Dodge Returns to NASCAR Winston Cup

NEW YORK (Oct. 14, 1999) It once had a car fit for a King. Now, more than 20 years after collecting its last NASCAR Winston Cup Series win, Dodge has announced they will seek to reacquire the throne. In a highly anticipated and historic move, ...

Dodge Returns to NASCAR Winston Cup

NEW YORK (Oct. 14, 1999) It once had a car fit for a King. Now, more than 20 years after collecting its last NASCAR Winston Cup Series win, Dodge has announced they will seek to reacquire the throne.

In a highly anticipated and historic move, Dodge racing officials announced at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York that their company, which already has 160 NASCAR Winston Cup Series victories (many of them with Richard Petty), will rejoin the series and make its inaugural appearance at the 2001 Daytona 500.

Dodge, a top competitor in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series from the 1950s through the '70s, has been involved in the relatively new NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Company officials announced plans to field at least two NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams and five cars using the Dodge Intrepid. Ray Evernham, former crew chief for three-time series champion Jeff Gordon, will run one of the teams. Additional team plans have yet to be announced, with drivers for those rides to be determined some time next year.

"Back in August, a meeting was held with a group of Dodge dealers to discuss the idea of coming back into NASCAR," said Mike Helton, NASCAR senior vice president and chief operating officer. "At that time, we were asked to address the three issues that were most important to everyone at Dodge.

"They were ... does NASCAR want Dodge involved in the sport ... what the consequences will be from the company not being involved for the last 20 years and finally ...could they compete?

"What we told them then still holds true today ... yes, NASCAR wants Dodge involved in the sport. American automobiles' big three fighting for bragging rights in our form of motorsports is exciting to us."

Dodge officials said the feeling is mutual.

"It's time," said Jim Julow, vice president -- Dodge Division, of the dealer and brand's decision to go racing. "The popularity of the NASCAR Winston Cup series, our growing customer base and lineup of high performance cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs make the decision to enter Winston Cup the right decision at the right time. It's time to give our Dodge owners, Dodge dealers and our employees the opportunity to cheer for their brand."

The news that Dodge is coming back into the big league of racing was welcomed by one of its competitors.

"In all honesty, we at Ford more than welcome Dodge's participation in NASCAR Winston Cup racing, no matter if it's for the 2001 season or for 2010," said Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology and head of Ford's worldwide racing efforts. "They've done a good job in developing their Craftsman Truck Series program over the past few years to where this year they are a force to be reckoned with every race. Taking the next step up to Winston Cup seems to be a logical move for them.

"Their involvement will be good for the sport. It will be good for the competition, it will be good for NASCAR, and, best of all, it will be good for the fans that follow the sport. NASCAR Winston Cup racing makes a lot of business sense for us, and obviously, it has gotten to the point where it makes sense for them."

Dodge plans to leverage its Winston Cup involvement with national dealer promotions, local and national advertising and racetrack events in local markets.

"We have begun the 'Dodge 500,' our 500-day countdown to the 2001 Daytona 500," said Lou Patane, vice president -- Motorsports Operations and Mopar Performance Parts. "In the next 500 days, we'll continue to gather the most dedicated and talented people in racing as we build and test cars and work toward racing for the first time in Daytona."

According to Patane, the decision to join efforts with Evernham is only the first move in assembling a winning team.

"We intend to be competitive consistently from the beginning," Patane said. "There is no point in starting if you don't plan to finish."

For Evernham, the opportunity to own and build a team from the ground up is exciting.

"My competitive juices are pumping," Evernham said. "Working with the Dodge people to bring their brand to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series competitively is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Like the people at Dodge, I am committed to winning. I look forward to working with the engineering and design groups at Dodge as well as having the support of the dealers."

"Dodge has a tremendous legacy in NASCAR Winston Cup -- great cars, great drivers, great racing," Helton said. "We look forward to working with Dodge to develop a program on par with the rest of the garage area."

Tentative plans call for the unveiling a version of the NASCAR Winston Cup Dodge Intrepid at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2000. Dodge plans to test throughout 2000.

Chrysler's return ends its 14-year absence from stock car racing. The German-U.S. company will also return to Formula One next season. Chrysler has been involved in NASCAR since 1949, and has seen some of the sport's legends behind the wheel -- including Lee and Richard Petty. Dodge won a pair of Manufacturer Championships -- in 1970 and '75.

The manufacturer's last NASCAR Winston Cup Series event was the Van Scoy Diamond Mine 500 at Pocono Raceway on June 9, 1985, with Phil Good, who finished 30th. Dodge amassed 160 victories, with the last coming from the late Neil Bonnett, in the Los Angeles Times 500 at Ontario (Calif.) Speedway on Nov. 20, 1977.

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