There have been rumors on and off for almost 8 years surrounding the Dodge brand and a return to NASCAR competition. NASCAR continues to be at a pivotal point in its 73-year history and next year may prove to be a make-it-or-break-it time for the automotive racing sanctioning body and its haloed Cup Series.
With a new race car, new race courses in both new and old markets, as well as the possibility of adapting some sort of electrification in the near future, it looks like it could be a great time for another manufacturer to join the stock car bandwagon alongside Chevrolet (General Motors), Ford (Ford Motor Company), and Toyota (Toyota Motor Corporation) in NASCAR’s top series.
Back in May, we talked in-depth about why we thought the current state of NASCAR might prove to be a wise investment for the Dodge brand to make a return to stock car racing. With a new generation of Dodge Challenger and Charger coming in late-2023, we doubt we would see a Dodge-branded car back on track before then.
Dodge originally looked for a team to run the brand’s program back in 2013, to debut its sixth-generation Dodge Charger Cup car after Penske Racing backed out of renewing their contract with the brand, due to the automaker not wanting to sign a multi-year contract and wanting to continue with a yearly contract instead.
Rumors have swirled over the past several years, that Dodge had been talking to RCR since 2013 about a Cup series return. The rumors fired up again about three years ago when it was announced that Richard Petty Motorsports (which has a huge history with the Dodge brand), was forming an alliance with RCR to produce its cars. But nothing came of it.
However, this past Friday at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR President Steve Phelps held a “State of the Sport” address to inform the public about the direction NASCAR is heading towards going into the 2022 season. Taking questions, Phelps was asked about recent rumors about Dodge and other manufacturers entering the sport.
“Our three existing OEMs are happy about that,” Phelps said. “Our race teams are happy about that. We’re happy about that. It’s been widely rumored that Dodge is one of those or closest. I won’t confirm or deny that. It is important. We’ve made no bones about the fact that we want to have a new OEM in our sport. I think we got delayed with the pandemic.”
“With that said, we are an attractive place I believe for OEMs to come into the sport. Now is an important opportunity for them to do that because of the Next-Gen car. I also believe the fact that the sport is growing and has a relevance that it hasn’t had in decades is causing some real interest from other OEMs,” he concluded.
Rumors of Dodge’s return have been growing throughout the NASCAR world, after the announcement that three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart would be entering into NHRA competition next year with his Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) team. Stewart announced that he would field a Top Fuel Dragster (driven by Mopar-backed driver Leah Pruett – who is also Stewart’s fiancée) and a Nitro Funny Car (driven by another Mopar-backed driver and three-time Funny Car champion, Matt Hagan).
The news caused a rift in the Mopar world, with what could be the loss of the two biggest ambassadors for the Dodge and Mopar brands. Without TSR making an acknowledgment of a manufacturer for its program at the press conference, many people started discussing the possibility that Mopar and Dodge could back the new Stewart NHRA teams.
Currently, TSR’s sprint car program is backed with engines from Ford, as is Stewart’s NASCAR Cup team (Stewart-Haas Racing) which Tony owns with CNC automation mogul, Gene Haas. The Dodge and Mopar brands have been deeply involved with sprint cars before, sponsoring drivers like Mark Kinser and Kasey Kahne. So it would not be surprising if TSR made to switch to Mopar and Dodge. However, the situation does put Dodge back into the reach of NASCAR with one of the biggest teams in the sport, something the automaker was looking for back in 2012.
A second rumor to be gaining momentum is the possibility of Dodge backing the Roush Fenway Racing team. Brad Keselowski, who was Dodge’s most recent Cup champion in 2012, has a long history with the brand. Keselowski’s father (who is a stock racer and Mopar diehard) ran Mopars for decades in competition, including in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (then Craftsman Truck Series). Brad grew up only a few miles from the Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, also owned a Truck Series team that held factory support from the RAM Truck brand.
Earlier this year, Roush Fenway Racing announced that Keselowski would join the team replacement driver Ryan Newman in the No. 6 car and become a co-owner in the organization. With Roush Fenway Racing struggling in recent years, the introduction of a new manufacturer offering factory support could be just what Jack Roush and Keselowski are looking for to bring the team back into a competitive direction.
What do you think of the new rumors surrounding Dodge’s return? Will it happen? Who would you like to see under the Dodge banner? Let us know in the comments below or in the MoparInsiders forums.