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Dodge unveils Charger model it will race in 2013

March 11, 2012, Manufacturer Release, NASCAR.com



Dodge unveils Charger model it will race in 2013
Make's future in NASCAR uncertain, but hope remains flagship team can be found

LAS VEGAS -- Fans asked for it. NASCAR agreed. SRT Motorsports and Dodge delivered.

SRT Motorsports unveiled the 2013 Dodge Charger that will compete in the Sprint Cup Series next season Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in front of the people that asked for the change -- the fans. Just as it did with the Dodge Challenger when it was introduced in the Nationwide Series two years ago, SRT Motorsports designers and engineers created a race car fans will have no problem identifying on the race track. The defining features of the street Charger have been expertly incorporated into the racing version.

"The Dodge Charger ... validates our resolve to deliver a product that will be easily identifiable on the track without compromise in the area of competition."

--RALPH GILLES

"From the start, it's been a collaborative effort with NASCAR," said Ralph Gilles, president and CEO -- SRT (Street and Racing Technology) Brand and Motorsports. "NASCAR provided the manufacturers with basic specifications, but offered encouragement to venture beyond the look of the current race car. Our design and engineering group, working with Penske Racing, seized the opportunity.

"We had a fantastic benchmark -- the Dodge Challenger -- introduced in 2009. This endeavor goes beyond the trend the Nationwide Series Challenger started with a Dodge Charger that amazingly embodies many of the design features of the street version into the race car. We're extremely proud that the Dodge Charger street car is the only rear-wheel-drive model in Sprint Cup competition that is available with a V-8 engine."

* Video: Watch the unveiling of Dodge's 2013 Charger

NASCAR eased rules on where manufacturers could put glass and solid body pieces. That freed designers and engineers to make the "greenhouse," the area above the doors, hood and truck lid, more closely resemble production cars. Rules also were eased for the front and rear, and especially the sides, allowing the character lines that come directly from the street car.

"We know NASCAR fans are passionate about cars," NASCAR president Mike Helton said. "We're excited about the results of the collective efforts of NASCAR, Dodge and the other manufacturers to create the 2013 Sprint Cup cars. The 2013 Dodge Charger race car design is a great example of what we look forward to seeing on the race track next season. We thank Dodge and all the manufacturers for their efforts, as we see the results here [Sunday] with the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Dodge Charger."

The relationship between the Dodge Charger street car and the Dodge Charger race car is unmistakable.

"The race fans delivered a clear message," Gilles said. "NASCAR listened. We went to work, following the guidelines established for all manufacturers by NASCAR. The Dodge Charger revealed [Sunday] validates our resolve to deliver a product that will be easily identifiable on the track without compromise in the area of competition."

The unveiling did little, however, to lift the veil of uncertainty that shrouds the car maker's future in NASCAR racing.

Gilles allowed that everything is under consideration in the aftermath of Penske Racing's move from Dodge to Ford next year -- including an exit from NASCAR.

"The same questions you're asking me is what we're asking ourselves," Gilles told the NASCAR Wire Service on Sunday. "So we're just putting it all down on paper and trying to figure out what's the next big move.

"That includes everything from getting out of NASCAR to investing in it three times as much. That's how radical these ideas are."

The recent Penske announcement was a blow to Dodge, which unveiled its racy 2013 Charger with no representation from Penske Racing or its drivers.

"It's only been a couple of weeks [since the Penske announcement]," Gilles said. "I'm still kind of licking my wounds and trying to figure out the world right now. The good news is that the phone is ringing. There's a lot of people very interested to be part of what we've done.

"They love the brand. They see the brand growing in popularity, and even in the showroom, their sales are stronger than ever, so I think that helps. Right now we're just going to keep all options on the table, keep building relationships with others and see what happens."

Besides Penkse, the only other team which currently competes with Dodge is single-car operation Robby Gordon Motorsports. If all goes well, Gilles said Dodge is shooting for mid-summer to have a team or possibly a few teams in place.

"We're kind of putting a list together, setting up meetings in the coming months," Gilles said. "We also have to look at the whole business strategy of how we approach NASCAR. We've been with Penske for over 10 years and it's an opportunity to look at the business model very differently and see where we go from here."

Andrew Murstein, one of the principals at Richard Petty Motorsports, said his organization might be amenable to renewing the historic ties between Petty and Dodge.

RPM is in the last year of its current contract with Ford. Though RPM's agreement with Roush Fenway Racing -- which supplies engines, chassis and technical support to the organization -- runs through 2013, Murstein said RPM would be able contractually to make a manufacturer change.

"So we're really going to start talking to people in the next 30 days or so and probably make a decision in 90 days," Murstein said. "Then switch over effective 2013 with the new manufacturer -- if we go that route."

Whether Dodge will be a player in those discussions remains to be seen. One important issue is the ownership of Chrysler by Italian automaker Fiat, which will be party to any decision on the future of Dodge in NASCAR racing.

It's easy to see, however, what Gilles' preference would be.

"I would say my heart wants to be [in NASCAR racing]," Gilles said. "I would say we're putting our effort in that direction, and we'll see what happens."

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, which has a history with Dodge but now fields Chevrolets, is an unlikely prospect for a switch to Dodge.

"We're happy where we are," team co-owner Felix Sabates said. "It's hard to beat General Motors or this group with Chevrolet. I've been around for a long time, and I was with General Motors when I started, and then we went to Dodge. And I'm very glad we're back to Chevrolet.

"They're in a different world. These people, they spend a lot amount of money with the team, but they also give you technology. And they work hard at technology and they force the teams to share technology, which is great.

"So, unless we have a complete brain failure, and [owner] Chip [Ganassi] and I are put in a mental institution, and our kids decide, 'OK, we're going to charge somebody a whole lot of money' -- I still don't think they would leave. They would stay there."

Dodge reentered Cup Series racing in 2001 and had a deep stable of teams and drivers until an economic downturn left it with Penske as its only major team since 2009. The automaker has stabilized financially and had been working on new strategies for its NASCAR program.

"Some of the timing is unfortunate, some of the things Roger [Penske] didn't realize we were doing are coming to pass as we speak," Gilles said. ""With every storm there's a sunny day in there," Gilles said. "We've been knocked down a few times in our history and we've come back."

Dodge unveils the 2103 Charger model it will race in the Sprint Cup Series next season. (Autostock)

NASCAR Wire Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.