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Dodge and NASCAR, Take Two: Roger Penske says 'It's all cool, man.' But Richard Petty has questions

The Captain. The boss. Roger Penske (Photo: IndyRacingLeague)


   By Mike Mulhern

   POCONO, Pa.
   Roger Penske says everything is cool with Dodge and Chrysler and his NASCAR operation, but Richard Petty, the sport's other Dodge operator, says things are a little more iffy on his side of the Sprint Cup garage.
   Penske says he's got three more years on his current NASCAR contract with Dodge and he's confident in the future of that relationship.
   Petty, however, says his contract with Dodge is up at the end of this season, and he's not sure what lies ahead.
   At Dover Petty and Penske's Walt Czarnaki both raised questions about Dodge's schedule of payments to their NASCAR teams.
   But here Sunday Penske himself downplayed that issue, pointing to the difficulties of any financials during a bankruptcy. And Penske said he was confident Chrysler and Dodge are living up their agreements.
   Petty though said he was still waiting to see what happens in the next few days with the judge in the Chrysler bankruptcy proceedings.
   "All I know is I've got a contract with Dodge for the rest of the year," Petty says.
   "The judge told them the case can be reopened up until Monday. After Monday, there are no more appeals, in the Fiat deal, and it's a done deal."
   How that might affect Richard Petty Motorsports and its four teams – with drivers Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, Reed Sorenson and AJ Allmendinger – is unclear.
   And it's also uncertain why Petty's teams have been so slow to start using the new Dodge engine, which Chrysler actually started delivering to its teams last year. Apparently Petty's teams have had some 80 of the old engines, and rather than throw that investment away and start spending on the new engines, they simply decided to use up the old stuff. Now it's unclear just how many of the new engines Petty even has. Kahne used one at Charlotte but the other three drivers had to keep using the old stuff, which reportedly has caused some concern among those teams and their sponsor.
   Kahne is sponsored by Budweiser, which has just been bought by InBev, a company known for extreme cost-cutting measures. So Kahne's Bud sponsorship may be part of the issue here.
   Petty's take on the engine situation: "They (Dodge) have just been real slow in getting them developed. And when they took on Petty Enterprises, all of a sudden they had to do more stuff, and some of the R&D on the new stuff got put in the corner.
   "But I think in the next two or three weeks you'll see us start using some more of the new engines."
   Penske, on the other hand, has spent nearly a year now developing his version of the new Dodge engine, which may be one reason that Kurt Busch is suddenly so hot this season.
   "We feel very comfortable with Dodge," Penske says. "We have a long-term contract with them, and three years more to go.
   "We've been in touch with them obviously through this bankruptcy situation, and we're confident they'll come out this week.
   "Their commitment to us is 'Stay the course, we're committed to motorsports.'
   "And we're committed to them.
    "So for us it's business as usual."
   But what about the comments last week that Dodge was behind in its payments to its NASCAR teams?
   "No, no, no, no," Penske protested. "You have certain terms of conditions as a vendor. And they're completely up with us.
   "We have payments we've submitted for, and we expect to have those cleared.
   "The good news is, for both GM and Chrysler teams, is that vendors who were owed money were paid before they went into bankruptcy.
   "This is something of a hold period....but 30 or 60 days is not a lifetime.
   "These guys are going to be able to handle their obligations. It's just who wants to stay with them or not.
   "And with us having a long term contract with them and a good motor program, why would we change?"

Richard Petty (R), talking things over with old foe Bobby Allison (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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