In what a top executive described as “Clearly an extremely difficult decision,” Dodge is pulling out of NASCAR, the maker announced Tuesday afternoon, confirming reports that had first surfaced on the website run by the popular race series earlier in the day.
The decision to abandon what is the most widely followed motorsports program in the U.S. was the belated result of the decision by Team Penske to abandon Dodge and sign on with its arch-rival Ford Motor Co. That unexpected setback, last March, left the smaller brand frantically searching for a new team and sponsors just as was ready to begin testing an all-new car for the 2013 NASCAR season.
After months of effort, no effective solution came together, a senior Chrysler executive lamented during a Tuesday conference call with reporters, leaving the Dodge brand no option but to pull out.
“Cash,” insisted Ralph Gilles, the head of Chrysler corporate motor sports operations, “was not the issue.” Instead, he repeatedly stressed, the effort to replace the Penske team had to be seen as “a multi-piece puzzle. We couldn’t, unfortunately, put together a structure that made competitive sense for next year.”