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Is Dodge's NASCAR program circling the drain? UPDATE #7 With Chrysler going on what may be a permanent Christmas vacation, things aren’t going good at all round Auburn Hills way. Especially with the Cerburian masters busy sweating the GMAC situation. Automotive News communicates the urgency of the situation the only way it knows: by extolling how much more necessary this makes a bailout. But you won’t learn much by reading the rhetorical flailings of bailout-backing legislators. No, to get the real skinny on how bad things are you need a good old-fashioned racing metaphor from Dodge Motorsports director Mike Accavitti. “We are going to throttle back,” he tells Automotive News. “We have to reduce our spend. We have to get our expenses in line with our revenues.” Madness. And what of the literally hundreds of people who buy Avengers because of their epic oval exploits? “NASCAR is not exempt from anything else that we do to market and promote vehicles,” reveals Accavitti, who says Chrysler has plans to cut its NASCAR spending by more than 30 percent next year. Not too shabby for a company that’s literally at death’s door. Honda, Subaru and Suzuki ditched high-profile racing programs this year due to declining sales. And they all plan on staying open past December without receiving government aid. What’s wrong with this picture? TheTruthAboutCars

12/18/08 Indications are that Chrysler's involvement in NASCAR "will not change" on the heels of yesterday's announcement that the automaker will close all 30 of its plants for 30 days, effective tomorrow, "because of sagging sales.” A source said that the closings "will not alter Dodge's involvement in NASCAR," which includes deals with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, Penske Racing and Petty Enterprises. All three of those deals will be "honored next season"  ESPN.com

[Editor's Note: Order the flowers and plan the funeral.  Unless they get help from NASCAR (the call), the meager Dodge effort will be dwarfed by the mighty Toyota budget.]

12/06/08 Chrysler LLC, seeking a $7 billion bailout from the U.S. government to keep from running out of cash by March 31, hired the Jones Day law firm as its bankruptcy counsel, a person familiar with the matter said.  Jones Day, based in Washington, previously counseled Chrysler on a potential merger with General Motors Corp.

Chrysler, controlled by New York hedge-fund manager Cerberus Capital Management LP, may have to file for bankruptcy if it doesn’t get funding from the U.S. government. Chrysler, GM and Ford Motor Co. are asking for as much as $34 billion in federal aid to alleviate cash shortages.

Jones Day spokesman David Petrou didn’t immediately return a call for comment. Cerberus spokesman Peter Duda didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Chrysler spokeswoman Lori McTavish didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

11/13/08 Dodge will support Chip Ganassi Racing’s decision on whether its merger with Dale Earnhardt Inc. results in the loss of two current Cup cars to the Dodge roster, Dodge motorsports manager Mike Delahanty said Wednesday.

A Ganassi departure from the Dodge camp would leave the manufacturer with just the lame Penske Racing, Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Petty Enterprises in its stable.

No Dodge team made the Chase For The Sprint Cup this year, but Penske and GEM have won races. Ganassi’s No. 42 team of driver Juan Pablo Montoya is 25th in owners points, while the No. 41 team of Reed Sorenson is 32nd. There are five Dodge teams (two Penske, two GEM, one Petty) ahead of Montoya’s and two (one GEM, one Petty) behind Sorenson’s.  Order the flowers and plan the funeral.

10/28/08 There is still no official word from Chrysler executives, and the fate of NASCAR's Dodge teams remains uncertain, with the possible -- or probable -- Chrysler merger with/buyout by General Motors. NASCAR executives are not thrilled, to say the least, with the implications and questions surrounding that merger debate, because 11 Sprint Cup teams run with Dodge factory backing. However, according to sources, regardless of what happens with the potential merger, Dodge is committed to backing its NASCAR teams for at least one more year, but perhaps no more. One thing for certain, NASCAR officials don't want Toyota buying up any more top Cup teams, like it did with Joe Gibbs, and they have made that clear to the company. Winston Salem Journal

10/14/08 Though the racing community tends to keep their heads in the sand when it comes to the world around them, reality does tend to intrude now and then - and painfully so at times. And this is one of those times for, in this case, Chrysler. The writing is on the wall for Chrysler's racing programs despite the pronouncements to the contrary from management types at the company. I expect we'll hear the words (or something like them) "we're in it for the long haul," or "we plan on being a force in 2009," or "reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated" - right up until the day it's announced that Chrysler is sold, merged or parted out to one (or more) of its various suitors.

This isn't meant as a criticism of those executives doing the talking, however, because they're doing exactly what's expected of them. But the fact remains that Chrysler - at least the Chrysler we've known since the financial juggernaut Cerberus took it over - is in the final throes of its existence as an independent entity, and its soon-to-be-determined fate will ultimately spell the end for its racing programs, including its biggest motorsports commitment - the Dodge-branded NASCAR involvement.

Why? Because even under the most optimistic of scenarios, which revolves around a merger with GM (see Peter's Rant column this week for more - ed.), Chrysler's overall organizational structure would be decimated, with wholesale elimination of departments, people, product and associated marketing programs. The other scenarios percolating - a takeover by Nissan-Renault, a "parting out" to Fiat or another automaker - would be more grim for the Auburn Hills manufacturer, if that's even possible to contemplate at this juncture.

