Big News: Dodge and Sergio Are Ready to Return to NASCAR

Out since 2012, Sergio says he's ready to come back to the series.

It was a press conference for Ferrari’s 2016 Finali Mondiali at Daytona International Speedway Sunday, but the best news nugget was related to NASCAR, as Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said he is eager to get Chrysler, most likely Dodge, back into NASCAR.

It was Marchionne who, in 2012, made the decision to pull the plug on NASCAR, leaving the Sprint Cup series with three manufacturers – Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota. He said in the press conference that at the time, he was trying to balance the books at Chrysler, and NASCAR was an expense he could not justify. That said, Dodge had only a two-car team with Roger Penske, and won the season championship with Brad Keselowski.

Dodge had a deal with Andretti Autosport to take over Dodge in 2013, but the deal stalled with Marchionne’s final decision.

Now, Marchionne says the books are balanced, and it may be time to come back. “I had dinner with Jim France last night,” Marchionne said, “and we discussed the possibility.” France is the executive vice-president of NASCAR. Now they are looking at the best way to get back in the sport.

They should have never left, said 1989 NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace, in Daytona to drive in the Ferrari Challenge series. “They are a major manufacturer, and they should be there.” One of the problems then, Wallace said, is that with Penske moving to Ford, there was really no viable alternative that could pay off in the short term. The Andretti deal likely would have taken a couple of years to gain footing in stock cars.

The only other manufacturer to have shown recent interest in NASCAR is Volkswagen, and that was before the diesel crisis. VW presented NASCAR head Brian France with a list of requests, and while most of them could be met, VW found a few sticking points that could not be resolved. They would have raced the VW Passat.

Marchionne gave no timetable for a return for NASCAR.