It appears NASCAR is losing one of its four auto manufacturers at the conclusion of this season.
Dodge will announce today it is pulling out of NASCAR at the end of this season, according to multiple reports. The story was first reported by ESPN.com's Marty Smith.
Currently, Penske Racing is the only team fielding Dodge entries in NASCAR. When Penske announced earlier this year it was ditching Dodge to join Ford in 2013, it left Dodge scrambling to find a new team.
Dodge had already completed plans for its 2013 model – the Charger – and brand chief Ralph Gilles said plans to find a new team were underway in March.
"Based on the way our phone is ringing, I'm not too concerned (about 2013)," Gilles said at the time. "With every storm, there's a sunny day later. (The Penske breakup) was unexpected, to be honest with you, but we're ready for it. We've been knocked down a few times in our history, and we come back."
At that point, there was much speculation as to where Dodge would go. First, an association with Richard Petty Motorsports seemed practical. Then rumors of Dodge bringing IndyCar's Andretti Autosport to NASCAR were all the rage in the spring.
And as recently as Pocono, reports surfaced about Furniture Row Racing hoping to become associated with Dodge.
None of it panned out, and with Dodge not participating in today's first 2013 car test at Martinsville, it became clear the manufacturer was getting late in the process to find a new team.
So where does Dodge go from here? The SRT brand already had begun to focus on a more youthful demographic, like fielding a Dart in Global RallyCross and backing an AMA Supercross team. Those efforts will certainly continue.
As for NASCAR, there will be three manufacturers left – Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota – for teams to choose from. Dodge likely spent the least money of the automakers, but it's still a big blow to the sport. If Dodge is ever to return, it would have to find a team to build its motors in addition to constructing the cars – and since that's a huge investment to make, it seems unlikely to happen anytime soon.