With word that Dodge has interest in returning to NASCAR in the future, what teams could be in line to welcome the marque back to the sport?
It has been a number of years since conversations abounded with potential new Cup Series teams and new manufacturers entering the sport. Long gone are the days of speculation that Audi, Volkswagen, or Honda could emerge as the fourth or fifth marque in NASCAR. However, those questions were sparked once again by the acknowledgment of interest by Dodge in returning to the sport.
In a time where teams are contracting and rides for drivers are disappearing, perhaps Dodge can return to NASCAR and give them a much-needed infusion of funding and teams to compete at many levels. Furthermore, it can potentially create a more even playing field for others like Ford, who have been behind Chevrolet and Toyota in recent years in terms of competition and championships.
Of course, with this news about the potential return of Dodge to stock car racing, many are wondering what teams may be ready to help them get back into the sport. Could those teams come from outside NASCAR, or perhaps be some that are competing at lower levels? Or will some of the elite teams make the switch to a largely unproven engine in a new era of the sport?
Here are some possible contenders should Dodge return to NASCAR racing.
Could this year’s Truck Series championship team have Cup aspirations, with help from Dodge in the future?
Rising from the ashes of Richard Childress Racing’s Truck Series organization, GMS Racing has quickly become one of the leading contenders in the series. They will be expanding too, with at least three full-time trucks in 2017, and a full-time Xfinity Series operation. But is Cup in their future?
In 2016, Johnny Sauter drove the GMS Racing stable to their best year, winning the Camping World Truck Series title and securing multiple wins alongside teammates Ben Kennedy, Spencer Gallagher, and a rotating cast of characters. The team is owned and paid for primarily by Maurice Gallagher Jr., President and CEO of Allegiant Travel. His companies compose the majority of the sponsors of the team, despite an affiliation with Richard Childress Racing.
Should GMS be ready to move up with Dodge, the manufacturer could infuse some more cash into the team. They do have some of the strongest ties to Chevrolet in the Truck Series, but as they move up the ranks of NASCAR, other teams will come ahead of them in the pecking order. After all, GMS Racing will fall behind JR Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, and Chip Ganassi Racing (at least) in 2017 in the Xfinity Series.
If Dodge were to move back into stock car racing, GMS Racing could provide the marque an outlet in the lower divisions, while also creating a path forward for this young team to the premier level.
After shutting its doors following “spingate”, could swtiWR make a comeback with the help of some longtime sponsors…and Dodge?
Michael Waltrip Racing (again)
At the end of 2015, the Cup Series lost two of its full-time competitors after Michael Waltrip Racing closed its doors. Since then, the man who owned fifty percent of the organization, Rob Kauffman, has moved on to Chip Ganassi Racing. The other half, the namesake of the organization, is still doing television, and racing on occasion. But could he be back in his own equipment soon?
Let’s face it, Michael Waltrip cannot race forever. Whether he thinks so or not, his days of part-time racing in the Cup Series are numbered. But what will one of the more likable faces in the garage do after he hangs up his helmet for good? His role with Fox Sports isn’t large enough to keep him going all year, meaning a return to car ownership is possible.
Back when Waltrip’s team began in 2002, his team had a part-time Chevrolet. Then by 2005, they switched to Dodge and added a full-time entry. However, their time with the horns wasn’t long as MWR moved to Toyota for 2007, and stayed with them until the end.
If Michael Waltrip Racing were to be revived, it would certainly boost the car counts in Cup. Furthermore, it would be hard for Toyota to justify adding up to two more customers to their long list of clients, meaning someone else may have to open their doors to them. Dodge could accomplish that, while also bringing in a big name to their return to the sport.
Formerly known as Petty Enterprises, they raced with Dodge on a number of occasions. Will they go back?
Richard Petty Motorsports
Resurrected out of the remains of two former Dodge organizations, Richard Petty Motorsports remains today as one of the oldest competing teams in NASCAR, dating back to the origins of the sport with Petty Enterprises. However, when the economy struggled in the U.S. in the late 2000s, teams cut back and combined, leading to nearly the end of Petty in the sport. When Gillett-Evernham Motorsports merged with Petty Enterprises, things did not look good. But now RPM is back, and could help bring Dodge back too.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to see Petty on the move in the coming years is their ranking with the Ford Performance teams. With the addition of Stewart-Haas Racing to the Ford stable in 2017, RPM will theoretically be knocked down on the totem pole to the #5 organization. Being held behind SHR, Penske, Roush, and the Wood Brothers is not a position that any team wants to be in, especially one led by a former seven-time Cup champion.
Any move Petty would make would likely only be to a marque to which the team has history. Petty Enterprises has only ever run with Ford, Plymouth, and Dodge, and only two of those three remain as car manufacturers. Dodge would seem to be the likliest choice for the organization’s future, especially if they are to recapture any of their multi-car success.
Chip Ganassi has won in every division, but is still looking for a NASCAR championship. Can they go back to Dodge and reach the top?
Chip Ganassi Racing
One of the biggest racing organizations in the United States, if not the world, is Chip Ganassi Racing. With teams running in NASCAR, IndyCar, Global RallyCross, IMSA, and the World Endurance Championship, this team has their hands in all kinds of motorsports. However, recent developments on the sports car and IndyCar sides could lead to a connected change in manufacturer on their NASCAR teams.
Recently, the Ganassi organization became the home of the revitalized Ford GT effort at Le Mans and in the full IMSA and WEC schedules. Meanwhile, their IndyCar team will switch to Honda from Chevrolet engines in 2017, a move that was supposedly unrelated to the NASCAR teams. However, for how long can Chevrolet be happy knowing CGR runs with other manufacturers to much success against their vehicles in other series?
If the move to Dodge is in the cards, it wouldn’t be the first time that Chip’s squad has raced them. When Ganassi purchased an 80 percent stake in the team from Felix Sabates in 2001, they made the switched from Chevy to Dodge. This coincided with Dodge’s return to the sport after fifteen years.
Hopefully Dodge can return in less time, and with just as much success with teams like Ganassi in the future.
Andretti Autosport has teams in many different series around the world. Could NASCAR be their next adventure?
The team that has been at the top of the rumor mill to enter NASCAR with Dodge’s support for some time now is Andretti Autosport. With a rapidly expanding portfolio of cars in many series, Michael Andretti’s team could be poised to make a big move to stock car racing with strong manufacturer funding.
It would be unsurprising to see Dodge invest heavily in their teams should they make a comeback, especially those new to Cup and NASCAR overall, like what was seen in the 2000s. Dodge dealers and models were featured prominently on cars from Evernham Motorsports and occasionally Chip Ganassi Racing. A similar model could help lure Andretti into the sport, following in the footsteps more recently of Toyota, a formula that they continue to this day.
Despite the lure of potentially being Dodge’s top team in NASCAR, Andretti has a number of hands in other areas that need attention too. With programs in IndyCar, Global RallyCross, and Formula E, perhaps the organization will be more focused on improving the stature and stability of these teams before expanding once more. However, any of their current drivers could have easy access to a crossover into NASCAR should the move ever take place.
Of course, all these teams could stay where they are, not switch manufacturers, or even go to Chevrolet, Toyota, or Ford. No one truly knows what the future holds for Dodge in NASCAR until more certainty is found around their current situation, and that around a number of the leading teams in the sport.
Would you like to see Dodge return to NASCAR? Which teams do you think would be in their footprint of stock car racing? Comment with your thoughts below and stay tuned to Beyond the Flag for all your offseason news, rumors, and analysis.