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It's official: Dodge is quitting NASCAR at the end of 2012

It's official: Dodge is quitting NASCAR at the end of 2012

Those 2013 NASCAR Dodges, unveiled at Las Vegas in March, are now officially mothballed

   By Mike Mulhern

    Dodge is history.
   After months of silence, Dodge executives Tuesday announced the automaker would withdraw from NASCAR at the end of the season, a major blow to the sport.
   Dodge, with a storied history in NASCAR in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s, pulled out of stock car racing in the late 1970s but then returned in 2001 amid great fanfare, with Chevy star crew chief Ray Evernham hired away from Rick Hendrick to lead the effort.
    Now it's all history...again.
   Ralph Gilles, the president and CEO of Dodge's SRT racing operations, made the announcement, calling it "an extremely difficult decision."
   Gilles said the decision was actually made last Friday, follow five months of study about NASCAR, which began in March when Roger Penske, after 10 years as Dodge's lead team owner in Sprint Cup racing, announced he would be moving to Ford at the end of 2012 because Dodge would not agree to a five-year contract, but Ford would.

   Dodge stars Brad Keselowski (R) and crew chief Paul Wolfe, heading to Ford next season (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   When Penske made his move, it appeared that Dodge executives, principally Gilles as the point man, had made a major error, since there was simply no other major car owner in the sport in a position to move to Dodge.
   Since March Dodge officials have scrambled to put together some new package, but to no avail.
   Michael Andretti, who runs an Indy-car team, was brought into the negotiations as a potential new NASCAR team owner, but Penske himself pointed out to Andretti that a NASCAR effort would require three times as much money to run as an Indy-car deal, and five times as many people.
    Dodge apparently balked at the price tag to bring Andretti into the sport.
    Lately Barney Visser, the up-and-coming team owner who runs Regan Smith in a Chevrolet, has pitched Dodge for a two-car package with Kurt Busch joining and with Penske's own engine shop providing motors.
    Richard Petty too has been negotiating with Dodge.
    However Dodge is owned by Italian car maker Fiat, and Fiat officials apparently simply haven't bought into the NASCAR marketing mystique.
    Gilles said "We could not unfortunately put together a puzzle or a structure that made sense to continue our business and competitive objectives."
    He insisted the decision "was not based on budgets.


  Roger Penske (L) and Brad Keselowski. So how did Dodge's Ralph Gilles lose The Captain to Ford? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


  "It was a case of the different pieces of the puzzle not fitting together to satisfy the structure we needed to fit our overall business and competitive objectives," Gilles said.
    It is not clear what Gilles was talking about.
   And it has not been clear all along if Gilles really understood NASCAR.
   And in letting Penske get away, Gilles and Dodge made an obviously fateful mistake. There was simply no one else available with Penske's racing credentials, and if Dodge were interesting in continuing as a player in NASCAR Gilles clearly had no other option except to sign a new contract with Penske.
    Gilles concedes the problem: "Really this issue started many, many years ago as we consolidated down to one team.  
   "We had a very elegant situation with the Penske group -- a one-stop shop, an engine, everything, a very high quality team to work with.
    "When that changed, the equation changed dramatically."
    For that, however, Gilles may have no one to blame but himself. He either grossly underestimated the NASCAR world and Dodge's situation, or he was asleep at the switch.

    For a Detroit insider's look:  http://www.autoextremist.com/fumes1/


   Dodge racing boss Ralph Gilles, seldom seen in the NASCAR garage this season, and he even skipped the Daytona 500, an ominious sign for MoPar fans (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   And the way it has now all played out, those who long considered Gilles both naive and uncommitted to the NASCAR project, would appear to have been right on target.
    Gilles' naiveté may be seen in this comment: "It's not as easy as you would think to configure a team at the level that we are accustomed to racing and at the level that we want to perform.
     "The whole thing was very complex, more complex than we thought at first, to try to put something together again at the level that we would like to be at."
    Gilles, rather than seeing Penske's defection to Ford as a game misplayed by Dodge, says it was "an aggressive decision on Ford's behalf to really have critical mass."
   Read that as Ford wanted more NASCAR teams. Chevrolet has more than a dozen, for example; Dodge on the other hand has had only Penske and Robby Gordon – and Dodge support for Gordon was virtually non-existent.
    Gilles said losing Penske "caught us by surprise, and we have not recovered since.
    "The house of cards kind of fell apart.  
    "We really apologize to our fans..."

