[media-credit id=18 align=”alignright” width=”240″][/media-credit]What a day for news! Today we learned that the Dodge brand will disappear from NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series at the end of the year. It’s not the first time for Dodge. They left back in 1977, only to return in 2001, but this has to be a blow to the sanctioning body. America’s Big Three automakers belong in NASCAR. It’s an American series featuring cars you can buy at a dealership. The Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Camry, and Dodge Charger are all cars that American families buy in large numbers, and now one of the brands is gone.
Petty Enterprises brought Chrysler Corporation vehicles into the spotlight in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Richard Petty, the undisputed King of the sport, won more races than anyone else in Plymouths. He later changed to GM cars and even later Fords, but it was always the top brand, even when Chevrolet competed. Add to that successful teams led by Cotton Owens, Harry Hyde, and others. The excitement when Dodge came back was legend. Mopar fans had cars to root for. Ray Evernham, former the crew chief for the fabulously successful Jeff Gordon, spearheaded the new Dodge resurgence along with the Petty family and others. Today it came to an end.
Looking for reasons is pretty elementary. Dodge had been reduced to a two car team led by Penske Racing. Evernham had sold out to George Gillett which morphed into Richard Petty Motorsports, and with Chrysler’s money problems, only Penske remained. Earlier this year, Penske announced he was switching to Ford and the rest is history. Dodge tried valiantly to find a team, any team, to carry its banner, but in the end, no credible tram wanted them. Just like the 1970’s, when only Ford and Chrysler competed on the NASCAR ovals, the field is reduced to Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota, the only difference being that three manufacturers are competing instead of four—two of the former Big Three and Japanese Toyota.
Who can blame successful teams for not considering Dodge? Penske was the sole engine supplier, and it would be unlikely that he could build Dodge engines and campaign Fords. Problem No, 2 was the domination of Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports especially. Winners of five of the last six championships (a clean sweep if you consider Tony Stewart’s SHR is a satellite team depending on chassis and engine from HMS), why would any Chevrolet team consider switching? Ford teams are so wrapped around the Roush-Yates engine program that is so good, that changing to a manufacturer that has had little success outside of early Evernham successes would be a real gamble. As hard as Dodge worked, it wasn’t going to be, and so they left America’s premier sedan car series.
That left a hole in what everyone thought would happen. Many believed that Petty Motorsports would move to Dodge as their top team, but apparently that wasn’t to be. RPM, whose contract with Ford and Roush ends at season’s end, is still debating their options, Toyota is a possibility, but this reporter thinks they will stay with Ford. Time will tell.
In what has to be the worst PR nightmare this season, A.J. Allmendinger admitted today that he had tested positive for the prescribed drug Adderall. He said he took it to combat fatigue. He said he didn’t know what it was. He took it from a “friend.” For a guy who said he was for concerned what went in his body, he made a bad decision. The human condition. Allmendinger lost a ride of a lifetime. Now the only speculation is who will get the ride in the No, 22 Dodge ride for the rest of the year and the No. 22 Ford ride for 2013. It won’t be Allmendinger. So the drama continues. And they said 2012 was boring,