In a surprise announcement this afternoon, Ralph Gilles, CEO of Chrysler Group’s SRT performance division, said the company is ending its involvement with NASCAR at the end of the 2012 season.
The reason given was the difficulty SRT Motorsports encountered while trying to replace Penske Racing, which announced it had entered a long-term agreement with Ford earlier this year.
Gilles noted the Penske provided a “one-stop shop” capable of producing race-ready engines, drivers, crews and sponsors for a first-class campaign for the full slate of Sprint Cup and Nationwide series races. In recent years, there has been a lot of consolidation in racing enterprises as the supply of sponsorship money has contracted, leaving only a relative handful of top-flight operations.
Gilles emphasized that financial considerations were not part of the decision, noting that Chrysler had actually increased its spending on NASCAr this year.
Penske was the only team running Dodges on a regular basis this year, with two Chargers competing in Sprint Cup and two Challengers racing in the Nationwide events. Despite the limited presence, the Dodges have achieved an enviable record with Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite “Blue Deuce” likely to be a strong contender in the twelve-driver Race for the Sprint Cup that caps the season and Sam Hornish Jr., in the No. 12 Dodge Challenger in a four-way run for the Nationwide Championship. Keselowski is a previous winner of the Nationwide Championship as a Dodge driver for Penske.
The door is not entirely closed for the future, thought the 2013 season is definitely out. Development will continue on the Dodge Charger Sprint Cup car presented earlier this year and SRT remains open to proposals for new partnerships.
SRT’s involvement in the NASCAR Canadian Tire series and the ARCA Racing series is not affected by the decision and current levels of involvement with American Le Mans Series, NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing and Global RallyCross will not be changed.