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Dodge to withdraw from NASCAR

by Bill Cawthon on

SRT CEO Ralph Gilles dropped a bomb on the NASCAR community this afternoon when he announced that SRT Motorsports will withdraw from NASCAR racing at the end of the 2012 season.

Through much discussion and several questions, Gilles basically said that the departure of Penske was a crippling blow. Gilles said Penske offered a “one-stop shop” for engines, drivers and sponsors that could not be replaced in a timeframe that would allow SRT to race at the level that was desired.

The SRT team spent months talking with various teams but was unable to come up with a solution that would allow everything to be ready in time to be completely competitive next season.

Gilles noted that there has been a lot of consolidation in the NASCAR racing community and there just aren’t as many first-class operations anymore. In addition, many sponsors have cut back on their financial commitments, making it tough to put together a package that will cover a full season of Sprint Cup or Nationwide competition.

Gilles stressed that the decision was not based on budgetary constraints; Chrysler actually increased its NASCAR spending this year.

SRT is open to working with teams that want to campaign a Dodge in NASCAR next year.

SRT’s participation in the Canadian Tire Series and ARCA Racing are not affected by the decision.

There are no plans to increase involvement in other venues, such as ALMS, NHRA and Global RallyCross.

Gilles, without wishing to raise fan hopes, indicated the withdrawal might not be permanent. Development will continue on the new Dodge Sprint Cup Charger and the company is open to considering a program for the 2014 or later seasons.

A note to Mopar fans: Richard Petty Racing was not mentioned at all in the conversation.

Chrysler will be posting a transcript of the teleconference later.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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