Could Dodge be ready to return to NASCAR by 2018? Doug Yates believes so

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A top NASCAR engine builder said Tuesday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Dodge could race the Daytona 500 in 2018 “if they really wanted to be there.”

In an interview on “The Morning Drive” with hosts Pete Pistone and Lee Spencer, Roush Yates Engines CEO and president Doug Yates said Dodge retains a relevant for blueprint for a Cup Series engine from five years ago. The manufacturer exited NASCAR after winning the 2012 championship with Brad Keselowski.

“Obviously, I’m not as close on the car and other aspects, but from an engine perspective, the engine they had in 2012, we had the same FR9 engines racing then,” Yates said. “Obviously, there (have) been many years of development in between, and they would have some catching up to do, but the base engine is probably OK.”

In December at Daytona International Speedway, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters he thought the Dodge brand (owned by Chrysler) possibly could return to NASCAR. Marchionne said he had dinner with NASCAR vice chairman Jim France and International Speedway Corp. CEO Lesa France Kennedy. The Drive reported that NASCAR and Dodge executives met at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this month.

“We are in a different place now,” Marchionne said in December. “I think it is possible we can come back to NASCAR. I think we need to find the right way to come back in, but I agreed with both Jim and Lesa we would come back to the issue.”

There are major hurdles to clear for Dodge to return. Fiat Chrysler could face EPA sanctions for diesel emissions and accompanying massive fines, and its year-over-year U.S. sales for light cars and trucks fell 10 percent in December.

The manufacturer also would need to either find a new or existing team partner and shoulder some massive startup costs.

Yates said his company will build about 750 Cup engines this year and employs 200 (including 30 added this year with the addition of Stewart-Haas Racing to Ford Performance). Its machine shop is certified to build parts on par with aerospace-level technology.

“If you were to start anew, it would take two to three years to design, manufacture, develop and release an engine” for Cup, Yates said. “To build the infrastructure that you need, such as what we have here. Obviously, we have lots of teams and a new manufacturer may not have as many teams. But there are a lot of processes and things you go through to build an engine and engine company.

“But if you’re someone like Dodge that has an engine already, I think that you can get to the track pretty fast.”

Yates said he welcome the addition of a new manufacturer in NASCAR’s premier series, which currently has Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota.

“We may lose some customers over that, but from an overall sports perspective, I think another manufacturer would be very healthy,” he said. “Obviously I care deeply about NASCAR and the success of the sport is success for all of us, and that’s what we all want.”