Somewhere down south, a good ol’ boy just started breaking down in tears. It was just announced that Dodge would be leaving NASCAR, unable to find a team that met its qualifications to carry on for the 2013 season.
“We’ve spend an intense five months working to identify and evaluate all options for our future involvement in NASCAR,” said Ralph Gilles, the president and CEO of Chrysler’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) division, in a statement. “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.”
You may remember earlier this year Dodge showed off a redesigned Charger for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Dodge also campaigns Challengers for the lower-tier Nationwide Cup Series. Both were driven by teams owned by Roger Penske who, after campaigning Dodge cars from 2003 to 2012, decided to switch to Ford’s Roush-Yates engine supplier for the 2013 season.
That left Dodge without a team. So it closed up shop.
Dodge came back to NASCAR in 2001 after a hiatus that began in 1977. Since starting this century, Dodge has accumulated 55 wins and has been in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup in seven of eight years since the series switched to its new format. In 2010, driver Brad Keselowski won the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship outright.
Over the years, NASCAR has evolved from a sport you’d watch on TNN and strewn with ads for Marlboro Reds, to an international sport with drivers who’ve come over from IndyCar, rally racing, and Formula 1. Dodge’s presence will be missed, certainly, but the times changed.
And if your achy breaky heart is really that dejected by this news, here’s some consolation: Chrysler’s 2013 SRT Viper GTS-R made its much-anticipated return to racing this past weekend, placing 10th in its class on its first time out.
Surely, the south will rise again.