NASCAR has long sought new manufacturers to join its ranks. But the costs of working with the organization can be astronomical, and it has driven some potential partners away. Many fans have asked whether Dodge will join NASCAR, since the manufacturer has a long history in auto racing.
Dodge may join NASCAR as early as 2024. NASCAR is seeking to go hybrid that same year, and Dodge has also made their intentions clear that they plan to do the same. Dodge and NASCAR are familiar with one another, with the manufacturer having last competed in the organization from 1996 to 2012.
Below, we will discuss Dodge’s history with NASCAR. We will also touch on how successful Dodge was during their history running at the NASCAR level, and why they ultimately left. Finally, we will estimate the likelihood of the famed manufacturer returning to the organization.
Dodge first raced in NASCAR in 1953 and left the organization in 1984. Dodge returned in 2001 and left again after the 2012 season. Overall, Dodge has won 2 Cup Series championships, along with 3 Truck Series championships.
In addition to Dodge, NASCAR has a long history with various manufacturers, even if you only see three of them as of 2022. You may remember Pontiac racing full-time in the series until 2003. Pontiac had a solid history with NASCAR, winning five Manufacturers’ Championships, including one for the Cup Series.
Even Buick made its mark in the Cup Series, winning two championships at NASCAR’s highest level and another three in the Xfinity Series. Oldsmobile, Plymouth, and Hudson also won Cup Series Championships earlier in the sport’s history. Other manufacturers that gracedthe NASCAR circuit include Mercury and Chrysler.
Dodge returned to NASCAR in 2001 after leaving the sport following the 1984 season. However, Dodge drivers were not the most successful in the sport both before 1984 and after the manufacturer’s 21st century return.
In 2012, Brad Keslowski changed that by becoming the first driver to win the NASCAR Championship in a Dodge since Richard Petty in 1975, breaking a 37-season drought for the manufacturer.
Keselowski and part-time teammates Sam Hornish Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger were part of the only full-time Dodge team, Penske Racing, that season. Keselowski was the only full-time Dodge driver in NASCAR in 2012, which made his win even more impressive. Despite the championship, Dodge left following the season, and the Penske team has since switched to Ford.
Dodge was successful enough success in NASCAR to win two Manufacturers’ Championships at the NASCAR Cup Series level and three championships in the Truck Series. Their first Cup Series championship came in 1970, when they edged out Plymouth for the title.
The second came in 1975, the same season Richard Petty won the Driver’s Championship. Although Dodge driver Brad Keselowski won the NASCAR Cup Championship in 2012, Dodge as a manufacturer did not win the 2012 Manufacturers’ Championship.
With modest success, Dodge has historically paled in comparison to their Chevy and Ford counterparts, who have won a combined 57 Cup Series Manufacturers’ Championships as of 2022.
In 1956, Buck Baker became the first Dodge driver to win a NASCAR Championship. However, he also drove the Chrysler brand and even Fords that season. Joe Weatherly also won the championship driving Dodges, but he also drove Plymouths, Chryslers, Pontiacs, and Mercuries.
A driver racing a Dodge full-time did not win the championship until 1966,when David Pearson won the NASCAR Cup. Bobby Isaac won the championship in a Dodge four seasons later in 1970. And in 1972, Richard Petty won driving both Dodges and Plymouths. In 1974 and 1975, Richard Petty won Dodge’s final two championships until Keselowski broke the streak in 2012.
Dodge left NASCAR after winning the championship in 2012 after failing to retain their championship team and failing to produce one as good or better. The drivers they wanted belonged to other brands, and Dodge weren’t willing to collaborate with smaller teams if they couldn’t supply a top driver.
Furniture Row Racing, which closed one season after winning its first championship, is another rare example of a championship winner leaving the following year. However, loss of sponsorship forced the closure of the already budget-strapped team. For Dodge, something similar occurred following the 2012 season. Except it wasn’t a loss of sponsorship, but a loss of NASCAR teams.
