The folks at SRT, Dodge's Street & Racing Technology brand that includes motorsports might be a bit taken aback following Thursday's announcement that Penske Racing is deserting the Dodge Charger for a 2013 Ford Fusion, but they're definitely not planning to leave NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition anytime soon.
SRT will show off the new 2013 Dodge Charger during next week's Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In 2010, NASCAR held a summit with all four brands currently racing in Sprint Cup, looking for a returning brand identity to the cars on the track. The concept was launched in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2011, with the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Impala racecars. Hopefully, Chevy will be fielding a Camaro sometime soon?
According to Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of SRT, "The fans were like, 'Hallelujah, finally the race cars look a lot like the cars I can buy and drive.'" In 2013, the Dodge Charger street car and Charger NASCAR race car will be unmistakably similar in body lines.
Current Penske Racing Nationwide driver Sam Hornish Jr was the first to test the 2013 Dodge Charger Sprint Cup car that will be on the grid for next year's Daytona 500. "The car looks the best out of any of the new cars, that's for sure," Hornish said after testing. "Nice, sharp lines and you can see a lot of the street car in the race car. It brings the Charger's identity back onto the racetrack."
NASCAR eased the ruling on where manufacturers could put "glass" and where they could put solid body pieces for 2013. This freed designers to make the greenhouse, the area above the doors, hood and trunk lid to look much more like the production cars. Rules were also eased for the front and rear, and especially on the sides of the cars, allowing for character lines that come directly from street cars.
For NASCAR's coveted performance balance for all of its Sprint Car competitors, trips to the wind tunnels are important, as are track tests. Mark Trostle, who heads the design team for motorsports and for SRT, worked on the Nationwide Series Challenger body design before consulting on the new Charger race car.
Trostle's interest in Sprint Cup - like so many others - was waning because the cars "did not look much like the car built by the company I worked for. But when I worked on the Challenger program, all of a sudden I became a huge NASCAR fan," he admitted. "I started watching because I could turn on the TV and say, 'Hey, there's the Challenger!" I knew right away what it was without having to memorize the car numbers. I feel like we're helping change the feel of the sport and putting design and brand identity back into NASCAR. I think we've taken all the ingredients and we've done a pretty awesome job with them."
The public unveiling of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dodge Charger takes place in the Neon Garage of Las Vegas Motor Speedway t 10:30AM, just before the green flag for Sprint Cup Series race No. 3 this season, the Kobalt Tols 400.