Following a weekend that saw the legendary SRT Viper return to action on the racetrack , Dodge announced today that it will be withdrawing from NASCAR following the 2012 season. Back in March, Dodge unveiled its new 2013 Cup car (shown here), but Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of the SRT brand as well as SRT Motorsports, confirmed that Dodge will be backing out of NASCAR while continuing involvement in other racing series such as American Le Mans Series (ALMS) with the 2013 SRT Viper and RallyCross with the 2013 Dodge Dart. In 2012, there are nine Dodge Charger racecars running in the Sprint Cup, but Dodge also runs a number of Dodge Challenger racecars in the Nationwide Series as well as RAM trucks under the Dodge name in the Camping World Truck Series.
Probably the biggest reason for Dodge's decision was the fact that Penske Racing, the only major NASCAR team fielding Dodge cars in 2012, already announced that it will be switching from Dodge to Ford next year. This would almost guarantee the brand wouldn't be competitive on the track with this team the brightest spots for Dodge in 2012. With only five races left in NASCAR's "regular season," only one Dodge - Brad Keselowski 's No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger - is in the top 12 spots that will move on to the Sprint Cup Chase for the Cup championship. In the Nationwide Series, Sam Hornish Jr. sits in fourth place for that championship - which Keselowski won back in 2010.
Gilles said that many other teams showed interested in the Dodge brand, but, ultimately, none of them could compare to the unique relationship Dodge and Penske had. Gilles referred to Penske as a unique "one-stop shop" in NASCAR in terms of the engine shop, teams and other components that would allow Dodge to "race with confidence" in 2013.
“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.”
Don't count Dodge - or at least the Chrysler Group - out of NASCAR for too long, though. This still remains the most popular racing series in the U.S., and it wouldn't be too hard for Dodge to return to the sport in the future like it did back in 2001 (after a 24-year hiatus).
"We love motorsports. We'll find a way to make this work in the future," Gilles concluded.
Ironically, the news of Dodge backing out of NASCAR comes on the same day that ESPN.com announced that former Penske driver, AJ Allmendinger, claims that the reason for his failed drug test was his use of a prescription drug, Adderall, for which he did not have a prescription. The random pre-race drug test showed he had an amphetamine in his system, and Allmendinger was eventually replaced in the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger by Hornish Jr.