The fans have spoken; and so has Felix Sabates.
The part-owner of NASCAR’s Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, who outraged many race fans and Michigan residents this week for suggesting Michigan International Speedway be cut from NASCAR’s Sprint Cup schedule because of the state’s economy, has issued an apology.
“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,” 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.”
Sabates’ apology comes at a time when MIS and its surrounding communities are taking a hard hit during the tough economic challenges that face the state. Fans issued several statements of their own on the speedway’s Facebook page, through e-mails to the track, radio call-ins across the state and phone calls to the track’s ticket hotline.
Speedway President Roger Curtis accepted the apology Friday, calling Sabates’ original comments, made at last week’s NASCAR media tour in Charlotte, N.C., a rally cry from the speedway’s loyal fan base who continually support the racetrack through tough economic times.
At a time when many businesses have slashed budgets and made cutbacks that affect consumers, Michigan International Speedway has lowered ticket prices on every grandstand seat and infield admission, and continues to invest millions of dollars into making the fan experience better. The track is widening seats across the center grandstand and Turn 3 grandstand, has widened every infield campsite and is building a $17 million suite and media center. These improvements for 2010 are on the heels of $55 million in investments over the past three years that addressed traffic, signage, camping, grandstand and other amenities needed at a world-class racetrack like MIS.
“I’m glad Felix finally came to an understanding that MIS has some of the most loyal fans in racing,” Curtis said. “These fans choose to spend their hard earned dollars here because we are committed to them. I’m a race fan, too, and I came to Michigan because I feel that strongly about this racetrack, its employees and all the NASCAR fans who 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, has reflected the pride and resiliency people have in Michigan.”
Curtis asked Sabates to experience why race fans love the track, extending an invitation for him and his family to sit in the grandstand during the NASCAR events in June and August. Curtis often visits fans on race weekend by sitting with them in the grandstands, riding the speedway’s trams, camping in the MISCamping.com Graves Farm Campground and hanging out with them in the pits. He even attends the free concerts and strolls the New Holland Fan Plaza with his three children so they can experience why NASCAR racing is so special.
Tickets for all 2010 events go on sale Monday, Feb. 1. MIS has lowered prices to make racing family friendly and affordable for the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 on June 13 and CARFAX 400 on August 15. Sprint Cup tickets start at $25. Kids 12 and under are free in some sections; juniors 17 and under are half-price.
Nestled in the lush Irish Hills of Southeastern Michigan, Michigan International Speedway is the Great Escape, a venerable NASCAR national park where fans can get away and enjoy the very best in racing and camaraderie. It’s the love of racing and the thrill of a great time for race fans and drivers alike.
MIS’ Value Pricing Period begins on Feb. 1. Tickets for the August 14 NASCAR Nationwide Series CARFAX 250, along with the Sprint Cup Series Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 on June 13 and CARFAX 400 on August 15 will go on sale to the public at that time. Visit MISpeedway.com or call the MIS ticket hotline at 800-354-1010 on Feb. 1 to take advantage of great pricing for 2010 events at MIS.
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