Dodge leaving NASCAR after this season; France and fans react | Business
CONCORD - It's one of the most iconic names in NASCAR, and after this year, it's gone. Dodge announced Tuesday afternoon that it would not be back to race once the final checkered flag falls this season.
"We've spent an intense five months working to identify and evaluate all options for our future involvement in NASCAR," said Ralph Gilles, head of Street and Racing Technology (SRT) for Chrysler. "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."
Gilles said they everyone from fans to factory workers begged Dodge officials to stay in NASCAR, but he said today that without a deal to field cars for one of the sport's top teams, they just wouldn't do it.
Late Tuesday afternoon NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France issued the following statement regarding the Dodge departure:
"Dodge has been a great partner to NASCAR for many years, and they have been part of numerous memorable moments throughout our history," said France. "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.
"Our fans have a passion for cars and emotional connections to particular manufacturers, and that’s why in 2013 we will debut new race car designs that are modeled 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."
Back in the day, Dodge whipped out some wild and winning race cars, and even in recent years have taken some checkered flags, but at the end of this season, Dodge will take its last green flag.
"It is sad to see Dodge get out of the sport," said Doug Rice, the well known voice of the Performance Racing Network. "So many people love Mopar, love that diamond seal, want them to be part of the sport and even though they haven't been a vital part of the sport, they have been in the sport and Brad Keselowski has won several races with Dodges."
The company was down to one team in Sprint Cup, and earlier this year Penske said it was heading to the Ford camp. Dodge said today that's what sealed the decision to get out.
"It's with a heavy heart that I tell you this message today," Gilles added. "I know how much the fans will feel the pain," Gilles said. "People are passionate and emotional about it (their racing and brand). I want to take all the Dodge fans and give them a hug and have a beer with them."
It has happened before, car makers have come and gone over the years...Dodge was out of the sport during the 80's and 90's, but came back in 2001 with high hopes.
"That's a loss because there was so much excitement over a decade ago when Dodge came back into the sport," Rice add.
Dodge teams won 55 races since 2001, but Chevy, Ford, and Toyota teams got most of the wins and the number of Dodge teams dwindled.
Fans who spoke with WBTV today had mixed reactions to the news.
"I'm not a big Dodge fan, so, I'm okay with it...we're more Chevy," said sisters-in-law Shelly and Stacy Freeze.
"I think they should stay," said John Thayer. "They have such a long running tradition of being in the sport, so I think they need to say in there, plus it keeps competition better between the manufacturers."
"Yeah, it's about time for Dodge to get out," added fan Ralph Freeze. "Even though Keselowski is a damn good driver, I think you know it's a wise decision money wise, this sport is getting very expensive."
Rice also says consolidation could be part of the issue for Dodge. There are 43 cars in every race, but only about four companies that make engines, and none of them were making Dodge engines. Dodge said today if it couldn't find a one stop shop team, it wouldn't compete.
Gilles, who said today's announcement "was a shock and awe moment," promised Dodge would throw all of its support behind Penske Racing and Keselowski's efforts to make the Chase for the Championship this season and win a Sprint Cup championship as it prepares to leave NASCAR following the season-finale race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18.
The NASCAR history of Dodge goes all the way to 1950, the second season of NASCAR when Carl Wilkerson drove a Dodge coupe to a 25th place finish in a race called the "Poor Man's 500" in Canfield, Ohio.