If not for Penske, Dodge would be gone from NASCAR Dodge's prerace briefings could be exceedingly ... brief this season. Roger Penske and team president Tim Cindric will be punctual with the simple swivel of a stuffed leather chair. Kurt Busch, Sam Hornish Jr. and Brad Keselowski should have no trouble finding the right hauler.
During 2010, with the exception of perhaps a few others, Dodge will equal Penske in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series.
"As far as I know," Cindric said, "we're it."
That's not entirely a bad thing, he said. You have Chip Ganassi Racing merging last year with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and using Chevrolets. And you have Richard Petty Motorsports tethered to Ford and partnering with Roush and Yates. That leaves Penske Racing in position to greatly influence the direction of Dodge's motorsports program and to exploit everything the automaker - which is emerging from bankruptcy - can still offer.
The bad part? Nothing to compare yourself against, Cindric said. (Petty's Kasey Kahne accounted for half of Dodge's four wins last season. Busch claimed the others.)
And those meetings are going to get awfully repetitive.
Q: What are the positives of being Dodge's lone effort?
CINDRIC: The biggest positive is they only have one opinion to listen to about where to allocate their resources. So we don't really have to convince them that our idea is better than one of our competitors' ideas about what to focus on.
Probably the biggest challenge is the fact that we lose a benchmark. In racing a benchmark is an important piece of the puzzle when you look at Kasey Kahne, for example, and you're able to compare yourself to a proven quantity and you're able to ask "Are we better or are we worse" with the equipment we have.
The upside is, if you get it right, no one else has it.
Q: Are you secure in feeling Dodge is sound given the company's financial woes and all the pullout speculation last year?
CINDRIC: We don't have any indication otherwise.
Q: Did you have contingency plans if the rumors of a pullout proved valid?
CINDRIC: There's thoughts and there's plans. You always have thoughts, but to say you had plans in place might be a bit presumptuous. ThatsRacin.com