The news came out yesterday. Dodge is leaving NASCAR at the end of the 2012 season. With little news in recent weeks about possible teams to field Dodge’s the news was expected.
Dodge leaving NASCAR was not a surprise to me. One statement by Ralph Gilles, head of Dodge Motorsports, spoke volumes about their efforts. The decision by Penske Racing to move to Ford Motor Company “kind of caught us by surprise and we never really recovered.”
A five year deal with Dodge is what Penske Racing wanted. Dodge would not commit to five years and hung on to the idea of a three year commitment. In the end Ford offered Penske a five year deal and effectively put Dodge and the 2013 Charger into a pile of mothballs.
Dodge lacked commitment to Penske Racing. The organization which had run Dodge cars for the past ten years winning a total of 29 races.
If Dodge was not going to go five years with Penske, a team which had two race cars in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase last season, why would they go any years with a start up program?
Furniture Row Racing could be successful with more backing but Dodge did not have that backing. Penske built everything for the Dodge program from cars to motors. Penske Racing was the face of Dodge in NASCAR. Aside from the casual appearance by Robby Gordon, there was no other Dodge presence at any level of NASCAR’s top three touring series.
Gilles noted that the automaker had placed more money into NASCAR this year then ever before. Yet he also spoke about not finding an adequate partner to work with that could keep Dodge competitive in NASCAR.
Losing Penske Racing was a big blow to Dodge. It was a blow they never expected and one that left them reeling. Without another team already signed up to run their cars their presence in NASCAR was evaporated. Jack Roush and Rick Hendrick do not wake up and wonder if Ford or Chevrolet will back their NASCAR teams. They know they will. Roger Penske did not have that with Dodge.