One of the biggest Silly Season moves that we are waiting to hear a resolution for is just where Dodge will end up. Since it was announced that Penske would be moving to Ford for the 2013 season, there have been a ton of rumors and speculation, but no real solid information. And the reason why we haven’t heard anything substantive, is because this is a very complicated deal with so many moving parts.
The major problem Dodge is running into with the available pool of teams is a lack of infrastructure. As NASCAR teams have consolidated because of the economy, the major functions of engine and car building have fallen on only a few organizations. The engines for most of NASCAR are provided by either Roush Yates, Hendrick, Earnhardt Childress, Penske, or TRD. The same is true for bodies and chassis. Only the very top teams have full-fledged, completely self-reliant operations. And the teams that have been linked to the new Dodge deal are tied in some way to other organizations.
Take Richard Petty Motorsports and Furniture Row Racing for example. Both have been mentioned as possible destinations for Dodge, but both currently lean heavily on other teams. RPM gets all it’s cars and engines from Roush Fenway, and Furniture Row Racing is tied to Richard Childress Racing for cars and technology, and Stewart-Haas for its pit crew. Neither have the legions of fabricators, body hangers, painters, and the like to be self-reliant. And where would they get engines?
The oft-rumored move by Michael Andretti to NASCAR team ownership presented an intriguing option for Dodge, but the IndyCar owner recently told the Indianapolis Star that such a move was “highly unlikely.” Even with money and support from Dodge, Andretti would need a major sponsor and a serious outlay of his own cash to get a Cup team off the ground. Running a NASCAR team is drastically more expensive than what Andretti deals with in IndyCar, as Roger Penske recently said to Sports Illustrated, and it appears Andretti isn’t ready for that yet.
Dodge is, for all intents and purposes, completely starting over. It’s the year 2000 all over again, only this time they don’t have Ray Evernham and a boat load of cash. And therein lies the major problem. The new Fiat run Dodge wants a NASCAR program, but it doesn’t have an unlimited budget to make it happen. And a significant investment is what will be needed to turn one of the available candidates into a full-blown, self-contained Cup operation.