Will Dodge return? NASCAR's hunt for new manufacturers explained

Jake Nichol August 24, 2021
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Ever since Dodge’s withdrawal from the Cup Series in 2012, NASCAR has been on the hunt for a new manufacturer. Interest has come and gone, but what would it take for a new manufacturer to join Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota?

Dodge has gone and NASCAR doesn’t seem relevant to new manufacturers

NASCAR has found itself in a bind in its search for that elusive fourth manufacturer to stock car racing.

Since Penske opted to go elsewhere for 2013 and Dodge withdrew the search has gone on, without success.

While Dodge has theoretically had the technology to return at any point with an engine sitting on a Michigan shelf, it has decided not to.

One reason is NASCAR, in its current state, is simply not relevant to manufacturers beyond the trio it currently has.

The outdated and rudimentary V8 engine technology simply doesn’t appeal to potential new entries.

The industry has been moving towards hybrid and electric technology.

Cup champion Brad Keselowski mooted the idea of hybrids a few years ago, the first driver to understand NASCAR had to adapt to survive.

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

“Our fanbase associates stock cars with a throaty V-8 engine, and so do I,” he wrote.

“That shouldn’t change. If we switch to a four-cylinder or V-6 in NASCAR, we’re going to lose a lot of fans.

“But having a KERS system similar to F1 – that can recover energy and use it as needed – is the perfect foundation for the NASCAR V-8 hybrid stock car.

“The way I envision it, we’d be creating one of the best engines in the world, and it would keep the roar NASCAR fans love.”

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What does NASCAR say about its new manufacturer hunt?

So, NASCAR has known for a while the route it must take to survive, and it is aware what this particular piece of the jigsaw looks like.

“I would be surprised if a new OEM (manufacturer) came in without some sort of electrification,” NASCAR president Steve Phelps told media earlier this year.

“I am not talking about all electric, I am talking about a hybrid system.

“It is obviously something we are exploring right now with our existing three OEMs.

“The question is what is it, and what is the timing of it?”

Hybrids in NASCAR are still some way off and won’t happen within the next season or two.

But certainly, by the end of this decade, hybrid technology will have been part of NASCAR for a long time.

Will the NextGen car help with new manufacturers?

That’s the concept on which the NextGen car was conceived.

The success of the NextGen car, due to be debuted at the 2022 Daytona 500 after being pushed back a year, will be weighed on its ability to bring those crucial new manufacturers into stock car racing.

If NASCAR enters the latter half of the decade with a fourth manufacturer not thriving, the NextGen car will be a failure.

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Phelps believes the “importance of the new car can’t be overstated” and it would bring about “renewed interest from an OEM perspective”.

The NextGen car was designed to massively reduce costs involved for the current manufacturers and any new ones.

It will be essentially a spec-car.

Any new teams/manufacturers would be able to buy parts from a common supplier as opposed to teams developing their own part.

The hope is this will create closer, more intense racing as no single team/OEM will be able to streak clear of the field.

Teams will be allowed to tinker with modelling and styling, but the overall DNA of the new car would be a common one.

Who could NASCAR’s new manufacturer be? Could it be Dodge?

Dodge is the best placed to potentially rejoin the Cup Series.

While it would be starting from a clean slate with the NextGen car, the nature as outlined above makes that an easy obstacle to overcome.

Of the big three US car manufacturers – Ford, General Motors and Chrysler – only the last doesn’t have a NASCAR presence.

Ford has long put its roots down, while GM already has the Chevrolet brand in NASCAR.

GM used to have multiple brands in the Cup Series as Pontiac and Oldsmobile raced with the Chevys.

Whether GM would want to commit resources to support another brand once more is doubtful but not impossible.

Meanwhile, at Chrysler, of all its brands Dodge seems the most logical and straightforward for a Cup entry.

With Ford locked in at Penske and Stewart-Haas, Chevrolet at Hendrick and the Joe Gibbs/23XI squads at Toyota, a new manufacturer is perfect for a midfield team.

Should NASCAR succeed in gaining a fourth (or maybe fifth) manufacturer, they wouldn’t be short on takers.

Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.