassi Racing to compete in 25 sprint car races a year, knocked another one off earlier this week at Placerville Speedway in California. With his appearance, Placerville played host to the most recent Cup Series race winner after Larson’s Auto Club 400 victory three days earlier.

Even though he’s allowed those 25 sprint races, Larson’s owner isn’t comfortable with his star driver – who is first in the points standings – moonlighting on dirt.

“Let’s just say this: I do get concerned when he wants to do that,” Chip Ganassi told USA Today’s Brant James earlier this week. “I would say I’d be much happier if he said he wanted to go play golf. But also, at the same time, I don’t want to slow him down. If he thinks that makes him better, OK, great. If he thinks that’s slowing him down, I would think he would stop it. But for now, he thinks it makes him better.”

But as long as he’s allowed those 25 races, Larson says he’s “going to fill all 25 of those up.”

MORE: Felix Sabates doesn’t think Kyle Larson should run Indianapolis 500.

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