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Could most powerful muscle cars ever made lead Dodge back to NASCAR?

Jul 3, 2014, 11:50 PM EDT

(Image courtesy Dodge and (Image courtesy Dodge and

When Dodge left NASCAR after Brad Keselowski and Penske Racing won the 2012 Sprint Cup championship (what better way to go out but on top, right?) in a Charger, company officials at the time left the door open to a possible return to the sport someday.

It could be a few years, maybe a decade or more. Then again, it may never happen.

But …

While there’s been absolutely zero news out of Dodge’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, about a potential return to NASCAR, other recent news could be construed that maybe something might be up.

After all, why would Dodge officially announce on the company’s 100th birthday this past Tuesday – not to mention release the testosterone-dripping video that can be seen at the bottom of this column – that it will begin production of and start selling the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hemi Hellcat sometime later this year?

Big deal, just a new and improved model of the Challenger, right?

Wrong. The new supercharged Hemi Hellcat Challenger is set to become the most powerful muscle car ever made, sporting a massive 707 horsepower motor under its hood.

For all you gearheads and wrench jockeys, I’ll repeat that: 707 mean and ornery horses under the hood.

Oh yes, and did we mention that the speedometer on the Hemi Hellcat Challenger might potentially reach as high as 200 mph, if the above illustration from one of Dodge’s websites ( is accurate?

That’s more raw power and potential high-end speed than the 700-hp Lamborghini Aventador, the 663-hp Ford Shelby Mustang GT500, the 650-hp Chevrolet Corvette Z06, the 580-hp Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1 or the 505-hp Camaro Z28. It even makes the once 640-hp speed king Dodge Viper look like it’s an underpowered 40-year-old Chevy Vega or Ford Maverick.

In fact, the Hemi Hellcat is only about 140 or so horsepower shy of the kind of power churned out by a NASCAR Sprint Cup car on racetracks from Daytona to Fontana, and only about 50 horsepower less than motors that power Nationwide Series cars.

That kind of horsepower isn’t just fast, it’s – sorry, Kevin Harvick, we couldn’t avoid it – freaky F-A-S-T.

On Wednesday, more news from the Dodge camp came out when posted a story and spy photos of the new 2015 Dodge Charger SRT – which also will likely carry the 707-hp Hemi Hellcat motor.

The point we’re making here is simple: why would Dodge go to all the trouble and multi-million dollars of expense in development and production costs of making the bat-out-of-hell-fast Challenger and Charger unless the company had some serious marketing plans for the future?

Like bringing both models to NASCAR.

Think about it: Ford redesigned the Mustang and Chevy brought back the Camaro, and where did they wind up at?

In the Nationwide Series, up against the outdated Camry.

And what have the Mustang and Camaro been for Ford and Chevy dealers?

Sales magnets, thanks in part to being raced in NASCAR competition, albeit in the NNS junior league than the major league Sprint Cup circuit. (And if the Challenger or Charger do return to NASCAR, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mustang and Camaro potentially move up to Sprint Cup as well.)

Even with gas around $4-plus per gallon, U.S. drivers still want as much raw speed and power as they can buy. That’s why the Camaro and Mustang are among the most popular American-made muscle cars on the market today.

Dodge would be foolish not to come back to NASCAR to tout its new cars.

Where else could the manufacturer race (and sell) these types of potent pony cars?

The Challenger and Charger wouldn’t fit in Formula One, IndyCar or sprint cars (unless you took off the top and the fenders to make them “open-wheelers,” which isn’t likely to happen).

Sure, the Challenger and Charger might work in sports car and road course racing, but NASCAR is a built-in market with all the infrastructure necessary to make the Challenger and Charger not only welcome, but successful almost right out of the box.

We can easily see the Challenger join the Nationwide Series ranks, perhaps as early as 2016. And we can also see the Charger return to the Sprint Cup fold maybe by 2017, if not 2016 as well.

