The Nascar Sprint Cup Series will again say goodbye to Dodge at the end of the 2012 season. Since Dodge returned to Nascar’s premier series in 2001, with the guidance of former Jeff Gordon crew chief Ray Everaham, the manufacturer has been competitive on a race by race basis, but has yet to put together a serious run at a Cup Championship until this year. Dodge, and Penske Racing have put their fate in the hands of a 28 year old driver from Rochester Hills Michigan named Brad Keselowski.
If one believes in history repeating itself, the odds against Keselowski winning this year are pretty slim. In fact, the last time Dodge won a series championship, it was The King, Richard Petty who took the trophy home. Petty won back-to-back Championships with a Doge Charger in 1974 and 1975. His last Cup championship was in 1979, but was won in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Bobby Issac won the 1970 championship, also in a Dodge Charger. Petty won the remainder of his championships in a Plymouth.
Talk about history repeating itself, Dodge is leaving the sport again for the same reason they did in 1979, the economy. If you’re old enough to remember what the economical landscape was like in 1979, you’ll remember President Jimmy Carter had our interest rates in the double digits. We had hostages in Iran, and Chrysler Corporation president Lee Iacocca asked Congress for an $8.3 Billion bailout to keep the car manufacturer from going completely under, and pulled all support for Nascar racing.
Dodge would like to remain in the sport for the 2013 season, but with Penske Racing being the last serious Dodge team to jump ship, they are left with only under funded teams who are interested in moving forward. Dodge knows that after Penske moves on to Ford nest season, their future is somewhat bleak at Nascar. Even with the long relationship they had with Richard Petty, RPM has announced they will remain with Ford through the 2013 season, and have no plans for returning to Dodge.
So if Dodge is going to re-write history and win a Championship this year, Brad Keselowski will have to earn it the hard way. My feeling is that there are only four competitors left in the Chase who have a legitimate chance, and one of them is the Miller Lite Dodge. The big problem he faces is the Lowes Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson. Brad is on a Tony Stewart type roll of a year ago, and has won two of the first three races, but will need to stay the course to beat the five time champ.
The last track where Keselowski is, I feel better than Johnson is Talladega, and if he can leave the last restrictor plate track where he has won twice, he may be able to hang on. After Talladega, the series gets into Jimmie’s wheel house where he has clinched his other championships, the 1.5 mile D-Ovals. The only exception is Martinsville, where he has six wins, and Brad has yet to get a checkerd flag.
The other contender I don’t want to forget about here is Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs driver has ran strong through the Chase so far, and had Dover not turned into a fuel mileage race, we may not be having this conversation. I don’t think we have heard the last of the #11 Federal Express Toyota. And by the way, how many championships have we seen from Toyota? History in not on their side either.
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