The net-net in all of this is that no matter what the scenario, the best parts of Chrysler would be "cherry picked" and the rest of the carcass would be left by the side of the road. And needless to say, this does not bode well for existing big ticket promotional programs, especially Chrysler's NASCAR adventure.

But beyond the actual Dodge teams involved - I would assume the best of them would be absorbed by Toyota - how would this affect NASCAR? zzzz

For the Sunshine Gang down in Daytona Beach - where glasses are always half full and empty seats, declining TV ratings and teams going belly-up are mere momentary stumbles sure to correct themselves when the economy comes back, I expect the public comment to go something like this: "We appreciate the historical impact of Chrysler's involvement over the years in NASCAR, but we understand that these dramatically challenging economic times we live in bring changes that none of us can anticipate. We will go forward with our current manufacturer partners - Ford, GM and Toyota - and make sure that NASCAR continues to be the most exciting and economically rewarding form of motorsport in the world."

Except it's not that simple. The wave from the financial crisis enveloping our nation has only begun to hit the motorsports world, and we're just at the beginning of how this is going to impact big-time sports attractions - and NASCAR is probably the most vulnerable of all of them. Without sponsorship money, the whole NASCAR model will come unraveled. More teams will go under, and less sponsorship money will be available across the board for teams, drivers, individual races, promotional and advertising programs, etc., etc. And a bunch of fans will just stay home instead of going to the races.

As we like to say around here, Not Good.

Even though NASCAR might survive just fine without a fourth manufacturer, its ability to weather the ramifications of this nation's financial crisis - while keeping their mojo intact - is going to be extremely difficult. In the next few months, expect to see ominous signs that the NASCAR marketing machine is undergoing considerable duress. Peter M. DeLorenzo - Autoextremist

09/03/08 So now there’s one race left to decide which 12 drivers, cars and teams fill out the field for the 2008 Chase. And barring a near-miracle, Dodge won’t have a team, car or driver among ‘em.

Kasey Kahne’s August skid has taken him out of the Chase 12, even with a top-10 finish Sunday night at Fontana. He’s 44 points in back of 12th-place Clint Bowyer, with David Ragan between them. His chances of passing both at Richmond Saturday night aren’t good.

It has been a pretty dismal year for Dodge. It started fabulously, with Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch finishing 1-2 in the Daytona 500 for Dodge and Penske South. Since then, Kasey’s won a couple of races, and Kurt Busch lucked into one because of rain at New Hampshire. But four wins out of 25 is NOT a good season.

Chip Ganassi’s team is a shambles. Penske South just can’t get it together; not only are both Busch and Newman outside the Chase looking in, but three-time Indy Racing League champ Sam Hornish Jr.’s rookie season has been a textbook case of mediocrity. Kahne’s GEM team has had moments of brilliance, but has not been strong enough race-in, race-out to keep Kasey, a definite top-12-caliber driver, in that top 12.

It’s a joke that next year, NASCAR is revising the 2009 Shootout before Daytona to let in the top five cars from each make from 2008. That badly penalizes Chevy in favor of Dodge. There aren’t five Dodges that deserve to be in it. There are seven or eight Chevys that ought to be.

It would be good for NASCAR, not to mention Dodge, to have at least one really good team consistently contending for wins with a Dodge, the way the Rick Hendrick team does for Chevy, the Joe Gibbs team does for Toyota, the Roush Fenway team (or at least Carl Edwards’ part of it) does for Ford, and the way Penske South did for Dodge a few years back when Newman won something like six races in one year.

But for now, they just aren’t there. And for Dodge, which has such a proud history in NASCAR thanks largely to Richard Petty, it has to be supremely frustrating as well as embarrassing.- blogs.heraldtimesonline.com

07/24/08 Chrysler LLC released financial figures this morning that indicate the automaker lost $431 million in the first three months of this year.

The Auburn Hills automaker’s decision to officially release limited financial figures is a first since going private last August and comes in the form of a “clarification” to financial statements issued early this morning by minority owner Daimler AG.

"Chrysler LLC has a clear strategy to build a profitable enterprise for the long term as an independent company, even in this challenging economy. Our full year plan for the market in 2008 has been aggressively conservative, allowing us to be better positioned for the current slowdown,” said Shawn Morgan, a Chrysler spokeswoman. “Despite the challenges, Chrysler continues to meet or exceed its plan on all financial metrics.”

Daimler, which has maintained a 19.9% stake in Chrysler Holding LLC — which includes the automotive business and Chrysler Financial — announced it lost 373 million euro, worth $585 million at today’s exchange rate, on its share of Chrysler primarily during the first quarter of 2008.

That would imply that Chrysler Holding lost $2.9 billion under European accounting standards as used by Daimler. (Daimler reports most of Chrysler’s financial results on a three-month delay.)

Chrysler executives have argued strongly against using Daimler’s numbers to judge the Auburn Hills’ finances, saying the differences between U.S. and European accounting standards are too different for a fair comparison. In the past, however, Chrysler never officially released its own numbers. As a privately held company, it is not required by the Securities and Exchange Commission to report audited financial results. Detroit Free Press

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