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Dodge is done in NASCARUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Chrysler Group LLC announced Tuesday that Dodge will pull out of NASCAR at the end of the 2012 season.
"This decision was not based on budgets," said Chrysler's motorsports chief, Ralph Gilles. "It's more a question of going and racing at the level we were accustomed to."
Gilles apologized to Dodge fans. "We feel their pain," he said. "We had our hopes up, just like everyone else."
He said the company is still evaluating its future options beyond the 2013 season.
08/07/12 Dodge today is expected to announce its "withdrawal from NASCAR competition following the 2012 season," according to sources. The auto brand was "faced with a rebuilding phase beginning in 2013, after Penske Racing – the lone NASCAR organization to field Dodges since 2009 – chose to leave the manufacturer in favor of Ford." Sources "question whether Dodge's parent company, Fiat, has any passion for NASCAR, leading to Penske's decision ... and, ultimately, Dodge's decision" ESPN.com
08/07/12 To say that things have been ominous for weeks now as to Fiat-Chrysler's future involvement in NASCAR with its Dodge brand is an understatement. Let's review the developments, shall we?
The Italian-owned, Auburn Hills, Michigan-based manufacturer just announced that it would not be participating in the upcoming test of the all-new 2013 Sprint Cup at Martinsville, one of four super critical tests of the all-new 2013 Sprint Cup cars. Let's be real about this, folks, you just don't miss NASCAR-sanctioned tests as a participating manufacturer, because there is too much information to be gleaned there about your competitors and there's just too much unknown about the new cars that needs to be learned. So Dodge announcing that they weren't showing up was indeed ominous news. Zzzz
Then Jack Roush jumped the gun at Pocono this past Saturday by confirming that Roger Penske has decided to run Roush-Yates Ford engines next season in his switch to the Ford brand in Sprint Cup, as Mike Mulhern so ably reported. (This was much to the intense dismay of Penske Racing operatives who would have preferred to make that announcement themselves.) Roush pretty much left nothing to the imagination by telling Mulhern: "Roger and I will cooperate on things that are in our common interests, and we will compete on things that reflect our need to be independent and justify our space on the race track. We've done the bulk of the work on the 2013 car; we did invite them to have a look at what we've done in concert with Ford, and made sure we had their blessing, along with the other Ford teams involved. The indications are - though I don't know if the papers have been signed yet - that he will use our engines. He does have a few things he does different with his cars and the way the engines are mounted; so we'll respect his experience and his package preference. Whether we wind up with the same package for all Ford cars or not is yet to be determined."
The Roush comments naturally set off a wave of speculation concerning Penske's highly-successful racing engine operation, an enterprise solely devoted to building the Dodge engines that Penske Racing has used the last several years in NASCAR. It had been assumed in some circles that Fiat-Chrysler was going to go ahead and purchase the Penske engine operation, but I have it from an impeccable source that the Auburn Hills-based automaker let that previously-discussed agreement lapse.
That in turn generated additional speculation as to why Fiat-Chrysler would let that agreement lapse, and one can only assume that the company cannot get a front-line team involved on their behalf. When Andretti Autosport announced that its "window of opportunity" to field a team in NASCAR in 2013 had closed, it was correctly speculated that Fiat-Chrysler balked at the very large number that would be required to get Andretti involved in the automaker's Sprint Cup effort. After the involvement of the Andretti Autosport organization didn't come together, the residual options remaining for Dodge are decidedly second- and third-tier opportunities, even though Andretti had no substantive experience outside of IndyCar and sports cars.
When you combine a stagnant Sprint Cup engine development program with a second- or third-tier Sprint Cup effort, a team that would lack on so many levels in terms of car-building ability, technical expertise, research and development resources, and on top of that a team saddled with the inability to deal with the ramifications involved with fielding a front-line Sprint Cup effort for a major manufacturer in NASCAR, then you have a recipe for a disaster.
The final clue that Dodge is done? This past weekend marked the debut in the American Le Mans Series of the SRT Motorsports Viper Racing program in the manufacturer-intensive GT class, a two-car effort that is said to be a three-year deal with Riley Technologies, based in Mooresville, North Carolina. The production Viper is marking its return to the streets and byways, and the corresponding racing program is designed to enhance its credibility and reputation in the sports car market. This marks a return of sorts to past glory days for the Viper in international GT racing, and a program that is - oh, by the way - dramatically cheaper than a front-line Sprint Cup program.
One final note? Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and his cadre of Italian executives are no fans of NASCAR. They just don't buy into the NASCAR idea even though they have made some comments in the past to the contrary. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Viper program is more aligned with their European sensibilities. Don't think that matters? Believe me, it does.
All of this adds up to no Dodge factory effort in NASCAR for 2013, and in fact it may mean that Dodge is done in NASCAR for the foreseeable future.
The earliest that Dodge could return to Sprint Cup in NASCAR would be 2014, but that's only if they can pry apart a front-line team from another manufacturer.
[Editor's Note: We have said all along that the best fit for Dodge would be to work with Cosworth and build an IndyCar engine to compete against Chevy, Honda, Lotus and maybe someday Ford. IndyCar is more international than NASCAR and their more high-tech, which is a better fit for parent company Fiat, owners of Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.]
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