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Losing Dodge could be a big blow to NASCAR

Losing Dodge could be a big blow to NASCAR

Kasey Kahne, once a Dodge star....

   By Mike Mulhern

   So Dodge just dumped NASCAR.
   And this sport just lost a major player.
   Not pretty.
   Not very sensible either, from a marketing standpoint, on either side.
   And angry.
   Are the guys running Dodge and Chrysler-Fiat just a) inept, b) naïve, c) dumb, or d) all of the above?
   Hard to read this fiasco as anything else.
   Wonder how enthusiastic that 80-man Dodge-Penske engine staff will be from here on, since the future looks pretty dim?
   Who 'lost' Dodge?
   Who dropped the ball here? Who blew this deal?
   The Dodge bombshell that Chrysler-Fiat execs just dropped on NASCAR may well have repercussions far beyond sheet metal and pistons.
   Not only will other stock racing sponsors and potential sponsors be looking at this sport in a new light, but other outside car makers might easily now get cold feet about any commitment.
   After all Chrysler is one of the world's biggest car makers, with a legacy as long part of Detroit's Big Three.
   Remember Clint Eastwood's Super Bowl 'Half Time in America'? http://bit.ly/PHl1qo


   Ray Evernham (R) and Kasey Kahne (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Maybe it was just inept work by Dodge officials in this whole mess.
   Maybe Roger Penske, who after all has invested more than 40 years in NASCAR, could have handled things better.
   (But then considering the Kurt Busch mess, that Penske let fester for so many months last year, and the still stunning mishandling of the AJ Allmendinger case, maybe Penske and his own cadre need to rethink how they're doing business all the way around….)
   To be clear here, it was Dodge execs who should have had a better game plan.  
   First off, Dodge never should have let Penske get away. Just write the check.
   Then, no backup plan in those negotiations? Poor negotiating skills obviously.


   Chrysler-Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne: did anyone invite him to the Daytona 500? (Photo: Dodge)

   So why not build a new operation? Plenty of drivers to consider. Wonder why if Matt Kenseth was obviously available, and Ryan Newman, and Joey Logano, and Brian Vickers, why didn't Ralph Gilles, apparently the point man in this operation, talk with any of them?
   Maybe Sergio Marchionne, the Italian who runs the company, just didn't get NASCAR; or maybe he just didn't care. Maybe somebody should have invited him to some NASCAR races, to see the sport up close. Has he ever seen a NASCAR race?
   Maybe those Daimler guys messed things up back when they were in charge.
   Maybe this whole Fiat-Chrysler-Dodge outfit is running in just too many directions, with such confusing game plans for selling cars and trucks that the whole company sometimes seems to have lost its way.
   Certainly the way Dodge has left Robby Gordon in the weeds didn't say much positive.
   Sure looks like this thing was designed to fail, with only the ejection date TBD.   
   But everyone probably should have been on notice when Dodge execs decided to skip the Daytona 500 back in February.   


    Brad Keselowski has been a big winner for Dodge this season, and he has a shot at giving Dodge its first NASCAR Cup championship since the 1970s. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   It wasn't like this back when Dodge made such a splashy return to stock car racing in 2001, after a major league promotional build-up, with legendary Ray Evernham as the helm.
   It was a classy, high profile relaunch, with so much promise that Penske, Chip Ganassi and Bill Davis all quickly jumped on board.
   Dodge's last tour win had been back in 1977, but the brand really bailed out of the sport at the end of 1971…ironically just after Bobby Isaac and Richard Petty had won back-to-back championships for Chrysler. There were enough parts and pieces for the Pettys to keep going…until Chevrolet, in 1978, decided the opportunity was ripe to sign him.
   Since returning to the sport, Dodge never got that NASCAR Cup championship, but still 55 tour wins…including three already this season with hotshot Brad Keselowski, and the promising another Keselowski run at the Sprint Cup title.
   The Petty name has been long linked with Chrysler, through Plymouth and Dodge. Kyle Petty points to the image that Dodge's abrupt withdrawal gives:   "You look at this and figure if Dodge can pull out, so can any of the remaining three. So this impacts the perception of the sport."



     Maybe Dodge should be stepping to the plate with Robby Gordon (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

They won't be the last

Dodge joins a increasing long list of Corporations that have left NASCAR. It seems that more and more it's not the great sponsorship value it once was and if look at TV ratings and attendance it hard not see why corporations would want to be involved in sport that appears to be on the decline

Dodge returned in 2001 by essentially funding EMS

Dodge returned in 2001 by essentially funding EMS as a startup. Obviously they had success with Ray Evernham but what transpired after Gillette bought the team certainly left a sour taste. The team rebranded (marketing talk) and then merged / acquired Petty Enterprises and then finally became RPM (Petty in name only) which is a customer company of Roush. Long story short - Dodge funded a Ford team and that took about 10 years to unfold. During that 10 years they did manage to add Penske but otherwise never attracted another major team to their stable while losing several mid performing teams. What Dodge was unwilling to do it appears was to repeat history, but also to make a 5 year commitment to it's sole performing team in Penske.

The underlying angle I see is that Dodge was unwilling to start over which is where they were standing. Bringing on Furniture Row, Andretti Autosport, or RPM or any combination meant explaining fully to Sergio that this was going to take time - time in the form of 2-5 years to be where Penske is now in terms of competition. But wait... didn't Dodge (Fiat / Chrysler) ram down our throats super bowl ad after ad about Detroit not being dead, rebuilding an icon, the American Way, Eminem rap songs about how American Chrysler is while being run by Italians. So does that mean time isn't available or this isn't the right venue to market how American the Fiat version of Chrysler is. Yes the timing of the Viper program in ALMS is probably not a coincidence, as road racing in GT is a great tool to market performance cars and the destinations are far more sexy than Darlington. However the assault on Le Sarthe won't be as American Pie as it was when Henry Ford II did it in the '60s.

