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Where Is Dodge In NASCAR's Future?


2013 Dodge Charger NASCAR Sprint Cup race car

2013 Dodge Charger NASCAR Sprint Cup race car

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Dodge unveiled its 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Challenger at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 11, just prior to the Kobalt Tools 400 at the track. But just days prior to the unveiling, car owner Roger Penske announced that his Penske Racing organization would be making the move from Dodge back to Ford next year.

Since Richard Petty Motorsports merged with the former Yates Racing prior to the start of the 2010 season and made the switch to Ford, Penske Racing has been the sole competitive representative for Dodge in the Sprint Cup Series. With Penske's departure from the Dodge camp at the end of the season, Dodge looks to have a new car but nobody to drive it.

Whether or not a few Sprint Cup teams already have plans to switch to Dodge but are waiting for the right time to make an announcement is unknown. Dodge either knows something, in regards to teams deciding to join its fold, or is confident that it can recruit at least one top-level NASCAR organization to make the switch. After all, the manufacturer looks to have a full-steam-ahed attitude in preparation for 2013, even after Penske's announcement of its departure.

If there is already discussion of another team moving to Dodge, the conversation must have started up fairly recently. Prior to the Penske announcement, Dodge officials claimed there were no immediate plans for the manufacturer to back another team, aside from Penske Racing.

"Right now, we don’t have any plans (to add more teams)," Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of Dodge's Street and Racing Technology (SRT) brand, said in a conference call on Feb. 20. "We do welcome the private teams. We’ll support them. We’ve sold bodywork to private teams and helped them negotiate engine deals like Robby (Gordon) and a few others. So we’re doing what we can there, but really our full force is centered on Mr. Penske’s operation and it has worked."

If there's an organization that has quietly decided to make the move or is at least considering it, the most likely candidate would probably be Richard Petty Motorsports. Car owner and organization namesake, Richard Petty, does have a long history with Dodge, and his organization fielded Dodges prior to the Ford switch in 2010.

In addition, Petty probably didn't have much say in the decision to leave Dodge a few years ago. After he sold his team to the now-defunct Gillett Evernham Motorsports and then that team eventually merged with the Yates organization, Petty became, essentially, not much more than a figurehead, just lending his name and likeness to the Richard Petty Motorsports identity.

That's not the case anymore, though. When the former incarnation of Richard Petty Motorsports experienced financial hardship at the end of 2010, Petty rounded up a group of investors and bought his team back.

As a result, Petty is back in charge at RPM. Could the NASCAR legend's next big decision include a return to Dodge? His decision looks to be the manufacturer's best shot of maintaining at least a somewhat respectable presence in the sport.

Whether or not Dodge is currently in talks with specific race teams in the Sprint Cup Series, all parties involved are remaining tight-lipped.

"We do value our NASCAR program and will be evaluating opportunities available, moving forward," Gilles said in a statement recently. That's all the information he is willing to divulge at the present time.

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