Again, we can’t say it enough: that’s strictly speculation on our part. Dodge hasn’t said a word about what may just as easily wind up only being a dream that will never come true.

But if Dodge truly does have well-kept secret designs of returning to NASCAR, it had better start working pretty soon on a production program for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series, which typically takes 12 to 18 months to develop and build (much like when Ray Evernham led Dodge’s return to NASCAR, joining the company in 1999 before the first Intrepid hit the racetrack in 2001, succeeded by the Charger in 2006).

Here’s another thing to consider: It’s believed that Richard Petty Motorsports has one more year remaining on its current deal with Ford (reportedly through 2015).

According to a report in early May, team owner Richard Petty reportedly has already met with officials of Ford (to potentially extend RPM’s current deal), as well as Toyota (about potentially leaving Ford when RPM’s current deal is up).

“We’ve got to look at our team and look at our circumstances,” Petty said less than two months ago when asked what RPM’s future plans are.  “We’ve got to look and say, ‘Okay, what’s going to be the best for us right now, what’s going to the best for us two years down the road, what’s going to be the best for us five years down the road?’”

Petty added: “We’re out looking and seeing what all the factories have got laid out for their future to see if we can fit into any of that.”

But what if Petty were to be the magnet to bring Dodge back to NASCAR, particularly with his long and legendary history with the company and the Hemi during his own racing career from the late 1950s to early 1990s?

It makes sense.

Heck, it more than makes sense, it’s a no-brainer.

And if Petty were to lead the charge and return to the Dodge fold, there’s likely at least two or three other smaller teams that could be viewed as prospective candidates that might be convinced to switch from their current powerplants and chassis — especially if Dodge offers significant incentives.

Among those that come to mind as potential targets for Dodge: Furniture Row Racing, Front Row Motorsports, JTG Daugherty, maybe even a team like Michael Waltrip Racing. Even Richard Childress Racing was rumored to be interested in Dodge, according to a report back in late January (Childress denied the rumor)

And what about Andretti Autosport, which has reportedly expressed interest in expanding its IndyCar base (it has also branched out into sports cars and rally cars, even Formula E racing) into NASCAR?

Think about the publicity and attention bonanza that would result if two of the biggest and most legendary surnames in motorsports history — Petty and Andretti — were to align under the Dodge umbrella.

Again, we can’t repeat this enough: Dodge has not said anything about coming back to NASCAR. We’re only speculating here.

But if you add two-plus-two, believe in conspiracy theories, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and think you’re good at connecting dots, if you were some of the top honchos at Dodge, wouldn’t you want to use NASCAR as a huge showcase for your technology with the upcoming high performance Challenger and Charger?

Follow me @JerryBonkowski


  1. charger383 - Jul 4, 2014 at 8:30 AM

    never could figure out why they quit

    • hstorm86 - Jan 19, 2015 at 10:25 AM

      Dodge was completely stupid for leaving nascar.unfortunately their viper program failed but don’t count on them returning to nascar anytime soon..there isn’t a big name team in need to go to a new manufacturer and rpm isn’t a big team..they’re a satellite of Roush Fenway racing so this means to things number one they aren’t going to have enough money to start they’re own engine shop and dodge program and number 2 they’re going to stick with Ford or go to Toyota because I’m the long run its cheaper for them to do so..why would they want to be the only dodge team..that would actually put them at a disadvantage..think about is now managed by Europeans who sure made the hellcat challenger and charger but they don’t favor nascar too much so its just not going to happen..

  2. techmeister1 - Jul 4, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    Dodge/Chrysler hasn’t been serious about CRASHCAR for 40+ years. They dabble in it and then wonder why they aren’t very successful. They just don’t get it that being a part timer in CRASHCAR drastically reduces their return on marketing dollars spent. Out of sight, out of mind. Loyal fans get tires of the here today, gone tomorrow approach to racing. They want to be able to route for the brand they want to drive.

