It took a visit from Ferrari at NASCAR's biggest icon, Daytona International Speedway, for the Ferrari Challenge World Finals to get Marchionne on the subject of Dodge and stock car racing. When asked about the possibility on Sunday, the FCA boss revealed he'd just spoken to NASCAR executive vice president Jim France the night before about Dodge's return.
Dodge announced its NASCAR departure in 2009, as it was in the grips of a major bankruptcy alongside cross-town rival General Motors. While GM's Chevrolet brand stuck it out and won three of the last four manufacturer championships, the final Mopar-powered team flipped to Ford in 2012. Marchionne takes the blame for the decision, citing reasons that are, frankly, very good.
"I am the guilty party at the table. In 2009 we came out of bankruptcy; we couldn't [justify] racing in NASCAR when I was trying to pay bills and make payroll," Marchionne said, according to Autoweek. "I think we're in a different place now."
NASCAR is in a different place, too. The sport has struggled with disappointing television ratings in the past several years, and it's not uncommon to tune into races at some of the sport's marquee tracks, like Bristol Motor Speedway, and see scores of empty seats. Sponsorship dollars are also drying up. That could explain Marchionne's non-committal follow-up comments.
"We need to find the right way to come back in," Marchionne said, adding that he'd revisit the idea with Jim France and International Speedway Corporation CEO and NASCAR board member Lesa France Kennedy "in short order."