Penske Racing’s Joey Logano got behind the wheel of the next-generation NASCAR Cup Series stock car yesterday at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, Arizona. This marks the second time that the all-new stock car design has been on the track testing while getting ready for its 2021 season debut at Daytona. The same prototype already hit the pavement at Richmond Raceway, with Richard Childress Racing (RCR) driver Austin Dillon back in October.
NASCAR posted several new high-resolution photos of the all-new “Next Gen” car on its social media pages yesterday. Soon after, our e-mail flooded with questions asking if Dodge was planning on resurrecting their NASCAR program. Many of our readers referenced the design of the front of the car, claiming it looked similar to that of a Dodge Charger, due to the red outlines on the car’s front fascia. However, NASCAR has said that these prototypes have no specific manufacturer in mind for the overall design. Many people asked if Penske Racing was returning to the Dodge stable, due to the fact that Joey Logano was behind the wheel and that the Penske program was the last program under the Dodge brand tent in the Cup series.
Well, officially there has yet to be an announcement of the Dodge//SRT brand returning to Cup. The Dodge//SRT brand has had its focus on NHRA drag racing for the past several years and it doesn’t look like that is going to change anytime soon. We reached out to Dodge for comment about returning to the NASCAR brand, and as of the writing of this article we have yet to hear a return statement.
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 Dodge, due to the automaker not wanting to sign a multi-year contract and going by a year to year contract instead. Rumors have swirled over the past several years, that Dodge has been talking to RCR since 2013 about a Cup series return. The rumors fired up again about two years ago when it was announced that Richard Petty Motorsports (which has a huge history with the Dodge brand and former Chrysler Corporation brands), were forming an alliance with RCR to produce its cars.
Several manufacturers have talked to NASCAR about joining the Cup series over the past few years. NASCAR has been wanting for more manufacturers to come to the sport, however, massive declines in attendance, television viewership, competitive racing, as well as huge increases in the cost of building a competitive team, have kept manufacturers at bay.
According to many media sources, NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton, Tim Kuniskis – Head of Alfa Romeo and Passenger Cars (Chrysler, Dodge, and FIAT) for North America, and former FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne, had met at the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit for breakfast to discuss the possibility of the Dodge//SRT brand returning to NASCAR. There were also several media sources reporting that FCA executives had attended a Cup race at Michigan International Speedway that year as well, however, neither side has said anything publicly about the event.
Testing continues today of the “Next Gen” Cup car at IMS Raceway with Logano behind the wheel. The car is also scheduled to test in January at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway (which was the scene of the first on-track test in 2000 of Dodge Intrepid Cup car, that returned the Dodge brand to the Cup series after more than two decades).
While there has yet to be anything really circulating about Dodge returning to Cup series, NASCAR fans should be happy for some of the new changes that look to be coming with the “Next Gen” race car. Hopefully, it fixes the faults of the series and allows more manufacturers like Dodge to return.