    That being said I wouldn’t count on Dodge back in CRASHCAR any time soon unless they can sign up at least two major teams. That is going to be next to impossible unless they can prove they have the aero body and reliable/competitive engine. Chances are they have neither at the moment.

    • worknman24hours - Jul 4, 2014 at 12:48 PM

      Very well said,tech.

      • worknman24hours - Jul 4, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        Other then the Crash car bit.

    • moparbob - Jul 9, 2014 at 9:43 AM

      I’ll have to take issue a few of your “Allparian” statements… While I agree that ChryCo seems to not have the staying power the GM and Ford have, I would hardly call 15-20 year, factory supported Grand National teams (Petty, Fox, Rossi, Nichels, etc.) from the 60’s-70’s and more recently truck teams that enjoyed nearly 20 years of factory support and post-2001 Busch/Nationwide/Cup teams enjoying 10-12 years of support, “part time.” I would say ChryCo handily got back what they invested marketing-wise with all of Modern Era championships, as well as two Truck championships, a Nationwide championship and a Cup championship since Dodge went NASCAR racing in 1996-2012.

      Like it or not, dwindling viewership or not, NASCAR is STILL the most watched and attended racing venue in America. If you are not out there showcasing your products, you are just plain foolish. I do agree that fans, product owners, and enthusiasts want to root for their brand and make that connection with the car in their garage, with the car on the track. I would not paint your statements with such a broad brush, however… It is the CURRENT MANAGEMENT and MARKETING “geniuses” that are holding ChryCo’s, er, FCA’s NASCAR efforts back. While the Viper is a great car and all, the only people the IMSA effort is being marketed to is folks on the high end… Few and far between… Just look at IMSA’s attendance numbers. It is the salt-of-the-earth populace and fanbase that will see marketing pay off… And that is found in NASCAR.

  3. CharlieDarwin - Jul 10, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    “Most powerful (American/Nascar)? ever made”

    Not even close- Lamboghini Aventador, 1600 HP AND many others.

    • uh60l - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:16 PM

      Most powerful MUSCLE CAR.

      A Lamborghini is not a muscle car. (nor are many others)

      • CharlieDarwin - Jul 31, 2014 at 7:23 PM

        Never understood what ‘muscle car’ is supposed to mean…

  4. uh60l - Aug 6, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    Well, here is the dictionary answer:

    “Muscle car is a term used to refer to a variety of high-performance automobiles.[1] The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines muscle cars as “any of a group of American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving.”[2] A large V8 engine is fitted in a 2-door, rear wheel drive, family-style mid-size or full-size car designed for four or more passengers. Sold at an affordable price, muscle cars are intended for mainly street use and occasional drag racing.[3][4][5][6] They are distinct from two-seat sports cars and expensive 2+2 GTs intended for high-speed touring and road racing. Developed simultaneously in their own markets, muscle cars also emerged from manufacturers in Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.”

    • uh60l - Aug 6, 2014 at 1:39 PM

      Genrally speaking, most people think of “muscle cars” as American cars built from the mid 1960’s to the mid 1970’s that had big powerful engines and were akin to buying a racecar that you could drive to work every day.

      A sub-set of the muscle cars was the pony cars, which was basically the mustang, the camaro, and the barracuda (later just ‘cuda).

      Most of the true muscle cars died after 1974, or the names morphed into something very non-muscle-car-ish. The Mustang is the only muscle car / pony car that has neever been out of production, though some of the versions have been less than impressive.

      There are currently two modern pony cars, Mustang and Camaro, and one modern true muscle car, the Challenger. (the Challenger was alway bigger than the ‘cuda, mustang, and camaro…more of a mid-size)

      The car Dodge is calling a Charger these days really should be called Coronet. It’s not a true muscle car because 1) it’s trying to be a Charger with 4 doors, which has never and will never happen 2) it’s not offered with a stick shift.

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