Dodge back to NASCAR with Andretti (15th Update)

UPDATE #15 More background on this rumor. Evidently, Branson attended a few NASCAR races a few years ago (when he was dabbling in F1) with the Virgin America and Virgin Money brands. Now that he has Virgin Galactic in the USA, maybe the connection with technology would be a better play. However, we think he likes cars and he and Michael have been friends for a while so maybe he is just going to be an investor to get things started, and then sell out like Barry Green did with Andretti-Green.

Also, we know that Dodge and Andretti had discussions last season about a NASCAR program, but the problem was that Andretti does not have the engine building/development capability. Andretti Sports Marketing was primarily set up to find sponsors for their NASCAR effort. Rumor from our NASCAR sources is that Childress is going to Dodge and the engines will be built by his engine facility, which would solve the engine issue they had with Andretti. He (and maybe Furniture Row), would then just buy engines from Childress, and Dodge is back in the sport.

05/09/13 This rumor has resurfaced again. We are now hearing that there may be more to the Kurt Busch IndyCar test drive today at Indy than meets the eye. We are hearing that Andretti is talking to Dodge about a return to NASCAR with Kurt Busch as the driver. We also hear that Richard Branson may be in the mix, but we don't see the reason for his interest. Supposedly, this team would be a key part of Dodge's return to NASCAR competition. We also have to wonder if Busch's current team, Furniture Row, may be involved because they were in the rumor mix with Dodge last year.

08/05/12 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' now that this Furniture Row to Dodge rumor has surfaced.

07/24/12 One of the biggest Silly Season moves that we are waiting to hear a resolution for is just where Dodge will end up. Since it was announced that Penske would be moving to Ford for the 2013 season, there have been a ton of rumors and speculation, but no real solid information. And the reason why we haven’t heard anything substantive, is because this is a very complicated deal with so many moving parts.

The major problem Dodge is running into with the available pool of teams is a lack of infrastructure. As NASCAR teams have consolidated because of the economy, the major functions of engine and car building have fallen on only a few organizations. The engines for most of NASCAR are provided by either Roush Yates, Hendrick, Earnhardt Childress, Penske, or TRD. The same is true for bodies and chassis. Only the very top teams have full-fledged, completely self-reliant operations. And the teams that have been linked to the new Dodge deal are tied in some way to other organizations.

Take Richard Petty Motorsports and Furniture Row Racing for example. Both have been mentioned as possible destinations for Dodge, but both currently lean heavily on other teams. RPM gets all its cars and engines from Roush Fenway, and Furniture Row Racing is tied to Richard Childress Racing for cars and technology, and Stewart-Haas for its pit crew. Neither have the legions of fabricators, body hangers, painters, and the like to be self-reliant. And where would they get engines?

The oft-rumored move by Michael Andretti to NASCAR team ownership presented an intriguing option for Dodge, but the IndyCar owner recently told the Indianapolis Star that such a move was “highly unlikely." Even with money and support from Dodge, Andretti would need a major sponsor and a serious outlay of his own cash to get a Cup team off the ground. Running a NASCAR team is drastically more expensive than what Andretti deals with in IndyCar, as Roger Penske recently said to Sports Illustrated, and it appears Andretti isn’t ready for that yet.

Dodge is, for all intents and purposes, completely starting over. It’s the year 2000 all over again, only this time they don’t have Ray Evernham and a boat load of cash. And therein lies the major problem. The new Fiat run Dodge wants a NASCAR program, but it doesn’t have an unlimited budget to make it happen. And a significant investment is what will be needed to turn one of the available candidates into a full-blown, self-contained Cup operation. NASCAR Insiders

07/17/12 is rumoring that Kurt Busch could be headed to the Andretti (and Petty?) Sprint Cup Series Team in 2013 with Dodge. Busch of course drove Dodges and won races for Penske Racing until he got sacked for mouthing off at TV Reporter Dr. Jerry Punch. We previously rumored that Matt Kenseth could be headed to the Andretti team. A 2-car team of Busch and Kenseth would be formidable and a good start for the new team.

07/14/12 Is it just a coincidence that Andretti Autosport IZOD IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay will be driving a Dodge Viper in some upcoming ALMS races, or does this give more credence to the rumors that Dodge is going to do a deal with Andretti in NASCAR, and maybe more? Hmm……

07/07/12 For those worried about Dodge perhaps folding its tent at the end of 2012, without any teams yet on its 2013 NASCAR roster, the good news is that Chrysler officials, according to company sources, have just ordered a full inventory of Penske's NASCAR engine operation (80-men strong), with firm indications the company will buy Penske's Dodge operation and go into the NASCAR 'customer engine' business itself, just as Toyota does with its Los Angeles-based TRD NASCAR engine building program. Such a move by Chrysler would open the door for someone like Michael Andretti to venture into NASCAR with a new Sprint Cup team (even though Penske himself has warned Andretti that running a NASCAR team requires five times as many people and three times as much money to operate as an Indy-car team). One Dodge question is whether the Richard Petty two-car team, currently fielding Fords, with factory support, would stick with Ford or move to Dodge.

06/30/12 In response to recent reports about its engine company, Tim Cindric, President of Penske Racing, issued the following statement: "Contrary to recent published speculation, Penske Racing has not sold its (Dodge) engine company (yet?). The team's focus continues to be on successfully completing the 2012 season, competing for championships and victories in the both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series for Dodge and our other sponsor partners."

