Published: October 27, 2008
There is still no official word from Chrysler executives, and the fate of NASCAR's Dodge teams remains uncertain, with the possible -- or probable -- Chrysler merger with/buyout by General Motors.
NASCAR executives are not thrilled, to say the least, with the implications and questions surrounding that merger debate, because 11 Sprint Cup teams run with Dodge factory backing.
However, according to sources, regardless of what happens with the potential merger, Dodge is committed to backing its NASCAR teams for at least one more year, but perhaps no more.
One thing for certain, NASCAR officials don't want Toyota buying up any more top Cup teams, like it did with Joe Gibbs, and they have made that clear to the company.
■ Depending on what GM might do with Chrysler, the futures for team owners Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske, George Gillett, Richard Petty and Robby Gordon are ripe for debate.
Gillett, who bought into Ray Evernham's Dodge-anchor operation last year, has made strong overtures to switch to Toyota. But NASCAR officials have apparently nixed any such move, and that could leave the Bill Davis Toyota team in limbo. Davis has talked for more than a year now about looking for a business partner.
The Gillett-Evernham operation has been Dodge's chief engineering arm in NASCAR, but Penske may now get that nod, and become the engine supplier to teams like the Pettys. Penske already leases Dodge engines to Robby Gordon.
Sources say that Penske, who runs one of the country's largest Toyota dealerships, in Los Angeles, has made overtures about Toyota, and may push for the launch of a satellite Toyota operation next year in order to be prepared for a possible changeover to Toyota in 2010.
■ What does 'factory support' really mean in NASCAR today? One, a sponsorship check; two, engine support; three, other technical support.
Dodge teams have won four of this year's 32 races, and three of last year's 36 races. And Dodge's new NASCAR engine, though legal all season, has been run just a few times, with less-than-spectacular results.
LINK: NASCAR Notebook: Mears may drive for Childress in Homestead race next month