Utter: Will Dodge really say goodbye after Homestead?

Analysis and news By Jim Utter

November 15, 2012 

  • Next race Ford 400 Where: Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, Fla. When: 3 p.m. Sunday TV: ESPN Radio: Motor Racing Network Last year’s winner: Tony Stewart

— This weekend is for celebration in NASCAR. Three series champions will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.

Unlikely as it seems, it also will be a time to say goodbye.

Whether Brad Keselowski wins his first Sprint Cup Series championship after Sunday’s Ford 400 or not – and there is a very good chance he will – it will mark Dodge’s last appearance in the series for the foreseeable future.

This is not a secret – the decision has been known since July. As this season draws to close, however, that decision seems more puzzling.

Dodge’s success in NASCAR is wide-spread.

For instance:

• Dodge engines have been universally hailed around the garage for getting the best fuel mileage, which has led directly to victories.

• Penske Racing’s two-car operation – which drew skepticism from many in the sport – upended the widely held belief that bigger teams were better. Both Penske drivers made the Chase last year and Keselowski won the 2010 Nationwide Series championship.

• Dodge was among the loudest voices in pushing NASCAR to allow more manufacturer identity in the Cup series, something it took the lead on with its sleek-looking car in the what now is the Nationwide Series. NASCAR’s move in this area, by the way, has been widely praised by participants, media and fans.

• Dodge is on the verge of capturing its first Cup title since 1975 and doing so against a small army of manufacturers with a wealth of teams and experience at their disposal.

Clearly, Dodge has in place everything it needs for long-term success. Everything, that is, except commitment.

Is Dodge really going to say goodbye?

There seems to be way too much to leave behind, including that nice-looking 2013 Charger.

I wonder if it’s for sale.

Streaking to the finish

Two streaks will be on the line Sunday.

• On March 24, 2002, Kurt Busch won his first Cup race at Bristol, Tenn. That victory was the first of 24 and marked the start of a 10-year streak during which he posted at least one win annually. Busch’s streak will end if he doesn’t win Sunday.

• After capturing at least one pole every year for 11 years, Ryan Newman’s streak is in jeopardy. He has 49 Cup poles but none during 2012. The last year he didn’t have a pole was 2000, when he ran only one event.

JGR racking up more titles

Joe Gibbs Racing is on the verge of its fourth Nationwide Series owner’s title.

Joey Logano leads the series in wins (nine) and JGR’s No. 18 Toyota team is in solid shape to win the owner’s championship. Richard Childress Racing is the only organization with four series owner’s titles.

Since 2008, JGR drivers have won 68 of 171 races – an astounding winning percentage of 39.7.

Patrick can set record

Danica Patrick could set the record for the highest-finishing female driver in NASCAR national series history this weekend.

She is 10th in the Nationwide standings, 10 points behind ninth-place Brian Scott.

The record is held by Sara Christian, who finished 13th in the series in 1949.

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