To understand why Dodge left, we first need to understand how they worked their way back into NASCAR. From 1996 until 2000, Dodge was racing trucks in NASCAR.In 1999, they announced their return to the NASCAR Cup Series and recruited Ray Evernham to the cause. In 2001, Dodge’s efforts led them to fund the 9 car for Bill Elliott and the 19 car of Casey Atwood.
Then came Bill Davis Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Melling Racing, and Petty Enterprises. Dodge’s return to NASCAR was a popular one, and they even fielded teams through severe economic hardships that hit the nation and NASCAR during that infamous 2008 season. By 2012, only Penske Racing used Dodge Chargers. But following Keselowski’s championship season, Dodge was left without a team.
Dodge was not decisive enough in its negotiations with Penske. Fiat, Dodge’s parent company, couldn’t fully grasp the importance of NASCAR in the United States and was said to have had much to do with former’s lack of decisiveness.
This forced Dodge to look for another team, one whose level matched or exceeded Penske racing. Unfortunately for Dodge, Chevy, Ford, and Toyota had them all. Dodge did consider smaller teams like Furniture Row Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, and Turner Motorsports.
But Dodge also wanted to partner with these teams only if they had a top driver available, or were willing to take a chance with an established star without a ride. Someone like Kurt Busch at the time.
Dodge may have missed an opportunity with Furniture Row.The now-defunct NASCAR team closed its doors following the 2018 NASCAR Cup Season, but not before they won a Cup Series Championship with Martin Truex Jr. at the helm a season prior.
Many believe that manufacturers like Honda and Volkswagen haven’t joined NASCAR because of Dodge’s slow fall from the scene.
Throughout the 2010s, no new NASCAR manufacturer joined. Honda showed interest in the late 2010s, but their hesitancy also came with the cost of providing equipment to teams throughout the nine-month NASCAR season. Perhaps a few variables are in place that describe hesitancy from other manufacturers joining NASCAR.
The Dodge Hemi was banned from NASCAR for reasons that are still debated to this day. Some say it was politics, while others say the ban came because Dodge and Plymouth’s production lines did not carry them because they were too expensive.
Another theory states the Hemi was too powerful of an engine for other cars to keep up with. This became apparent as both Dodge and Plymouth (also produced by Chrysler), dominated the NASCAR scene in 1969 and 1970.
It is no secret that Chevy and Ford have dominated NASCAR’s landscape. But if NASCAR never banned the Dodge Hemi, its history could look drastically different. Instead, NASCAR banned the Hemi, and in doing so, the ban allowed Chevy and Ford to take centerstage.
The Dodge Daytona and its sister car, the Plymouth Superbird, set records all over the NASCAR scene. The Superbird also won eight races in 1970 en route to setting their fair share of track records.
The Dodge Daytona hit 200 miles per hour not long after, forcing NASCAR to take notice. NASCAR banned the big wings that the cars were known for. This was also around the time they banned the Hemi and specific aerodynamic features.
Dodge and Plymouth weren’t the only ones forced to make drastic changes if they wanted to continue competing in NASCAR. Ford and Mercury also had to conform their rides to NASCAR’s new standards.
It’s unclear if Dodge will come back to NASCAR. Speculation has become broad as to who NASCAR’s next manufacturer will be, if NASCAR will even have another manufacturer. Many have pointed to Honda, given its connections to NASCAR through the IMSA series.
As of 2022, Honda is seemingly uninterested in joining NASCAR, but that could change with a hybrid system in place. NASCAR is looking to go hybrid in 2024 at the earliest, and if they succeed, Honda might just join.
But Dodge might already be ahead of the game. They are looking to make their vehicles either hybrid or fully electric by 2024, so it is a solid guess to say they may re-enter the NASCAR ranks when the latter goes hybrid.
While you can never set anything in stone until a deal becomes official, the signs point to Dodge returning to NASCAR at some point in the 2020s, But this will only occur if NASCAR ends up going hybrid.
Dodge may join NASCAR in the future, although when this may happen is uncertain. Dodge has had an up-and-down, on-and-off relationship with NASCAR. Dodge was last present in NASCAR in 2012 and may rejoin NASCAR if the organization switches to a hybrid design.