|Will this Chevy become a Charger?|
Although NASCAR’s first official test of the approved 2013 race cars is taking place this week, the Dodge Charger won’t be present; the company still looking for a team to replace Penske Racing next year.
Missing the Martinsville test this week isn’t a big deal, it’s little more than a shakedown run for the new cars, considered critical to reversing the trend of fan apathy. But when the next round of tests begin in early October and visit high speed tracks such as Talladega, Texas and Kansas in short succession, the Chrysler boys better have a team in place, ready to test its car.
Penske announced the move to Ford early in the year with the idea it would allow Chrysler plenty of time to find a replacement. But while Dodge’s STR Motorsports group has taken over development of the new race car, it has yet to find a team to run it next year.
For a while it looked as if IndyCar's Andretti Autosport was going to field a team in NASCAR for Dodge, but in the end the available sponsorship dollars and company support didn’t pencil out. Richard Petty Motorsport also has been mentioned, along with Chip Ganassi Racing. But Dodge is looking for something more capable than RPM and something less than the big bucks Ganassi commands.
Openly campaigning for the Dodge role at Pocono was Furniture Row Racing. Team general manager Joe Garone told ESPN the team has talked with Dodge and stressed “we're a full-service team. We would be able to hit the ground running if we switched to another manufacturer." Well they build everything except chassis, which they currently get from Richard Childress Racing, or engines, which they get from Earnhardt Childress Racing. Other than that, full service.
The one car FRR team is making a lot of promises, such as a willingness to buy and run the Penske engine operation, moving the team from Denver to Charlotte and adding a second driver to pair with Regan Smith. Kurt Busch is the name most often mentioned and for some reason he hasn’t worn out his welcome at Dodge. They even seem to prefer him.
But all that takes money – Dodge’s money – and that’s just what Chrysler was hoping to avoid. So the company is taking its time making a decision. Sure they’ve already invested a lot, but it’s nothing compared to the investment required to make the commitment to stay in the sport for years to come.
It’s not too late. Dodge could still pull the plug, which would be a major blow to NASCAR.
Speaking of Penske, I’m sure he didn’t appreciate Jack Roush announcing prior to Pocono that the Penske team would be using Roush-Yates engines in 2013. The official announcement was made today by Doug Yates. And while Penske had shown some interest in buying into Ford’s engine operations, Roush made it clear that wasn’t gonna happen. How does it feel being a satellite team Roger?
And finally on the Penske front, shortly after Brad Keselowski said he’d like to have some input on who takes over the No. 22 car now that A. J. Allmendinger has been released and if Sam Hornish doesn’t cut it, he was captured in the background of an interview on ESPN talking with Joey Logano, one of those mentioned most often for the seat. Probably just a coincidence.