Why Returning to NASCAR Would Be a Smart Move for Dodge
Auto racing has always been a perfect proving ground for automakers to publically put their latest powertrains to the test. For a moment, it seemed NASCAR would go hybrid for the 2024 season, all so Dodge might return to the sport to show off its new eMuscle technology.
Dodge has extended the timeline for its 2024 hybrid Charger, and NASCAR has relegated its hybrid and electric racers to exhibition events. But whenever both Dodge and NASCAR do go hybrid, a return to the sport would be a smart move for the automaker.
What was the last Dodge in NASCAR?
A Dodge, driven by Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, won the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup series. But for 2013, Team Penske swapped to Ford, and Dodge bowed out of NASCAR.
Dodge first entered stock car racing in 1953. For decades, the unofficial motto of OEMs in NASCAR was, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” So, as Dodge introduced new V8 engines throughout the 1960s and 1970s, it is no wonder it was invested in showing what it could do at NASCAR tracks around the country.
It also makes sense that by 2012, when Dodge and its V8s had enjoyed a stable market share for decades, it saw investing in NASCAR as an extravagance. But with new powertrains to prove to the public, rumor has it that Dodge is considering a return to NASCAR.
Is Dodge rejoining NASCAR?
It seriously looks like Dodge and NASCAR are in talks for the OEM to return — once the series goes hybrid. As Dodge’s management shifts, there’s no guarantee when/if this will happen. But NASCAR is testing a hybrid car in 2024, and Dodge is rolling out a hybrid Charger sometime the same year.
NASCAR has long been open about courting OEMs in addition to the Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota trifecta it’s had for a decade. In February 2021, after rolling out the Next Gen race cars, NASCAR President Steve Phelps let an intriguing secret about NASCAR’s hybrid future slip:
“I would be surprised if a new OEM came in without some sort of electrification, and I am not talking about all electric, I am talking about a hybrid system.”STEVE PHELPS, NASCAR PRESIDENT
At the time, many assumed the OEM Phelps referenced must be Honda. But within the year, Dodge announced that its 2024 car lineup would be all hybrid and electric. Then NASCAR announced it would go hybrid in 2024. It became crystal clear that NASCAR and Dodge had been discussing ways to showcase Dodge’s new hybrid lineup.
A hybrid NASCAR series would also allow Ford to spotlight its Mustang Mach-E drive units, Toyota to show off its i-FORCE MAX powertrain, and Chevrolet to put its Ultium batteries to the test.
Will NASCAR go to electric cars?
NASCAR originally predicted it would go hybrid for the 2024 season. Now it looks like the only hybrid Cup car will be a one-off Hendricks Motors is building for the 2024 Hours of Le Mans. In addition, the full battery electric exhibition series debut date is indefinite.
Hendricks Motorsports modified a NASCAR Next Gen car to run at the 2023 24 hours of Le Mans. For 2024, it is taking its modifications further, using a smaller internal combustion engine and adding an electric drive unit. Hopefully, this hybrid will be able to use regenerative braking to push a tank of gas further and be more competitive during the long race. But the result may be a preview of future NASCAR technology.
In July 2022, the KickinTheTires.net website received leaked NASCAR documents outlining a tentative fully electric stock car series. The plan was for 30-minute races during regular NASCAR Cup weekends at six separate tracks.
This plan makes a ton of sense: EVs promise exciting racing but are still incapable of endurance events. So, a separate EV class could add some diversity to NASCAR weekends. And perhaps, as part of Dodge’s return to NASCAR, one of these EVs will be the upcoming Charger Daytona SRT Banshee EV.
Next, learn why Ford is returning to Formula 1, or see some potential concepts for Dodge NASCAR race cars in the video below: