CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The bidding war for the Carolina Panthers is heating up.

Charlotte businessman Felix Sabates says his local group of investors still has a shot at buying the Panthers even though some deep-pocketed individuals have been mentioned as front-runners in the bidding.

Sabates won’t name the other members of his group but NBC Charlotte has reported several NASCAR drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr, have expressed interest, as well as Charlotte Motor Speedway operator Bruton Smith and his son Marcus Smith.

Sabates told NBC Charlotte’s Rad Berky he knows there are others interested, some with more money than his group.

NBC Charlotte has reported those deep-pocketed individuals include David Tepper, the founder of a global hedge fund firm headquartered in Miami.

In addition, the NFL Network reported Ben Navarro from Charleston, S.C., a former Citigroup executive, is also interested.

Estimates are the Panthers will sell for $2.3 billion to $2.8 billion.

Sabates says that is too high a price.

Even though Tepper and Navarro try to bid that much or even higher, Sabates says his group still believes Jerry Richardson will take their bid seriously.

Sabates told NBC Charlotte the reason is that Richardson, “…has a sense of loyalty to the area and would work with somebody with local ties.”

Sabates doesn’t believe the Panthers will be sold to a foreign entity or moved overseas.

Earlier this week Mayor Vi Lyles of Charlotte said keeping the Panthers in the city is a top priority.

On Thursday, City Council member Braxton Winston agreed, adding, “We are the largest market between Atlanta and Washington, D.C. so we feel confident where we are but this is a capitalistic society – supply and demand.”

Jerry Richardson attended Billy Graham’s funeral last Friday. It was one of only a few times he has appeared at a public event since the NFL launched an investigation into allegations against him of sexual and racial harassment.

He has, to date, never commented on the allegations that led to him putting the team up for sale.