06/30/12 In response to inquiries about the company's NASCAR motorsports program, Beth Paretta, Director of Marketing and Operations – SRT Brand and Motorsports, Chrysler Group LLC, offers the following statement: "While we continue to evaluate plans in NASCAR for 2013 and beyond, we have no commitments with any partners at this time. We continue to be pleased with the amount of interest from the media and fans in our motorsports program and will continue to follow our process as established in a timely manner. When decisions are finalized, we will announce them at that time. Currently what is most important is that we have not lost any focus on 2012 and our partnership with Penske Racing. Our commitment to win races and compete for championships with Penske Racing in both the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series this season remains firm. We will not lose focus on that partnership as we make decisions about our future in NASCAR." Darnell Communications for Dodge

06/29/12 Contrary to what Pitpass are rumoring this morning, our sources maintain Kenseth is headed to Gibbs (and not Andretti) and a new twist is that Penske Racing has an option on Carl Edwards, meaning Roush may be losing two top drivers.


Will Michael Andretti announce he will team with Richard Petty Motorsports, with Dodge power and Matt Kenseth behind the wheel?

Seems our sources may have been right all along on this rumor (Petty to Dodge and now with Andretti). is now rumoring that Michael Andretti has purchased the Dodge engine program from Penske Racing and will field at least one full time Dodge in the Cup series in 2013 and beyond…

No word on who the driver is, but with Matt Kenseth leaving Roush at the end of the season, the 2003 Cup series champ did confirm to the Journal Sentinel on Wednesday that he will drive for “a new cup team" in 2013 and beyond. One option on the table is for Andretti to base his team out of the old Evernham Motorsports shop at the Statesville Regional Airport in Statesville, N.C.

Also hearing from this unnamed source that this new deal with Dodge is also with Richard Petty Motorsports — currently a Ford team paired with Roush Fenway Racing, but has a long history with Dodge. (this is why we didn’t get the announcement of Petty to Dodge in Michigan a few weeks ago, they were trying to get Kenseth and team with Andretti) "I'm always looking at all options," Andretti said. "I'd be stupid not to listen to Dodge or any other manufacturers. It doesn't matter that we are a Chevy IndyCar team. It might be nice if it was all under one roof but, in our contract, we're a Chevy IndyCar team."

Rumor is that an official announcement could come as early as next weekend.

06/27/12 Our sources tell us a new team from outside NASCAR has already started to interview fabricators and mechanics for a two Sprint Cup entries and one Nationwide entry. They will be based in the Charlotte area and already have a building. We think it is Andretti, but not certain, and we hear there is a possibility that it will be done in conjunction with Richard Petty Motorsports and Dodge. Let's not forget that John Andretti, cousin of Michael Andretti, has strong ties with Richard Petty and his team. Speculation by our sources is that Petty and Dodge were going to announce the deal Friday before the Michigan race as we had rumored, but then talks with Andretti and Dodge started hot and heavy again and now all three are in the mix and the Petty announcement was delayed. All rumor have you, but somehow it smells right.

06/26/12 Our sources still say not sure about the timing on the Dodge/Petty announcement but RPM will not be a RFR supported team next year.

Brad Keselowski might be sweeping up the remains of Dodge at the end of 2012 if their NASCAR program gets cut. No top teams appear to be available for them

06/17/12 Dodge fans – and potential racing partners – wondering what direction the manufacturer will take in NASCAR beyond 2013 will have to wait a while longer.

Ralph Gilles, vice president for product design at Chrysler, was expected to be in Le Mans this weekend, but high level meetings kept the Dodge executive stateside this weekend. caught up with Gilles following the drivers meeting at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday to ascertain Dodge’s future in NASCAR.

FOXSports: Will Dodge be in NASCAR in 2013?

Gilles: That’s the one question I can’t answer this weekend. It’s the question that I get asked the most. Everything is in play right now. We’re not ready to make an announcement. We’re working internally to figure out the next steps. And I can’t talk about it because I don’t want to shortchange the process.

FOXSports: Are you talking to potential teams right now?

Gilles: I can’t talk about that. We’re looking at everything. We’re looking at potential teams. We’re looking at options inside – how we go to motorsports next year. But really it wouldn’t be fair to the people working on the project right now to talk about it. All I can say right now is stay tuned, we’ll try to get the word out before the end of summer.
: There’s been a lot of debate as to whether it’s best to spend your motorsports dollars here or in Formula One. Are those reports accurate?

Gilles: No, we’re well represented in Formula One in terms of a total company. I for one have no intention to go Formula One racing. It’s a whole different ballgame. I love and respect the teams that are there but it’s not in our wheel house.
Fiat as whole, their budget?

It has nothing to do with it. It’s a totally different – it’s encapsulated within the Ferrari deal. It has nothing to do with us. Are you still working on the Charger for next year?

Yes. Absolutely. We have to. We kind of have to hedge our bets. We’re doing a little bit of the development where a lot of the stuff has been done already – a lot of the aero work is already locked in. We’re just kind of standing pat right now. What would you tell the longtime Dodge fans that have watched your progress in NASCAR?

I would tell them, 'Hey, we’re committed to win the Cup.' We really want to get Brad (Keselowski) or AJ (Allmendinger) up there. I think Brad has a really good shot. We’re committed to that to the bitter end. That’s where our focus is right now. That’s the way that (team owner) Roger (Penske) sees it, too. We want Brad to do it. If AJ somehow makes it happens, who knows? Right now it’s looking great. Brad has matured tremendously as a driver, tremendously as a fan favorite which is all good for everybody. So that’s what we’re focused on.

06/12/12 Richard Petty Motorsports told they do NOT have any press conferences planned this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. The team does not have any plans to discuss their manufacturer status this weekend.

06/11/12 According to sources, Richard Petty Motorsports will announce on Friday in Michigan that they will switch to Dodges next year. No word yet on whether Penske, which is switching to Ford, will continue to build the Dodge engines for RPM. Other than making their brand look like losers, We wonder how much value Dodge gets from being a backpacker team in NASCAR.

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