Dodge dealers, who long have wanted a Dodge back in NASCAR Winston Cup racing, are putting up money to see it happen in 2001.
Dodge said last week that it will return to the popular stock-car circuit with its Dodge Intrepid in time for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, 2001.
NASCAR is 'such a great marketing outlet for any automotive manufacturer that it's just impossible at this point for Dodge, in its progression and its growth, not to take advantage of that,' said Jim Julow, Dodge general manager.
Julow sought Dodge dealer support through the 39 Dodge advertising associations around the country, and said he received unanimous approval.
With the associations, he said, 'I think it's something we can really make work beyond just the national level of television and down into the local markets.'
Julow said he didn't know exactly how much it will cost to re-enter NASCAR racing, and declined to offer an estimate. He also declined to say how much dealers will pay.
Dodge dealers will help foot the bill by diverting advertising dollars from the Dodge advertising associations to the Dodge NASCAR program, said Carl Galeana, owner of Galeana's Van Dyke Dodge in Warren, Mich.
Dodge dealers have been asking for 10 years to get back into NASCAR, he said.
Dealers can take advantage of the appeal of NASCAR at race tracks and in Dodge showrooms, Galeana said.
'The sky's the limit,' he said. 'We have a year and a half to figure out how much we want to do.'
A Dodge team last won a Winston Cup race in October 1977 with a Dodge Charger. A Dodge last appeared in a Winston Cup race in 1985.
Julow said discussions about NASCAR began in earnest early this year after DaimlerChrysler completed its brand bible, a text that defines each of the company's brands.
Julow felt the time was right to jump back into NASCAR racing. Dodge has gained valuable experience with the Dodge Viper in the FIA World GT Championship and the Dodge Ram pickup in the NASCAR Craftsmen Truck series.
Julow said Dodge will use the full-sized Intrepid sedan outfitted with rear-wheel drive and a new V-8 engine. The current production Intrepid is a front-wheel drive sedan with a V-6 engine.
'That was one of the hang-ups that the guys had back when (Dodge was weighing whether to re-enter NASCAR), that it really wasn't something that we used in production,' Julow said. But now, he said, NASCAR is too big to ignore.