Dodge may be out as far as NASCAR’s concerned, but one thing’s for sure — the manufacturer sure went out on top — thanks to Brad Keselowski and Penske Racing. Dodge’s last year in NASCAR’s top level for the forseeable future ended with a Sprint Cup championship. It’s the first Sprint Cup title for Keselowski and for Penske Racing and the only Cup title for Dodge since its return to the sport in 2001.
In all reality, though, with the exception of Keselowski and Penske’s recent championship run, Dodge’s latest stint in NASCAR top level racing was rather unspectacular — or was it? On the surface, maybe it seemed that way, because Dodge teams weren’t winning championships. But then again, when you take away Johnson’s five Cups and the three Stewart has won since Dodge’s return to the sport, that doesn’t leave a whole heck of a lot of opportunities. But Dodge teams did combine to produce 57 race wins since 2001. That’s, perhaps, not a huge number for a manufacturer, but for much of the time, especially recently, there have been fewer Dodges on the track than entries from any of the other manufacturers. Heck, the last couple of years, Penske Racing’s two Sprint Cup teams have been Dodge’s lone representatives at the Cup level.
Maybe with Keselwoski’s recent title, Dodge is rethinking this whole getting out of NASCAR thing. After all, the manufacturer did present a 2013 prototype for Sprint Cup competition earlier this year, so the decision to back out, while it probably wasn’t a rash decision, was probably one the powers that be at Dodge didn’t enjoy making. Maybe they felt like they didn’t have much choice.
After all, Dodge put all its eggs in the Penske Racing basket a couple of years ago, and maybe team owner Roger Penske caught the manufacturer off guard when he announced a return to the Ford camp for 2013. As things stood, that would leave Dodge without Sprint Cup representation. Maybe the manufacturer just couldn’t find a replacement that it found suitable.
A Dodge return may be be in the cards sooner rather than later, judging by a comment made recently by Dodge Motorsports Chief Ralph Gilles to ESPN.com. Here’s some of what he had to say:
“Going forward, we’re going to take the year off, evaluate the potential. We also did a lot of data mining. Part of the issue our management team wanted was, what are we really getting out of NASCAR? We only have two cars out of a huge field. Are we getting our money’s worth? Ironically, this year we got beyond our money’s worth. How you can replicate that? I don’t know. That’s what we’re looking at right now.”
A year off? Does that mean Dodge may be back as soon as 2014? Who knows, well other than NASCAR and/or Dodge? If this is only a temporary absence, Keselowski and Penske probably just cut into that off-time pretty signficantly.
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