Dodge have confirmed that they will no longer be competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series after the end of the current season, despite having unveiled a 2013-model Sprint Cup Dodge Charger
The decision comes after its one remaining flagship team in the competition, Penske Racing, decided to depart the Dodge stable and return to the Ford fold next year. That left Dodge without a big team to partner with that was capable of the level of technical input that the manufacturer needed to justify staying.
“We've spent an intense five months working to identify and evaluate all options for our future involvement in NASCAR,” said Ralph Gilles, the president and CEO of the Street and Racing Technology Brand and Motorsports, Chrysler Group. "A number of opportunities emerged, and our team worked diligently to put a structure together to fit our overall business and competitive objectives," he added during a media teleconference call on Tuesday.
"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."
The decision also means an end to the company's involvement in the Nationwide Series, where they saw success with Brad Keselowski who won the 2010 series title. Keselowski is currently seventh in this year's Sprint Cup Chase with three wins to his name so far, while Sam Hornish Jr. is fourth in the Nationwide standings with six top five finishes this season.
“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," assured Gilles. “It's an extremely difficult decision to know that we won't be there for our fans next season."
In total, Dodge has recorded 215 wins in the Sprint Cup Series. The majority of those came in its first stint in the series up to 1977, with 55 being notched up since it returned to the competition in 2001. However, recent times have been tough for the manufacturer, with parent company Chrysler going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while going through a US government-backed reorganisation to enable it to survive under new majority owners, the Italian manufacturer Fiat.
Losing one of the four manufacturers in the series is a setback for the sanctioning body which is seeking to make NASCAR more appealing to manufacturers, including relaxing rules on chassis design to allow the cars on track to more closely resemble their street counterparts.
“Dodge has been a great partner to NASCAR for many years, and they have been part of numerous memorable moments throughout our history,” said NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France, in a statement released after Dodge's decision was made official.
“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," he said. “Our fans have a passion for cars and emotional connections to particular manufacturers, and that's why in 2013 we will début new race car designs that are modelled after each manufacturer's production cars. This change is a direct result of feedback from our fans, who are the most brand loyal in all of sports.”
In related news on Monday, Penske confirmed that would be buying their 2013 Ford engines from Roush Yates rather than building them in-house, leaving a question mark over the team's 63-person in-house engine shop.
"It's truly an honour to provide Penske Racing with Roush Yates Ford engines,” said Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates. “I have always admired Roger Penske as a team owner and a respected businessman in our sport and beyond. I am looking forward to many wins, championships, and other successes in supporting the Penske organisation."
That means that all of the Ford-powered cars in Sprint Cup competition will be provided by the Roush Yates, much as all the main Toyota-powered cars have consolidated engine supply to Toyota Racing Development rather than running separate programmes or developing units in-house, as Joe Gibbs Racing did prior to 2012.
Only the third manufacturer, Chevrolet, still runs multiple programmes - with Hendrick Motorsports and Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines providing units to their respective stables of teams.