The automaker put out feelers to potential new teams in February, and one of the teams negotiating with Dodge was Furniture Row Racing, the Colorado-based team that currently fields the No. 78 Chevrolet for driver Regan Smith. Furniture Row General Manager Joe Garone said as recently as Saturday at Pocono Raceway that his team was waiting to hear from Dodge on their plans for 2013.
“We made a proposal to Dodge, telling them what we would need and what we had to offer,” said Garone. “We expected that they would evaluate the proposals they received from various teams and get back to us, but it simply didn’t happen. Weeks turned into months with no response, and eventually, it became the old joke about, `Free Beer Tomorrow.’
“Tomorrow never came.”
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Dodge was once a major player in the sport, winning races and championships with teams fielded by Petty Enterprises, Karl Kiekhaefer, Cotton Owens and others. They withdrew from the sport in the 1970s and remained inactive until 2000, when they returned with a high-profile, multi-car effort fielded by former Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Ray Evernham.
“I certainly appreciate all the opportunities Dodge gave me,” said Evernham. “I’m sad they’re leaving before being able to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. One of the first things we talked about when they returned to the sport in 2000 was their desire to win it all. I hate to see a great manufacturer leave our sport.”
Dodge currently has only one NASCAR team flying its flag. Penske Racing fields a pair of Dodge Chargers for drivers Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish, Jr., but the team announced in February that they will campaign Fords in 2013.
Dodge is not withdrawing entirely from motorsports. In fact, the automaker returned to the American Le Mans Series recently with a Viper GTS-R entry, after being absent from the road racing circuit for more than a decade. Plans reportedly call for a full-time, two-car ALMS effort in 2013. Dodge has also increased its involvement in Global RallyCross this season. NASCAR, however, failed to resonate with Dodge’s Italian parent company, Fiat, which sees more value in road racing and rally events than NASCAR.