Nancy Knapp Schilke
The rumor mill that started back March of this year, has now been confirmed by SRT Motorsports: Dodge is leaving the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2012 season. What is odd is they recently unveiled their 2013-spec cars for next year.
During the teleconference today in Auburn Hills, Michigan, Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of SRT stated: “Dodge has decided to withdraw from NASCAR competition at the end of the 2012 season."
In Mooresville, NC on March 1st, the first inkling of a possible pull out by Dodge, wonderings of what will happen to the Chrysler brand began. Their main NASCAR team since 2003, Penske announced they would become part of the Ford Racing family in 2013 with a multi-year contract.
At that time, Roger Penske commented on the “… terrific relationship with Dodge.” He added, “Our organizations have experienced many great memories together and our teams are committed to produce wins and championships with Dodge this season. We look forward to rejoining the Ford Racing NASCAR program beginning in 2013. We appreciate the long-term commitment that Ford has made to Penske Racing and for their continued support of the sport.”
While the teams and their partners settled into the racing season, the question was which of the NASCAR current teams would be a perfect fit for SRT Motorsports to campaign as their partner for 2013 and beyond.
Gilles made it very clear that their NASCAR program, and shut down, was not related with their road racing programs, including the two Vipers in the American Le Mans Series. "We've been treating all of the different motorsports as individual. Usually it's a nameplate centric exercise; what sport matches a nameplate the best. In the case of RallyCross, again, a very different budget. It's actually coming from the Dart budget. So certain things are self-contained, so that's the way we look at it.
They were in hopes of staying in the Cup and/or Nationwide series. "We've spent an intense five months working to identify and evaluate all options for our future involvement in NASCAR," Gilles said. "A number of opportunities emerged, and our team worked diligently to put a structure together to fit our overall business and competitive objectives. While we have been pleased and enthused with the amount of interest from teams and sponsors over that time, in the end, we simply couldn't develop the right structure."
During its time with NASCAR, Dodge recorded 215 wins in the Sprint Cup Series, including 55 since 2001, and has been represented in the Chase for the Sprint Cup seven of the eight seasons. In 2010, current Cup driver Brad Keselowski captured the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship with Penske Racing Dodge.