Motorsport News - US
Dodge pulling out of NASCAR at season's end
8th August 2012
Ralph Gilles, who heads up the Dodge Motorsports program that will be departing from NASCAR at the end of this season, admitted Tuesday the manufacturer was dealt a death blow in the sport last March when Penske Racing announced it was switching from Dodge to Ford in 2013.Penske Racing currently fields two Dodge teams in the Sprint Cup Series and two Dodge teams in the Nationwide Series. Gilles said Penske's decision in March to dump Dodge for Ford beginning in 2013 "kind of caught us by surprise and we never really recovered."
Gilles -- whose official title is president and CEO, Street and Racing Technology (SRT) Brand and Motorsports -- said his team had continued working on finding a NASCAR partner and finalizing details to get the new 2013 Dodge Charger on the race track up until late last week. He said the decision to pull out of NASCAR came only last Friday.
Theresimply was not enough time for Dodge to find a competitive team willing to work with them going forward -- or to switch to them from alliances already forged with one of the other three manufacturers involved in NASCAR (Toyota and Chevrolet, in addition to Ford).
"Some of the teams we were talking to weren't even sure what they wanted to do," Gilles said. "Even back in March, it was getting late for deciding what you are going to do for the next season and getting everything into place. And no one is going to wait on you. If you're not ready, they're going to move on without you."
That scenario left Dodge looking at possibly throwing all its NASCAR resources at a mid-level team, which then would have had to compete against the likes of not only Penske Racing but also Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. Gilles noted how long it took Penske Racing to become a championship contender after switching to Dodge and said the manufacturer ultimately found that scenario unacceptable.
Gilles did not completely rule out returning to NASCAR at a later date, but did not seem very optimistic about it. Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO, praised Dodge for its involvement in the sport and said he hoped it might return sometime down the line.
"Dodge has been a great partner to NASCAR for many years, and they have been part of numerous memorable moments throughout our history," 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."
Dodge has left NASCAR before -- the manufacturer pulled out in 1977 and then returned to great fanfare in 2001, with former three-time championship crew chief Ray Evernham leading the company's effort. That incarnation of Dodge has won 50 races, with Penske leading the way with 29 under the company's banner.
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