LAS VEGAS -- Fans asked for it. NASCAR agreed. SRT Motorsports and Dodge delivered.
SRT Motorsports unveiled the 2013 Dodge Charger that will compete in the Sprint Cup Series next season Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in front of the people that asked for the change -- the fans. Just as it did with the Dodge Challenger when it was introduced in the Nationwide Series two years ago, SRT Motorsports designers and engineers created a race car fans will have no problem identifying on the race track. The defining features of the street Charger have been expertly incorporated into the racing version.
"From the start, it's been a collaborative effort with NASCAR," said Ralph Gilles, president and CEO -- SRT Brand and Motorsports. "NASCAR provided the manufacturers with basic specifications, but offered encouragement to venture beyond the look of the current race car. Our design and engineering group, working with Penske Racing, seized the opportunity.
"We had a fantastic benchmark -- the Dodge Challenger -- introduced in 2009. This endeavor goes beyond the trend the Nationwide Series Challenger started with a Dodge Charger that amazingly embodies many of the design features of the street version into the race car. We're extremely proud that the Dodge Charger street car is the only rear-wheel-drive model in Sprint Cup competition that is available with a V-8 engine."
NASCAR eased rules on where manufacturers could put glass and solid body pieces. That freed designers and engineers to make the "greenhouse," the area above the doors, hood and truck lid, more closely resemble production cars. Rules also were eased for the front and rear, and especially the sides, allowing the character lines that come directly from the street car.
"We know NASCAR fans are passionate about cars," NASCAR president Mike Helton said. "We're excited about the results of the collective efforts of NASCAR, Dodge and the other manufacturers to create the 2013 Sprint Cup cars. The 2013 Dodge Charger race car design is a great example of what we look forward to seeing on the race track next season. We thank Dodge and all the manufacturers for their efforts, as we see the results here [Sunday] with the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Dodge Charger."
The relationship between the Dodge Charger street car and the Dodge Charger race car is unmistakable.
"The race fans delivered a clear message," Gilles said. "NASCAR listened. We went to work, following the guidelines established for all manufacturers by NASCAR. The Dodge Charger revealed [Sunday] validates our resolve to deliver a product that will be easily identifiable on the track without compromise in the area of competition."
Dodge had been working on the car for two years, but now comes what may be the hard part: finding someone to drive it.
Caught off-guard by Penske Racing's announcement that it's switching to Ford next season, Dodge is scrambling to find a major team to drive a car it spent so much time creating. The only other team which currently competes with Dodge is single-car operation Robby Gordon Motorsports.
"Based on the way our phone has been ringing, I'm not too concerned," Gilles said. "It's been a pretty positive thing and with every storm there's a sunny day in there. It was unexpected, but we're ready for it. We've been knocked down a few times in our history and we've come back."
Dodge reentered Sprint Cup racing in 2001 and had a deep stable of teams and drivers until an economic downturn left it with Penske as its only major team since 2009. The automaker has stabilized financially since parent company Chrysler was bought by Fiat three years ago and had been working on new strategies for its NASCAR program.
"We're actually investing in NASCAR more than ever," he said. "Some of the timing is unfortunate, some of the things Roger [Penske] didn't realize we were doing are coming to pass as we speak. ... We've really made some headway."
Gilles said Dodge is shooting for mid-summer to have a team or possibly a few teams in place.
"We're keeping all our options open," Gilles said. "We're kind of putting a list together, setting up meetings in the coming months. We also have to look at the whole business strategy of how we approach NASCAR. We've been with Penske for over 10 years and it's an opportunity to look at the business model very differently and see where we go from here."
From Manufacturer Release The Associated Press contributed to this report.