Dodge pulls out of NASCAR Sprint Cup

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:31 AM ET

The bad news is that Dodge is leaving NASCAR’s top three touring series — Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks — at the end of the 2012 season.

The good news is that the company will continue its support of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.

Chrysler Group racing boss Ralph Gilles made the announcement Tuesday.

He said that after Roger Penske made the decision to defect to Ford next season, it left Dodge without a team in the top NASCAR loop and led to a long, hard discussion about the auto manufacturer’s future in the sport.

“We’ve spent an intense five months working to identify and evaluate all options for our future involvement in NASCAR,” Gilles said. “A number of opportunities emerged, and our team worked diligently to put a structure together to fit our overall business and competitive objectives.

“While we have been pleased and enthused with the amount of interest from teams and sponsors over that time, in the end, we simply couldn’t develop the right structure.”

While Gilles repeatedly said it wasn’t about money, Chrysler’s top brass has been seeking ways to cut costs since being taken over by Italian auto giant FIAT in 2009.

But Gilles did say the company would not cut back any of its resources as Penske — and in particular Brad Keselowski in the No. 22 Dodge — fights for the championship this season.

“It’s an extremely difficult decision to know that we won’t be there for our fans next season,” he said. “It’s important to note that we have not lost focus on 2012 or the commitment to our partnership with Penske Racing in both the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series this season.”

Gilles said that Dodge support in Canada’s only national racing series — the NCTS — would not be affected by the cuts at the top of the racing ladder.

This is the second time in Chrysler history that it has pulled out of NASCAR.

It did it in 1977 and never came back again until 2001.

In the period since then Dodge has been shut out of the Sprint Cup championship —in spite of its 55 Cup wins — but did win a Nationwide championship in 2010 with Penske and Keselowski.

NASCAR chairman Brian France said in a statement that he hopes Dodge will reconsider its decision and come back at a later date.

“They made a business decision not to return in 2013, as they did in 1977 before returning in 2001,” France said. “We wish them well and hope they again will choose to return to NASCAR at a later date.”

A.J. FESSES UP

Suspended NASCAR Sprint Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger has confessed that he took a drug normally prescribed for patients with attention deficit disorder in the week before he failed a drug test.

Allmendinger told ESPN.com that he was out on the night of June 27 in Louisville, Ky., prior to the Quaker State 400 when he complained to a friend of being tired.

He said this same friend gave him a pill he said was a workout supplement that would give him energy.

Allmendinger said it turned out to be the drug Adderall, to treat ADD sufferers. He said he does not have ADD and that it wasn’t until the second urine sample came back positive that he was able to trace it back to its source.

Adderall is the same drug that Jeremy Mayfield claimed he took under a doctor’s order when he, too, failed a NASCAR drug test.

FINISH LINES

Quebec’s Andrew Ranger won for the fourth time at the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres in the NCTS race on Sunday with fellow Quebecer L.P. Dumolin in second and J.R. Fitzpatrick, of Cambridge, Ont., third. ... In the wake of a fatal lightning strike at Pocono Raceway minutes after the Sprint Cup Pennsylvania 400 was called due to rain, questions are being asked about NASCAR’s emergency reaction policy in weather-related events. A severe storm warning was issued for the area of the track at 4:12 p.m., but the race wasn’t called until 4:54 p.m. The lightning that killed Brian Zimmerman hit at 5:01 p.m. .... With his win at Mid-Ohio on Sunday Scott Dixon cracked the top 10 of the career IndyCar victory list tied Rick Mears.

FELLOWS READY TO ROLL

With five NASCAR wins at Watkins Glen International already in his back pocket Ron Fellows has both experience and confidence on his side as he prepares for the Nationwide Series ZIPPO 200 Saturday.

Fellows will be in the same JR Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet that he drove to third place in the Sargento 200 at Road America in June.

“In fact, it is the same car we drove last year at the Glen as well,” Fellows said Tuesday in a NASCAR conference call.

And he said he was not concerned that the car — built by Hendrick Motorsports — might suffer the same transmission woes that took team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. out of the Sprint Cup Pennsylvania 400 on Sunday.

“From what I understand, it was an isolated incident with Junior’s (transmission),” Fellows said. “I’m not sure if he uses the same box that I do.

“In the stable of transmissions at Hendrick Motorsports and JRM, I use a Mid Valley, which is a transmission I’ve used in both the Truck Series and Nationwide in the past, as well as Cup. It’s a little bit more suited to my road-racing style.”

Fellows will be doing back-to-back Nationwide races, bringing the No. 5 Canadian Tire sponsored No. 5 Chevrolet to Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve — where he also won in 2008 — for the NAPA 200 the week after the Glen.

And he said he will take a two totally different set of skills to each event.

“It’s a night-and-day difference one week apart.” Fellows said. “Montreal is heavy, heavy braking from high speed for 45 mile-an-hour chicanes, and a 35 mile-an-hour hairpin. Up through the esses at Watkins Glen, you’re 150 miles an hour through the corner ... and aero is critical. Montreal aero is not much of a factor.”


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