Dodge departing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2013
Ralph Gilles, head of SRT Motorsports, announced today that Dodge will not campaign its new 2013 Charger in next-year's NASCAR Sprint Cup. The ambitious factory program suffered a major competitive blow in February when current partner Roger Penske announced that he had signed a long-term deal with Ford to race the new Fusion in the Sprint Cup starting next year. Penske, whose relationship with Dodge's NASCAR effort began in 2003, offered a literal one-stop shop that could do it all. According to Gilles, replacing that level of experience and expertise with a competitive alternative plus signing suitable drivers in just a seven-month period simply was not in the cards.
Calling it "an extremely difficult decision," Gilles stated that it had nothing at all to do with budget issues but was simply a matter of being able to meet stated goals. "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." As for words of consolation to the legion of Dodge NASCAR fans, he noted "We're just as devastated as everybody else. But we didn't want to just show up, we want to win."
Revealed this spring, development work on the all-new 2013 Dodge Charger Cup car remained ongoing until last Friday, when the final decision was made at the committee level to withdraw factory support. According to Gilles, pending NASCAR's approval, there might be a possibility that one or more Chargers could be entered in a limited number of 2013 Sprint Cup races by privateer teams. As for 2014 and beyond, Gilles remains cautiously hopeful. "Time changes everything. We'll never say never, but for the moment, we'll have to reassess everything."
Gilles also hastened to note that from now until the end of the year, it will be business as usual, but with even more enthusiasm. "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." That effort involves helping Penske's Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski - already a three-time winner in this year's competition -- make the 12-driver Chase for the Cup field as well as doing all it can to support Penske's Nationwide driver, Sam Hornish, in his quest for a championship in that high-profile feeder series.