LAS VEGAS — Dodge revealed its new 2013 Sprint Cup racecar Sunday morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but did little to lift the veil of uncertainty that shrouds the car maker’s future in NASCAR racing.
Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of the SRT (Street and Racing Technology) brand, said his heart is in NASCAR racing, but 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.”
Without Penske, Dodge has no flagship team in the Cup garage, but there are potential replacements. 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,” said team co-owner Felix Sabates. “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.”