by Ray Alexander
I attended the NASCAR event in Phoenix March 4, 2012, largely because of a package that included a Q&A session with Jeff Gordon. After purchasing the package, I was informed that California Speedway is offering an identical package. Fontana is much closer, but is it really racing when 4 cars abreast doing 200 mph enter a turn and everybody makes it? I have had season tickets at both and much prefer Phoenix.
I counseled myself on the drive over, “You are not buying another tee shirt.” I bought a “Sin City” shirt; let your imagination run wild. It is in slightly better taste than one bearing the message, “If you are going to race you need two of these.”
I entered the midway and started toward The Corporate Village where the Q&A session was held. There was a void where Polaris hung out in the past. Speed Channel was in the usual spot.
A tall tower with SRT on the top got my attention. What? Why now? Several adages ran through my mind. I held season tickets here for several years and Dodge was never here. Roger Penske had just announced a change to Ford for the 2013 season. The Dodge population had dwindled to two and next year there will [editor’s note: may] be none. It is well recognized that NASCAR is all about money, lots of green stinky money.
In the Q&A session, all questions were ask by the moderator. I wanted to know about last week’s engine failure and that question was asked. Jeff might be the best driver in NASCAR with regard to taking care of the car, but I don’t entirely buy his answer. He said, “There was a slow coolant leak that allowed engine temperature to read normal until most of the coolant was gone.” This problem could have been discovered by a routine pressure check of the cooling system.
Back in the Dodge compound I asked someone the pointed question, “Why are you here now, as there will be no Dodges on track next year?”
He replied, “Oh, there will be Dodges on track, we just don’t know who.”
This place was a beehive of activity. The Fiat Abarth was constantly surrounded, but I didn’t see the girl and it was my first time. The new Dart with a carbon fiber hood was getting a lot of attention, so was the Dodge SRT8. The Challenger and the Jeeps were getting their share of looks. The Ram and the Chrysler must have felt lonely. Every day we make choices about who we are and when we go to NASCAR races it appears we are not interested in trucks or luxury cars.
Mr. SRT was asking the audience pertinent questions with prizes for correct answers. Someone correctly answered the question, “What does SRT stand for?”
Later I told him, semi-privately, for me, “SRT was short rocket trip.”
Mr. SRT comes out with ten shirts for the first ten people who can show Dodge keys. I snagged the first one followed by three Jeep Wranglers, one Jeep Cherokee, another Charger, a couple of trucks, and a Chrysler LeBaron.
I was talking with one fellow who raved about the new interiors. I tried to get in the Charger but it was too busy. I was perfectly happy with my interior until Ralph Giles described it as “rat fur gray.” I had previously talked with people that owned the 6.1 L and traded for the 6.4 L and they assured me the 6.4 was a lot more performance. My turn is coming. The entire SRT line up will be available for driving at Spring Fest coming up March 24th.
This production is going to be present at 19 NASCAR events. The vehicles on display will vary because many are borrowed from local dealers.
I got some of the above information from Ms. Fiona McKenna who works for J. R. Thompson. This company also takes care of the logistics for SRT track days. We can’t blame her for everything.
I came back home after the race and at one of the multiple Border Patrol stops between Phoenix and San Diego, a Brilliant Black Charger caught my eye. It was obviously an unmarked agency car. It had the police package steel wheels and no side moldings. It seemed to be prancing, saying, “Look at me, look at me.” Now which agency owned this car?
by the Allpar staff
On March 11, 2012, Ralph Gilles acknowledged that Dodge was looking at range of options after the Penske bombshell, from leaving NASCAR entirely to tripling their investment; he also said they were getting numerous inquiries from other teams. Robbie Gordon Motorsports, a single-car team, is still with Dodge. Richard Petty Motorsports has expressed some interest in switching from Ford/Roush to Dodge, but this interest might be a negotiating tactic, as their contract with Ford is coming up for renewal.
Once...as Jerry Olesen wrote..."The cars were production line models, which were reinforced at key points...These days, they race 'cars that never were,' so to speak, and much of the relevance to actual automobiles has been lost. "
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