Substantially updated. Four Penske-built cars in Dodge Challenger bodies have been entered, apparently by independent teams, into the upcoming Drive4COPD 300 race scheduled for February 28, 2014. Dodge drivers listed on the pre-qualifying page are Mike Wallace (#28), Clay Greenfield (#67), Willie Allen (#76), and Johnny Sauer (#80). Other drivers, based on Twitter statements, appear to be Tommy Joe Martins, Matt DiBenenedetto, Mike Harmon, and Matt Carter.
The cars appear to be privately run by independent teams, rather than official Dodge entries, made available by Penske from available engines and bodies. Jerry Simcik wrote that Dodge ran Challenger bodies in the Nationwide series (not in Sprint Cup, where they ran Chargers) since 2010. He wrote, “As far as I understand, this is the last year that body style will be legal, and looking at the teams, I'm not sure this is anything more than a buying up of old cars. The Challenger is a great superspeedway car, and big races like Daytona sound good to sponsors, so smaller teams would have an easier time getting sponsorship, and being able to find a good car for these tracks for cheap is a big plus.”
Update:A Chrysler spokesman has confirmed that “the Challengers slated to run this weekend at Daytona were part of past inventory from Penske Racing that were sold to various independent teams.”
Dodge left NASCAR after winning their first 21st-century championship, citing the extremely high costs of maintaining a credible presence in the venue. No Dodges are listed in the main (Sprint) series, so this Mr. Simcik’s theory is likely correct, rather than an indication that Dodge is planning a full-bore return to NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. Dodge does have a major and winning presence in the NASCAR Canadian Tire series, winning the championship in the last season.
Reader “TheeIntrepid” spotted the Dodges in the lineup on the NASCAR site this weekend, and found references to Dodges on the Twitter feeds of the other drives. See the main discussion thread.