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Chrysler and GM people all sweating the next moves in the Washington-Detroit mystery


Kurt Busch: Hey, maybe there's a Ferrari angle to be played out (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Heavy storm clouds are hanging over some NASCAR teams at Talladega Superspeedway this week:
   Chrysler appears headed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy within the next week, and then Italian car maker Fiat will likely pick and chose the parts of the American automaker that it wants to buy and take a major stake in the Detroit company – and what that means for NASCAR's Dodge teams, like the ones owned by Roger Penske, Richard Petty and George Gillett is anybody's guess.
   The Obama administration has given Chrysler until April 30th to make a deal with Fiat before giving the car maker enough money to survive.
   Such a bankruptcy would apparently force the U.S. government to take over some key parts of Chrysler's business, perhaps some of the health care and pension plan aspects. Bankruptcy would apparently also leave all those Cerberus investors without much, if anything, to show for the billions they invested in the car maker a few years ago when buying it and taking it private.
   Fiat would gradually buy enough of Chrysler, or its parts, to eventually have controlling interest.
   One interesting angle – Fiat owns Ferrari, the Formula One powerhouse, though Ferrari is operated independently.
   On the General Motors' side of the picture, GM officials say they plan to shut down virtually the entire company for about two months beginning in about two weeks….though that may be just a bluff, because such a shutdown could add tens of thousands more to the unemployment roles, through a major trickle-down effect.
   GM is under an Obama deadline of May 31st to get its financial affairs in better order.
   Like the Chrysler situation, the potential impact on GM's NASCAR operations are unclear.
   Kurt Busch is Dodge's lead driver. Will Busch have to learn Italian?
   "I know that there is a deadline coming up," Busch says. "The Fiat connection, when I first heard about it, was exciting for me, because they're somewhat affiliated with Ferrari -- and maybe there would be a chance to get a Ferrari out of this deal."
   He laughed.
   "Backing up to reality, none of us really has control over what happens up in Detroit," Busch added. "We hope the best things for Chrysler and everybody involved. 
    "I know that Bob Nardelli (the CEO at Chrysler) and Roger Penske (Busch's team owner) are very good friends.  I know that they'll work through it the best way that they can to make everybody happy. 
   "As a race car driver working for a guy named Roger Penske, I think I've got the best-case scenario, and he'll shelter us from any of the tough happenings that could happen…or if things are business as usual, he'll keep it that way."




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