Calling it an “extremely difficult decision” and citing its inability to align itself with a team that had the necessary pieces in place to make a deal work, Dodge on Tuesday announced it is withdrawing from NASCAR at the end of the 2012 season.
“We couldn’t, unfortunately, put together a puzzle or a structure that made sense to continue our business and competitive objections for next year,” said Ralph Gilles, president of Dodge’s motorsports division.
The wheels were put in motion for Dodge’s departure when Penske Racing — the lone factory-supported team — announced in March that it will switch to Ford starting next season. While Dodge insisted at the time that it would remain in the sport, it soon became obvious to all involved that the obstacles were simply too great to overcome.
“This whole thing was complex, more complex than we thought at first, to try and put something together at the level we would like to be at,” Gilles said. “It wouldn’t make sense to try and hurry a situation together. Back in March when Mr. [Roger] Penske signed up with Ford, that was an aggressive decision on Ford’s behalf to really have critical mass, and that is one thing we have to look at in the sport.
“… Unfortunately, that decision caught us by surprise and we have not recovered since.”
With no team the caliber of Penske readily available, Dodge faced the prospect of having to sign a midlevel team as a replacement — not at all a desirable scenario for a manufacturer used to contending for victories, having won 55 Sprint Cup Series races since its return to high-level stock car racing in 2001.
“It’s not easy to configure a team at the level we’re accustomed to racing and at the level we want to perform at,” Gilles said. “Everything we do on the business end, we like to do as well as possible. And not undermining the people that came and talked to us, but at the end of the day, it’s a really big machine to put together and do it right.”
Gilles did say that Dodge intends to “keep all its options open” regarding a possible return to NASCAR and is in the evaluation phase of what it will do next. Dodge has “no plans of re-appropriating” its NASCAR budget toward other motorsports ventures, he added.
Via SB Nation By Jordan Bianchi