Rumblings have begun to stir about a possible manufacturer expansion for NASCAR, and Dodge has been linked to making a comeback.
Dodge left the sport after winning the Sprint Cup Series title with Brad Keselowski in 2012, 11 years after re-entering NASCAR with Evernham Motorsports in 2001.
Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, spoke with NASCAR Vice Chairman Jim France and International Speedway Inc. CEO Lesa France Kennedy over the weekend during the Ferrari Finali Mondiali at Daytona International Speedway about the possibility of Dodge making a return to NASCAR.
Marchionne, who is also the CEO of Ferrari, said, “Yes, I’d love to return to NASCAR. I was the one who made the decision to pull out of NASCAR. I am the guilty party at the table. In 2009 we came out of bankruptcy, and tried to race in NASCAR, but with the big bills and make payroll was a stretch.
“We are in a different place now. I think it is possible we can come back to NASCAR. I think we need to find the right way to come back in, but I agreed with both Jim and Lesa we would come back to the issue.”
NASCAR CEO Brian France confirmed
he met with Marchionne on the subject, and stated at Homestead-Miami Speedway that NASCAR was in discussions to possibly add another manufacturer. However, he stated they currently were “not in a position to make that announcement.”
So if, and it’s a big if, Dodge does indeed rejoin the sport, it will be one of four manufacturers, alongside Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota. The question then becomes what team
Dodge would align themselves with.
Hendrick Motorsports is well-established with the Chevrolet brand and would never consider switching brands. Stewart-Haas Racing will switch over from Chevrolet to Ford beginning in 2017, so they are not going to make the jump to Dodge either. Nor will Roush Fenway Racing, as they are fully ingratiated into the Blue Oval culture and the consumer street performance division as well.
Joe Gibbs Racing, in partnership with Furniture Row Racing, carry the banner for Toyota with plenty of factory support from Toyota Racing Development and as long as they are Toyota’s top dogs, they’re not going to switch manufacturers.
Team Penske was the last team to run Dodges, and won the championship with Brad Keselowski before hopping over to Ford. Since then they have overtaken Roush Fenway Racing as the best team in the Ford camp. Wood Brothers Racing will only race under the Ford banner. There’s no way they ever leave the Blue Oval brand, especially with their improved performance since becoming a satellite team with Team Penske.
So with all these teams most likely sticking with the manufacturers they have now, it doesn’t leave a ton of options open. But here is a short list of possible candidates:
Richard Petty Motorsports is the best
choice because of the history. Petty was the face of Dodge in his day, and fans link his name and heritage to that of Dodge. They go hand-in-hand. With the Ford pool getting more crowded, they would have an opportunity to be the poster children of Dodge once again.
BK Racing is a second-tier Toyota team, and isn’t anywhere near the level of the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas, and don’t seem to be catching up anytime soon.
Front Row Motorsports, much like Richard Petty Motorsports, isn’t the biggest fish in the Ford pond, and if they get more factory support from Dodge than they do Ford, it would make sense.
Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet go deep, and I
don’t see them moving brands, and I especially don’t see the No. 3 in anything other than a Bowtie. However, they do play second fiddle to Hendrick Motorsports.
JTG Daugherty Racing is a growing operation, in both size and competitiveness, as they work in close collaboration
with Richard Childress Racing. But if they wanted to be trailblazers and bolt for Dodge, it’s not like JTG hasn’t changed manufacturers before.
Germain Racing will remain with Chevy most likely, as they hired a new gun in Ty Dillon, grandson of Richard Childress. Their performance should also be better as they too are a satellite operation of Richard Childress Racing.
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates is a team I can see going either way. They haven’t been as competitive as Hendrick Motorsports racing in Chevys, but they haven’t been terrible. Kyle Larson is a rising star, and Chevrolet would hate to see him go. But Ganassi a has history with Dodge as he gave Dodge their first win in their latest re-entrance to the sport in the early 2000s.
A return for Mopar isn’t likely for 2017, as any manufacturer who wished to join NASCAR would have had to make a formal request by September 2015. A full-scale car would have had to be submitted to NASCAR by April 1, 2016. However, should they return in 2018 or beyond, it could provide an interesting shake-up.
Shane Carlson is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist
EMAIL SHANE AT firstname.lastname@example.org
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