For the past 9 years, there have been rumors on and off about the Dodge brand making a return to NASCAR competition. After winning the NASCAR Cup Series Championship with Penske Racing in 2012, Dodge abandon the sport after the team dropped the automaker amid a switch to the sixth-generation of stock car. This was due to Dodge refusing to sign a multi-year extension with Penske and instead wanted to do a year-by-year contract.
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.
Rumors of Dodge’s return to Cup have been growing throughout the NASCAR world after the announcement that three-time Cup Champion and current Cup owner, Tony Stewart would field two NHRA entries with Dodge/Mopar factory support.
In November, 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.
But in recent days, as reported by EssentiallySports.com, NASCAR’s Chief Operating Officer, Steve O’Donnell, suggested a fourth manufacturer may be announced very soon.
“We are in daily dialogue with one (OEM) in particular that’s close to the finish line, depending on who you ask,” O’Donnell said. “It’ll be terrific for the sport if we can get that. But I think ideally if we could ever get to five, that’d be awesome.”
O’Donnell explained the main reason for NASCAR’s switch to the Next-Gen car was because of electrification. A movement that the Dodge brand is currently getting ready to embrace with the launch of its all-new 2023 Dodge Hornet PHEV later this year, and the next-generation Dodge Charger (LF) and Dodge Challenger (LB) which will debut in 2024.
“It was part of the reason we went to the Next-Gen platform was to drive interest. As you know, there’s a huge push for electrification and where’s that going and how would that fit in for where our platform is,” O’Donnell said. “So it’s one of the reasons, we’re open to that as well, to attract new OEMs.”
With Dodge looking to unveil a concept version of its all-new electrified eMuscle car in August, it could be a great time to announce a return to NASCAR auto racing. Considering that the Next-Gen car is moving towards electrification at about the same time that the electrified next-generation Dodge Challenger BEV will start to reach dealers, it may be one of the greatest marketing ploys for the performance brand in recent years.