|Tony Stewart (right) talks with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the garage earlier this week. (GETTY IMAGES)
BROOKLYN, MICH. - Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart stepped into a big, smelly pile of controversy in the wake of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win in the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.
Stewart, who finished second in the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet, lashed out when he was asked about his reaction to Earnhardt’s first win in four seasons of Sprint Cup racing.
“It’s not a national holiday, guys,” he said in a post-race interview. “I mean this morning (Earnhardt’s team) were celebrating his fourth anniversary of his last win.
“So I guess we are all going to go into mourning now that he has broken that string; so what else we are all supposed to think?”
It was a much different reaction from Sprint Cup points leader Matt Kenseth, who finished third in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
“I don’t know what it means for him personally to get that win but I know that it had been a burden for him with fans and the media always talking about it,” Kenseth said. “This year you could see that it was only going to be a matter of time before he won. The No. 88 team has had a ton of speed all season.
“He was knocking on the door and you knew sooner of later he was going to kick it down.”
Dodge is still in the racing business, but for how long is the big question mark.
Ralph Gilles, vice president for product design at Chrysler, told FOXSports.com on Sunday that the company is not yet ready to confirm whether it will be back on the NASCAR circuit next season.
Ever since Roger Penske announced in March that his Penske Racing team — the lone Dodge squad in Sprint Cup — would be running Fords next season, there has been speculation that Chrysler would pull the plug on its stock car program.
Gilles said that high-level discussions are ongoing about the Dodge brand’s racing future.
“We’re looking at everything,” he said. “We’re looking at potential teams. We’re looking at ... how we go to motorsports next year.
“But really it wouldn’t be fair to the people working on the project right now to talk about it. All I can say right now is stay tuned, we’ll try to get the word out before the end of summer.”
The company did unveil a new Dodge Charger for 2013 — if it comes back to Cup racing — at Las Vegas in the spring and Gilles said that project is going ahead.
“We have to. We kind of have to hedge our bets,” he said. “We’re doing a little bit of the development where a lot of the stuff has been done already — a lot of the aero work is already locked in. We’re just kind of standing pat right now.”
Dodge also supports a lot of other stock car racing series as well, including the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series where three of the four past champions were Dodge teams.
Gilles said that for this year the company is committed to giving Penske the best support possible in its effort at a Cup championship.
“We’re committed to win the Cup,” he said. “We really want to get Brad (Keselowski) or A.J. (Allmendinger) up there. We’re committed to that to the bitter end.”