Dodge is withdrawing from NASCAR at the end of the season, the manufacturer announced Tuesday afternoon.
Ralph Gilles, President and CEO – Street and Racing Technology Brand and Motorsports, Chrysler Group LLC, made the announcement during a media teleconference call.
The decision affects current involvement in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series. Penske Racing currently fields two Dodge Charger cars in the Sprint Cup Series and two Dodge Challenger cars in the Nationwide Series.
Currently, Penske Racing is the only organization to run under the Dodge brand in the Cup Series. However, earlier this year, Penske announced it would join Ford in 2013.
That left Dodge scrambling to find new teams to run under its banner.
“We've spent an intense five months working to identify and evaluate all options for our future involvement in NASCAR,” Gilles said. “A number of opportunities emerged, and our team worked diligently to put a structure together to fit our overall business and competitive objectives. While we have been pleased and enthused with the amount of interest from teams and sponsors over that time, in the end, we simply couldn't develop the right structure.”
Dodge did unveil its 2013 Charger at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March and until this week all indications were the manufacturer intended to participate in both of NASCAR's top two divisions next year and beyond.
But reports of parent company Fiat's lack of "passion" for NASCAR racing as well as not finding a suitable partner to replace Penske apparently have added up to Dodge again leaving the sport.
The manufacturer has a history of withdrawing from NASCAR and returned in 2001 after a 23-year absence.
A number of prominent team owners campaigned Dodge in the Sprint Cup Series after its return including Ray Evernham and Roger Penske. But despite scoring several wins during its return, Dodge has not won a Sprint Cup Series championship since Richard Petty's title in 1975.
Penske will run the last fifteen races of this season with Brad Keselowski and primarily Sam Hornish Jr. as the final Dodge Sprint Cup entries for now.
“It's an extremely difficult decision to know that we won't be there for our fans next season,” Gilles added. “It's important to note that we have not lost focus on 2012 or the commitment to our partnership with Penske Racing in both the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series this season.”
NASCAR CEO Brian France issued the following statement in the wake of Dodge's decision to leave the sport:
"Dodge has been a great partner to NASCAR for many years, and they have been part of numerous memorable moments throughout our history. They made a business decision not to return in 2013, as they did in 1977 before returning in 2001. We wish them well and hope they again will choose to return to NASCAR at a later date.
“Our fans have a passion for cars and emotional connections to particular manufacturers, and that's why in 2013 we will debut new race car designs that are modeled after each manufacturer's production cars. This change is a direct result of feedback from our fans, who are the most brand loyal in all of sports.”