Its very sad to me to see a sport I love struggle to remain relevant. But we did it to ourselves...

NASCAR minus Dodge

You guys aren't going to like my post, but I as a drag racer and a businessman, I am going to be perfectly honest.

Despite NHRA's best efforts to become NASCAR lite, the two motorsports still have two different fan bases.

NASCAR appeals to the folks who are not necessarily car smart, the pure spectator type who is willing to buy a ticket, likes the noise, the crashes, and will soon move on to the next fad. The hope is to sell them cars, but it is apparent that most of them are not really influenced by NASCAR participation. The parking lots at NASCAR races seem to be full of Kias and Beamers. I work in a large office, with a significant number of NASCAR fans, and find that most are Tony Stewart fans, Jeff Gordon fans, Jimmy Johnson fans, etc., and quite a few of them don't even know what brand of car they race.

Drag Racing, on the other hand, still has as it's core supporters genuine gearheads, many of whom race themselves. The Pro Stock and drag racing efforts are sponsored by MoPar, the parts wing, and not the car selling end, and is focus on different aspects. The effort is designed to sell parts....any cars are a bonus. Look at the package Drag Pak Dodge Challengers.....they were designed to put the stuff in the hands of hands on racers, to sell parts, and in this case to maybe sell some Challengers. They are a complete factory race car right from the factory, Hemi powered, similar to the famous Hemi package cares of the sixties. That entire scenario is not NASCAR friendly....how competitive do you think a NASCAR "package" Charger would be? Especially when they don't use a production engine? But, Chrysler parts dealers....Indy Cylinder Head, Mancini racing, and a myriad of others make a good living selling parts to Chrysler racers. It's an entirely different world.

NASCAR does not use production engines...where it should have 5.7 and 6.1 hemis racing 5.7 LS1 Chevrolets, etc., it has "spec" engines that are so similar that one is like the other and none have any relationship at all to anything the manufacturer produces. As far as bodies go, air brush different headlights and grilles on any of them, call it a Honda, and no one would know the difference.

So, when you consider the astromonical cost of racing NASCAR, and the benefits derived from it, you can't blame any manufacturer for bailing. There comes a point where the costs outweigh the benefits, and it would seem that for Chrysler, NASCAR has reached that point.

I really think that it is NASCAR that needs to change, or stories like this will become commonplace.

Dodge has pulled out before. NASCAR also lost

Dodge has pulled out before. NASCAR also lost Buick, Pontiac and Oldsmobile in my lifetime and has still survived. Sponsors come and go as well. I wouldn't say the whole sport is "on the decline." In case you haven't noticed, we have crap for an economy right now. It's not fair to compare the current state of affairs to the boom growth period in the 90s and 00s. Relax. Things can and probably will improve.

Dodge Leaving NA$CAR

I have been an avid Fan of the Petty Family since 1950. The Petty Family did a lot for Chrysler Corp., and Chrysler did a lot for the Petty's. The NA$CAR that we have today, is nothing like the NASCAR that we used to enjoy. Today's NA$CAR is all about money, money, money. In fact, NA$CAR today stands for, 'Nabs All the Sponsor's Cash And Run'. Dodge did the smart thing by withdrawing from NA$CAR. NA$CAR has become nothing more than another cheap entertainment venue similar to professional wrestling and professional poker. I will continue to be a fan of any member of the Petty Family, and Dodge. Goodbye NA$CAR..!!

Not the whole story ...

Mike ... you (and the rest of the NASCAR media) are missing a major aspect of this -- what do the DEALERS think about this? After all, when Dodge got back into NASCAR, it was the dealers that funded a significant portion of the program ... that may be different now, but its the dealers that still drew the biggest benefit from the marketing side of the program ...

Manufacturers are the core of all racing. In

Manufacturers are the core of all racing. In Motocross it's, what does he ride, Drag racing, boats the same and even Athletes, what do they wear. Its not Coke vs Pepsi because along come Amp or Red Bull or Bud or Snickers but the car stays the same. A washing detergent didn't get that win or make that amazing pass, the Driver did. And the first thing says when he gets out of the car is the well rehearsed I'd like to thank Blank blank sponsors lasting 3 seconds and then goes on hours about how bitch-in his FORD or CHEVY or DODGE was that day. Thats what hear and remember, we don't watch the Jockey in a Horse race, we watch the Horse. In Nascar the there are 800 of those under a hood with a name on it and that the name of the game "Horsepower".


Gillies is the problem

MAYBE NASCAR is the idiot here...

More than likely NASCAR told Dodge to... ahem... get of Dodge because they didn't need them like they did in the 70's. NASCAR has been a sinking ship recently and with their arrogance I'll bet they didn't try to court the company.

All you have to do is to look at their support of the Waltrip brothers as announcers to understand their lack of understanding of their new market. No longer are has beens from the 80's cute or appealing to spectators other than the retired Southern set.

Point the finger at NASCAR first!

Being a little harsh on Dodge, aren't you Mike?

Being a little harsh on Dodge, aren't you Mike? They must be doing something right as their sales & market share have been consistently up this year while GM's continues to slip despite GM's continued pouring of big $$$ into Nascar. Maybe it's all the angry taxpayers who GM still owes over $25 BILLION to while the company continues to spend in Nascar like drunken sailors.

NASCAR sponsorship

NASCAR sponsorship is about corporate perks and sky suites. Chrysler execs saw its not about sales. Good decision

Considering Chrysler Sales are up like 50% and

Considering Chrysler Sales are up like 50% and leading the industry maybe they are just focusing on making money instead of wasting it in a dying sport.

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