Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has hinted Dodge could make a return to NASCAR.
According to multiple reports, Marchionne talked about the possibility during the Ferrari Finali Mondiali at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday afternoon, stating he recently spoke to NASCAR Executive Vice President Jim France.
“Yes, I’d love to,” said Marchionne when asked if he’d like Dodge to return to the sport. “I talked to Jim France just last night. I’m the one who pulled Dodge out, so I’m the guilty party at the table.”
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Dodge returned to NASCAR in 2001 when Ray Evernham parted ways with Hendrick Motorsports to start up Evernham Motorsports with drivers Bill Elliott and Casey Atwood.
The manufacturer ended an 11-year run in the sport in 2012, which was capped off by Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski winning the NASCAR Premier Series championship.
Marchionne was also quick to remind everyone why Dodge pulled out of the sport in the first place.
“But for those of you with short memories, in 2009 we came out of bankruptcy, so to race in NASCAR when I was trying to pay bills and pay payroll would have been a bit of a stretch,” Marchionne said.
“I think we’re in a different place now. I think, if possible, we’ll come back to NASCAR – I think we need to find the right way to come back in,” he added. “I’ve agreed with both Jim and Lesa (France-Kennedy) to come back to the issue in short order.”
During a press conference prior to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, NASCAR CEO Brian France said that bringing in another manufacturer has been a topic of discussion within the sanctioning body.
“Yes, but we’re not in a position to make that announcement,” France said.
In response to Marchionne's comments, David Higdon, NASCAR's Vice President of Integrated Marketing Communications, says the sanctioning body has been exploring all options regarding the addition of another auto manufacturer and will continue to do so.
“There is increasing excitement around NASCAR. We continue to have on-going dialogue with a number of auto manufacturers about their interest in joining our sport,” Higdon said. “We look forward to exploration with them on this topic.”