There have been rumors floating around for a while now that Dodge could be returning to NASCAR competition soon. But thanks to a recently leaked document, it may be the perfect time for the American performance brand to return to the sport.
Rumors got going after November when NASCAR President Steve Phelps held a “State of the Sport” address to inform the public about the direction NASCAR was heading 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.”
Then in May, 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 debut of its upcoming 2023 Dodge Hornet plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and the next-generation Dodge Charger (LF) and Dodge Challenger (LB) that are scheduled to debut next year.
Dodge will unveil a conceptual version of the next-generation electrified Dodge Challenger, rumored to appear the week of the Woodward Dream Cruise.
But thanks to the leaked document from NASCAR, it appears that the sanctioning body will begin incorporating electrification at the 2023 Busch Light Clash scheduled to be held at the L.A. Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. NASCAR designed its latest generation of “Next-Gen” stock cars to incorporate electrification from the early stages of their development. The move to electrification comes as the current OEMs push NASCAR to better reflect their own automotive product portfolios. You know the slogan, “win on Sunday, sell on Monday”!
According to the documents leaked, NASCAR will roll out its electrified program in different phases. The first phase (Phase 1) will have demonstrator events held alongside the normal Cup schedule at 6 different events in 2023, the first being the Busch Light Clash. The events would hold two 30-minute races (one on Saturday and one on Sunday), showcasing the new cars to the public. Manufacturers would be allowed to run up to 3 or 4 cars each, meaning about 12 electric cars would be on track. The events would not allow for charging/battery swaps but will allow teams to participate in non-competitive pit stops for tire changes and the ability to fix any damage if needed.
The documents also released some specifications on the cars. Using the current Next-Gen chassis, the electrified versions would feature different front and rear fascias to incorporate the electric powertrains, all-wheel-drive (AWD), a DC voltage of 900-volts, (3) electric motors producing more than 1,000 combined horsepower, and regen capability of 200 kW. NASCAR states it has set a goal for the cars to hit similar lap times as their internal combustion engine (ICE)-powered counterparts.
For diehard race fans who would enjoy the sounds of stock cars, NASCAR will also “evaluate options for sound” and look to OEMs for input since electric cars don’t produce noise.
But what may be the most interesting thing about the leaked documents, is that there appeared to be three illustrations of proposed re-bodied designs for potential race cars, as crossover/SUVs. NASCAR would allow the OEMs to decide if the move from the traditional race cars to a crossover/SUV-bodied design for its Cup program to better align with their portfolios. Among the illustrations leaked, were proposals for Ford Mustang Mach-E, 2024 Chevy Blazer SS EV, and Toyota bZ4X NASCAR Cup cars.
But there lies a problem. All of the illustrations showcase battery-electric vehicle (BEV) versions of the current OEMs in the sports lineups. Although Dodge will continue to build cars, its new Hornet crossover will not be an entirely all-electric offering as it will be available as an ICE or PHEV.
Finally, NASCAR would also own or license all intellectual property involving the new electrified cars. It is not clear if the electric racers would replace Cup series vehicles or be featured in their own national racing series. But NASCAR plans to have electrified cars in competition for 2025.
Either way, it leaves a lot of questions about the future of the sport and the return of the Dodge brand in the air.
Source: Kickin’ The Tires