When Did Dodge Leave Nascar – Forget the conspiracy theories and late-night back-room deal-making: With Dodge confirming on Aug. 7 that it will exit NASCAR after this season, two important questions now have very simple answers.

Question No. 1: Why did Penske Racing announce in March that it was leaving Dodge and moving to Ford in 2013?

When Did Dodge Leave Nascar

Answer: Because as Penske prepared to re-sign with Dodge, the manufacturer took care with the manufacturer approval process to step in with Ford with an offer Roger Penske couldn’t refuse.

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Answer: Tried. It looked and looked, but couldn’t find anyone who deserved the $30 million check, according to at least one source.

The first question and answer is pretty self-explanatory. Not the second one. But the growing NASCAR community has made it much harder for a company like Dodge to gain traction.

Think about it: The top teams in Sprint Cup racing are strongly tied to one manufacturer—Joe Gibbs, Michael Waltrip with Toyota; Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, Tony Stewart and Chip Ganassi with Chevrolet; and Jack Roush and Richard Petty with Ford. Calling Petty and Ganassi “top teams” might be a stretch, but with luck either could win.

Even more troubling: None of the teams Dodge might have recruited were ready, or willing, to start an engine program. Penske Racing had a solid engine program, and while there was talk of Penske continuing to build Dodge engines, it didn’t even make sense in 2013 when Penske’s own cars were set to use Roush-Yates power. Dodge considered building its own V8s, like Toyota, but there are plenty of Toyotas in the field to keep costs down, and Triad, an independent engine builder, handles some Toyota second-tier teams and related series.

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The business case didn’t make sense to Dodge. There will only be two or three Dodges in the field, much less to finance the work with consumer cars. After all, renting an engine from a top supplier can cost $100,000 a run, which goes a long way toward paying the bills.

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The biggest problem Dodge faced was Penske Racing’s 2012 performance. Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr. led the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 19; Hometown favorite Keselowski finished second and Hornish 12th. Neither team could entice Dodge to join the brand in 2013 and could even remotely hope to duplicate Penske’s results in the years to come. To settle for better results in 2013 would make Dodge worse off than not in the Cup.

Still, Dodge management did not give up. There were two real possibilities: Richard Petty Motorsports was willing to look hard for several reasons, one, Petty was at the end of his contract with Ford, and Penscale Ford’s sudden interest and investment, Richard Petty. Ford wasn’t sure how much love he would get.

The weekend before the Michigan race at Watkins Glen International (Petty driver Marcos Ambrose won at the Glen), Ford Racing Director Jamie Allison said he wouldn’t have been surprised or particularly upset if Petty had gone with Dodge, which he didn’t. T because he didn’t appreciate Petty.

September 14, 1969

“But they have such a history with Dodge,” Allison said, clearly not wanting his rival out of the sport. “We need competition.”

Another real possibility was that the Izod IndyCar Series supported team owner Michael Andretti’s interest in diversifying into NASCAR, but that deal had a “Hail Mary” feel about it, born more out of desperation than a long-term, well-reasoned strategy.

Also under consideration is backing a team that has won a lesser NASCAR series, such as Turner Motorsports, which won the National and Camping World Truck Series races the weekend of Aug. 18. But it was considered a very expensive gamble.

Does this mean all is lost for Dodge? In 2013, yes, despite the investment in developing the new Charger race car for 2013. Racing some of the remaining Dodge products in NASCAR- or ARCA-sanctioned series in 2013 is possible, but that will be the result of using existing equipment rather than any sort of sanction.

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– When Dodge re-entered Sprint Cup competition in 2001, it did so by recruiting the sport’s top crew chief, Ray Evernham, to lead the effort and build its own team. Could Evernham’s spiritual successor at Hendrick Motorsports, five-time champion crew chief Chad Knauss, be interested in such a deal in a few years?

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—Whenever an existing top team comes up for contract renewal with Chevrolet, Toyota or Ford, expect a floating rumor that the team is “in talks” with Dodge. Someday, that might actually be true.

For some top drivers, his—or her, you know the lady we’re talking about—is ready to renew his contract with a team. Expect rumors that the driver is “in talks” with Dodge to start a new team and become the face of Dodge Motorsports. Kyle and Kurt Busch, anyone?

—Perhaps the most interesting possibility, though, is for Dodge to go back to basics. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is going down badly, and—with a new and better Ram truck now on the market—the company could practically own the series for a modest investment. If NASCAR wants to light a fire under the Truck Series, it will turn to crate engines provided by manufacturers for power. This will dramatically reduce the cost of competition and return the original brand identity to the series. The American Speed ​​Association’s Crate Motor Series failed not because the racing wasn’t good (it was) but because all the vehicles, even Fords and Dodges, had to use General Motors engines.

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Meanwhile, expect Dodge to do its best to generate excitement with the new Viper GTS-R in the American Le Mans Series this year and next, as well as the new Dart in rally competition. But it won’t come close to filling the hole left by NASCAR’s departure.

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View full size This May 20, 2012 file photo shows Sam Hornish Jr. driving his Dodger Challenger during the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ Pioneer Hi-Bred 250 Auto race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Dodge has decided to pull out of its NASCAR sponsorship at the end of this season, facing defections from its major racing partner, a person said Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012. Chrysler, owner of the Dodge brand, scheduled a conference call Tuesday afternoon to announce the decision. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergel, File)

The decision, announced Tuesday, affects Dodge’s participation in the Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series. Penske Racing currently fields two Dodge Chargers in Sprint Cup and two Dodge Challengers in Nationwide, but Penske announced in February that it was switching to Fords for the 2013 season, much to Dodge’s dismay.

Dodge, which earlier this year rebranded to the SRT brand and Motorsports, said Penske’s move influenced the decision. SRT CEO Ralph Gilles said the company had been evaluating all its options for five months before making Friday’s decision.

“Ultimately, we weren’t able to develop the right structure to compete at the level and standard we’re used to,” Gilles said. “You have no idea how much pain we are in. We are just as broken as everyone else.”

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Gilles did not rule out a future return to NASCAR, saying the company’s commitments to racing in Canada and the ARCA Series will not change.

Of the four manufacturers in the top racing series, Dodge ranks last, although it has three wins in the first 21 Sprint Cup races, one more than Ford. Chevrolet is number one, followed by Toyota and Ford.

Dodge returned to NASCAR competition in 2001 after a nearly quarter-century absence and currently fields only two Penske teams, the No. 2 driven by Brad Keselowski and the No. 22 currently driven by Sam Hornish Jr.

Dodge has 215 wins in the Sprint Cup, including 55 since 2001.

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