It will soon be lights out for Dodge UPDATE The decision by Richard Petty and the Gillett family to further consolidate their operations and opt for that wonderful Doug Yates horsepower means that only Team Penske is planning on using Dodges next season and you have to wonder how long that plan will remain in place.
There are good surprise announcements and bad ones in racing. In 1999, Evernham made a good one. Well, as it turns out, an interesting one. He announced that he was forming his own team and that team would return Dodges to the track in 2001 for the first time since 1985.
The plan was risky, he knew, but he was confident that his experience and that with his "20 Points for Success" philosophy in place, Dodge would soon be a NASCAR power again and that all would live happily ever after.
Perhaps there should have been a 21st point inserted somewhere in there. While revived Dodge has had small successes over the years, it has never really ascended from the bottom wrung of the NASCAR manufacturers ladder.
Drivers came and went and teams came and went from the Dodge effort -- an effort which was initially backed by car dealerships from around the country. Hey, Evernham came and went as he sold his operation to George and Foster Gillett a couple years ago and now remains visible only as a television analyst.
The recent economic meltdown has sent out signals that Dodge itself may soon be going. Certainly scores and scores of those very Dodge dealers who had backed the revival effort have disappeared, their empty, spooky dark showrooms serving as carcasses along the road of economic doom.
With the company's very existence murky, who could blame Petty and Gillett for making their escape?
Which leaves Penske.
Roger Penske is one of the smartest people in racing and is one of America's best businessmen. He knows when to raise and he knows when to fold.
You have got to figure that some time very soon, Roger Penske will be flicking off the light which Ray Evernham had flicked on 10 years ago. Sporting News09/11/09 The head of Dodge Motorsports on Friday called Richard Petty's defection a "business decision" that won't affect the manufacturer's participation in NASCAR. Richard Petty Motorsports has signed a letter-of-intent to merge with Yates Racing and field a four-car Ford team next season. It leaves Dodge with just three Roger Penske-owned cars in its 2010 lineup. But president and CEO Mike Accavitti said that's enough for Dodge, which has had to continuously reinforce its commitment to NASCAR because of the cash problems that forced parent-company Chrysler into Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization earlier this year. "Dodge's plan - to be a championship contender in 2010 with Penske Racing and a solid lineup of drivers - has not changed," Accavitti said. "We remain firmly focused on our objectives to be the leading manufacturer in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, win races and compete for the Sprint Cup at the right level." Associated Press