  NASCAR's Brian France offered a brief statement on Dodge's departure: "Dodge has been a great partner to NASCAR for many years, and they have been part of numerous memorable moments throughout our history.

    "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."

   Ray Evernham, the man who brought Dodge back to NASCAR prominence (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



Very disappointed with Dodge, but you could see this coming after weeks of silence. They simply don't want to pay what it takes to be competitive in NASCAR these days. And while I'm disappointed with them, NASCAR has done nothing to help the cost of fielding a team since the COT was supposed to make it much more economical to do so. With the rules being what they are, Hendrick and others are spending millions on simulators and other extravagent testing equipment just to gain a couple hundrenths. Nobody in their right mind is going to come into NASCAR and throw that kind of money around to gain that small advantage it takes to win and compete with the Big 3. That being said, Dodge could have given some real support to Furniture Row and Hall of Fame Racing instead of clammoring for a big name. Instead they tuck their tale and run.
As a Dodge owner, I would rather see the brand spend their "advertising dollars" putting cars on the track rather than spending millions on more worthless commercials. Their marketing folks don't see it that way, though. A sad ending to Chapter II.

disappointed, yes. but the more i reflect on it,

disappointed, yes. but the more i reflect on it, the more angry i become. it takes a lot for a big company to jump into something like nascar....and if dodge says it aint worth it, that's not good for the sport at all. someone in daytona maybe should have come up with some options here imho

When I hear the phrase

When I hear the phrase "it's not about the money," that's just corporate-speak for "it IS all about the money ..." ... Andretti prolly wanted Dodge to foot the whole bill for a while (much like Evernham did), and Penske prolly wanted high eight figures (or maybe even nine figures) for the engine shop ... to get out of the NASCAR game now and think they can just jump back into it in a year or so is delusional ... and the one thing that hasn't come up in ANY story (or ANY of Gilles' statements) is what the DEALERS think about this ...

exactly: it is all about the money. and nascar

exactly: it is all about the money. and nascar must share the blame here for not keeping reins.
the dealers' angle is great. any dodge dealers out here willing to comment?

Dodge Disaster

What started as an exciting addition to the sport's competitive depth ends in the whimper of a factory program crushed by the combination of mismanagement by both the factory and the teams, the escalating technology arms race (due no small part thanks to Dodge), and the retraction of NASCAR as a viable marketing effort.

It began going wrong when Chip Ganassi muscled in and got Dodge backing at the expense of the three teams that had signed on first. Then Daimler (which had bought into Chrysler) basically kicked out Lou Patane from running the NASCAR program; gone was the One Team approach he forged in the Truck Series. Then when Penske barged in he got more and more of the engineering pie. Coupled with management ineptitude within Dodge's other teams (Ganassi suddenly proving he wasn't as good as he thought; Evernham's fight with his engineering team and his romance with Erin Crocker leading to the ugly controversy with Jeremy Mayfield; Kyle Petty's bad management and being eased out rather noisily from the team by Richard) and the growing cost of racing, and Dodge's effort became a casualty of itself.

What a disgrace.

i agree with all seven of your points. a big

i agree with all seven of your points. a big one is that nascar has not only continued to let costs escalate but has kept pushing costs higher....maybe just to keep a closed-shop.

ralph gillies

gillies would rather be seen in a viper chasing around detroit he knows nothing about auto racing, Saw This Coming Months Ago. I Can Not Believe Chrysler Had Him In That Position, I Guess It Fills A Quota.

i agree. dodge never should have let mike

i agree. dodge never should have let mike accavitti go....or lou patane....and some others. bad management, imho....


If a lesser known team wants to get an immediate and loyal following, they should run a Dodge next year, even without the manufacturer's blessing. They might not win any races and the television networks will probably ignore them, but many fans in the stands will cheer them on.

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