Penske: Chrysler support will continue

RICHMOND, Va. -- Roger Penske denied on Saturday a report that Chrysler will pull its support from NASCAR after this season.

The Sports Illustrated report came on Friday after Chrysler announced it would file for bankruptcy protection and form a partnership with Italian automaker Fiat SpA.

"Chrysler guys contacted us and said they were going to continue to support NASCAR," said Penske, the owner of Penske Racing and several Chrysler dealerships. "Hopefully, they can do that based on what the government allows them to do. We're cautiously optimistic right now.'"

Penske is a close friend of Chrysler chairman Robert Nardelli, who reportedly will step down after the bankruptcy process is complete. Although the manufacturer has cut some financial support, he has been given no indication that it will pull out of the sport.

Chrysler executive Mike Accavitti supported that on Thursday when he said the manufacturer planned to be in NASCAR for the foreseeable future.

"We have a long-term contract with them,'" Penske said. "No one said that to us. We've got a good enough line with the top people there. We're a dealer. We have more than just a casual relationship with them.

"Really, quite honestly, if they get the capital and have a smaller company they're going to be more viable than before. Hopefully, motorsports turns into a marketing opportunity."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.