Kurt Busch, who can make headlines for anyone willing to jump on board. Will he be in a Dodge again in 2013?
By Mike Mulhern
Dodge 2013 Update:
There's good news, maybe, for MoPar fans:
Nobody is talking on the record, still, but unofficial word from the NASCAR engine building world Sunday morning is that Barney Visser, the Denver, Col., businessman ( http://www.furniturerow.com/ ) is considering buying the Dodge engine department from Roger Penske.
However it's not clear when or if Chrysler-Fiat execs might okay a 2013 NASCAR deal.
Richard Petty and his two-car team, current running Fords, are waiting for some answers from Dodge, while they debate their own 2013 game plans.
Chrysler-Fiat-Dodge officials have steadfastly declined to say much at all about their NASCAR 2013 plans, though they have been loudly trumpeting their 2013 SRT Viper racing plans: http://bit.ly/PXE3sR
Compare all that Chrysler talk to the curious wall of silence from Chrysler about NASCAR. Even Brad Keselowski, Dodge's top driver in NASCAR, says he's not even sure just what's up: "You probably know more than I do."
Southern 500 winner Regan Smith: in a Dodge next season? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
Penske has an 80-man engine building operation at his Charlotte shops, and Penske Dodge engines are reputed to be the strongest engines on the Sprint Cup tour, according to NASCAR engine dyno testing.
With Penske moving to Fords for 2013, and with Penske -- according to Jack Roush -- agreeing to run Roush-Yates Ford FR9s next season, the future of Penske's huge engine department has been the subject of much debate.
Now word is that some of Penske's top engine men will be moving to the Roush-Yates engine department, and that Visser will be taking many of the rest, along with Penske's engine building equipment, and Visser will thus be switching from Chevrolet to Dodge.
Currently Visser, with driver Regan Smith, is running Chevrolet engines from the Earnhardt-Childress operation. Smith and Visser won last year's Southern 500 at Darlington.
And -- though again no one is talking on the record -- it appears that Visser is very interested in hiring Kurt Busch to team with Smith next season. Busch is currently driving for Chevrolet's James Finch, who runs Rick Hendrick engines, with Hendrick engineering.
Dodge star Brad Keselowski: "You probably know more than I do" (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
Putting this in some perspective:
-- To start up a brand new NASCAR Cup engine program would cost about $20 million.
-- Leasing engines costs about $100,000 a race, close to $4 million a season.
-- With Penske moving to Ford, his current engine department becomes superfluous for him, but there is still considerable expensive inventory. And the market for a buying a full-fledged NASCAR engine operation, turn-key, is very, very small. The price for the Penske operation is pegged by some at about $6 million.
No word on when anything official might come out, no word on 2013 NASCAR-Dodge car bodies either, and no word on when, if ever, any 2013 NASCAR-Dodge might actually be out on a track for test, or with whom at the wheel.
Doug Yates (R) -- Roger Penske's new engine man for 2013, as head of Roush-Yates (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)