Exclusive: Dodge’s former racing boss wants return to NASCAR
At this point, whether or not Dodge returns to NASCAR remains an open question, but in an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com, the man who once ran the company’s NASCAR operation said he would like to see it happen.
Bob Wildberger, who served as Dodge’s senior manager of NASCAR operations when the automaker came back in the sport in 2001 (it left after 2012), told FOXSports.com Tuesday that if Dodge came back to NASCAR it would be win-win-win for the automaker, the sanctioning body and for race fans.
Last weekend at Daytona International Speedway, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne said he was talking with NASCAR officials about a possible return for Dodge to the sport. FCA is Dodge’s parent company.
“I think, if possible, we’ll come back to NASCAR – I think we need to find the right way to come back in,” Marchionne told reporters.
And a NASCAR spokesman said the sanctioning body is looking to add more manufacturers. “We continue to have on-going dialogue with a number of auto manufacturers about their interest in joining our sport,” said NASCAR’s David Higdon after hearing Marchionne’s comments.
Tuesday morning, Wildberger said that while he had no inside knowledge of where Dodge is at right now, he’d like to see them back racing in NASCAR.
“Personally, I think it would be a great thing,” Wildberger told FOXSports.com. “I think it does a tremendous amount of good with the customer base, the employees, the corporation in general.
“There are a lot of side benefits to it … public relations, things we did with the UAW (United Auto Workers),” said Wildberger. “Their membership joined forces with us. Our dealers were very solid with us. I think all those benefits could be brought back.”
Wildberger praised NASCAR for the work the sanctioning body did during Dodge’s prior return in 2001.
“When we did it before, NASCAR was very, very fair with us,” he said. “Jim France (vice chairman and executive vice president of NASCAR) and Mike Helton (vice chairman of NASCAR) are great people. They’re smart businessmen but they’re very fair. The relationship we had was nothing short of a 10 on a scale of one to 10.”
And having Dodge in the mix would be good for the sport and for the fans.
“More competition expands the fan base for the sport,” said Wildberger. “People tend to develop a favorite brand, and when you’ve got more of those brands for people to choose from, I think you end up expanding the viewers and the fan base for NASCAR and the sport in general.”