Dodge out of NASCAR at end of year
Dodge announced Tuesday that it is withdrawing from the NASCAR competition following the 2012 season.
Dodge was faced with a rebuilding phase beginning in 2013, after Penske Racing -- the lone NASCAR organization to field Dodges since 2009 -- chose to leave the manufacturer in favor of Ford Motor Company beginning next season.
"We've spent an intense five months working to identify and evaluate all options for our future involvement in NASCAR," SRT Motorsports president Ralph 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."
Penske has fielded Dodges since 2003, winning 29 Sprint Cup races to date and a Nationwide Series championship with driver Brad Keselowski. But in March, Penske announced the return to Ford, which the team had fielded from 1994 to 2002.
"That was the piece that I feel like puts us in a position to make a run for the championship for the next few years," Keselowski said in March. "I think there were some limitations in making that happen with the road we were on, so we changed roads."
Industry sources question whether Dodge's parent company, Fiat, has any passion for NASCAR, leading to Penske's decision to leave for Ford and, ultimately, Dodge's decision to leave the sport altogether, the sources say.
"Dodge has been a great partner to NASCAR for many years, and they have been part of numerous memorable moments throughout our history," NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said. "They made a business decision not to return in 2013, as they did in 1977 before returning in 2001. We wish them well and hope they again will choose to return to NASCAR at a later date."
Ford announced Monday that Roush-Yates engines would provide motors for Penske beginning in 2013, leaving questions about what may become of Penske's motor department and its 60-plus employee staff.
This isn't the first time Dodge has chosen to leave NASCAR. The manufacturer pulled out of the sport in 1977 and didn't return until 2001. Since that time, Dodge has accumulated 55 Sprint Cup victories.
"It's an extremely difficult decision to know that we won't be there for our fans next season," Gilles added. "It's important to note that we have not lost focus on 2012 or the commitment to our partnership with Penske Racing in both the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series this season."