For some, Dodge and NASCAR go together like beer and ride-on lawn mowers but after Penske Racing's surprise decision in February to end its partnership with the Chrysler Group brand at the end of the 2012 season and switch to Ford as its manufacturer for Sprint Cup cars in 2013, the Detroit automaker didn't have a lot of options, or so it claims (see below).
In a press conference today, SRT Motorsports President and CEO Ralph Gilles said that the automaker tried hard its best to find a company to replace Penske Racing as a builder for its competition engines, but failed to a come up with a viable solution.
"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," he added.
As a result, SRT Motorsports will pull out the Dodge nameplate from NASCAR racing at the end of the 2012 season.
"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."
Overall, Dodge has recorded 215 wins in the Sprint Cup Series, including 55 since 2001, and has been represented in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup seven of the eight seasons. In 2010, Brad Keselowski won the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship in a Dodge from Penske Racing.
The USA Today gives a different twist to the story by reporting that according to some sources, the Chrysler Group's new owner Fiat wasn't exactly thrilled about continuing the sport of stock car racing as it prefers to expand Dodge's racing program to youth-oriented motorsports such as rallycross and sports cars.