A couple of weeks ago, we reported on the 2010 Ford Mustang entrant into the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS), and now Dodge has followed suit by unveiling its 2010 Dodge Challenger NNS stock car. Starting next season, the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) will begin using the 'Car of Tomorrow' (CoT) on a limited basis using the Challenger in place of the Dodge Charger. NASCAR is expected to switch to the Nationwide CoT for a full schedule in 2011, which will give the 'minor league' series a car that is sportier and more distinguishable than the Sprint Cup series.
Unlike the cars currently running around in NASCAR that are loosely based on production models, the NASCAR Challenger not only has the styling of a Nationwide racecar, but it also is the most stock-looking car to race in a NASCAR series since the 1980s. Up front, signature Challenger design elements are in place such as the quadruple headlights and rectangular grille, while the rear view of the car shows the familiar full-width tail lights. Other than the unique front and rear treatments, a slight kink in the side window openings helps to distinguish between the NNS Challenger and the other competitors. Like the Sprint Cup CoT cars, the NNS Challengers will use a lower chin spoiler, but instead of a rear wing they will continue to use the tall, vertical decklid spoiler as seen on the current cars.
'We're very proud of the look of the car,' said Dave Bailey, senior manager of Dodge motorsports engineering and SRT Body, Interior and Electrical. 'It's great looking. We've maximized the brand identity of the vehicle, as well as achieve the aero parity. We feel this is the right opportunity to showcase the Dodge Challenger in this series as the Challenger came back to the market in 2009.'
Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of the newly formed Dodge Car Brand, is aware of the significance of racing with the history of Dodge. Since the beginning of NASCAR in 1949, Dodge has been a key manufacturer in the races, but no car was more dominant or is more recognizable than the 1970 Dodge Charger Daytona (and its twin, the Plymouth Superbird). Like Dodge, Penske Racing has a long and storied legacy in NASCAR racing and is one of the teams that will be using the NNS Challenger.
"As the performance brand of our new company, we are excited to expand our relationship with Penske Racing and introduce the iconic Dodge Challenger as our entry into the NASCAR Nationwide Series," Giles said. 'Penske Racing has such a rich tradition in motorsports, and our partnership in the Nationwide Series will provide an excellent opportunity to showcase the Challenger and offer our loyal Dodge enthusiasts plenty of excitement in this very competitive series next year."
Like the Sprint Cup, the purpose of the new design for the Nationwide cars is twofold: it creates an equal template across the four competing automakers to promote more competitive racing and it helps to improve driver safety by reducing the vehicles' top speed and redesigning the safety cage and layout. It is not clear how the Nationwide rules will work, but all of the cars competing in the Sprint Cup series must fit identical templates regardless of the automaker. While most of the changes are necessary to create a more equal playing field for the Dodge, Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford teams, the new body also helps create a safer cockpit with the driver's seat closer to the middle of the car.
The 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Ford Mustang will only compete in four races next season, but it will likely phase the new car in by the following season. The first track to see the 2010 Dodge Challenger 'stock car' will fittingly be the Daytona International Speedway for the mid-season night race on July 2, 2010. In addition to the Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang, the other CoT racecars fielded from Chevrolet and Toyota will continue to bear resemblance to the current models: the Chevrolet Impala and the Toyota Camry.