Dodge is like a rookie at Daytona and just can’t find a partner who wants to draft with them. Judd Engines has an Indycar engine ready to go and just waiting for a manufacture to badge it. Perhaps Dodge can pick up the pieces of Lotus’ failed Indycar effort and run to the front with it.
I suspected long before the initial announcement that Dodge would leave NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series and despite their comments otherwise I don’t think they have any intention to return. Just to get on the track Dodge would have to spend millions. The only team with fabrication experience and no contract is Robby Gordon Motorsports, and the only open top of the line engine shop is owned by Roger Penske. It would take millions in development just to get on the track, and then spend millions more to pull off a top line racing team.
There is a much cheaper option, Indycar, where both teams and an engine shop are available at a pretty good discount. Lotus bought their engines from John Judd’s Engine Development Limited. Lotus committed late, underfunded the program and pulled out at the end of the year.
Judd recently went public essentially stating that his program was idling, just waiting for a manufacture to sign a contract and badge it. He told Speed.com’s Marshall Pruitt they can build on Lotus’ early exit
The IP (intellectual property) and the physical parts all belong to us, All the engines are our property and have ownership of all the tooling and everything else to produce more engines, to develop them and to support a continuation of the program.”
So there you have it, an engine builder in search of a manufacture and a manufacture in search of a series to run in.
Judd has a list of modifications they want to make to their twin-turbo V6, and says they could be much more competitive next year, even if a manufacture commits at this late date. Not only is there a turn-key engine program ready to go there are teams still looking for an engine lease.
Michael Shank Racing, Conquest Racing, potentially Scuderia Coloni and others could still be looking for a engine lease for 2013. Beyond that, neither Honda nor Chevy locked their teams into long term contracts. There’s a good chance that Andretti Autosport, Rahal Letterman, KV Racing and maybe another team or two could be pulled away from the top two.
While I’m not privy to the numbers you would have to think that the cost of running a Indycar program would have to be cheaper than NASCAR. There were rumors of a fourth manufacture coming in last year, and Dodge/Fiat was rumored to be in the running. Dodge’s SVT brand is a presenting sponsor for the Grand Prix of Baltimore, which could just mean they’re supporting their Viper program, but maybe they’re testing the waters.
The other thing that makes me wonder if Dodge is sniffing around is all of this sudden interest from Italy. There’s a chance that a deal is done for an Italian round this September, and while chassis manufacture Dallara is Italian it would seem that some corporate entity wants Indycar in Italy, and Fiat would be a likely suspect. If the brand their engine with Dodge/Chrysler/Fiat they could get the best return from their investment.
When Dodge entered NASCAR trucks were the bulk of Dodge’s business, and NASCAR was the appropriate market to maximize their marketing demo. Now that Fiat owns a good portion of Dodge their core business has shifted. They’ve moved into cars like the Caliber, Viper, Chrysler 300 and the Fiat 500, cars that are more at home in the streets Indycar races in than at the big, smooth ovals NASCAR drives around.
At first glance Dodge to Indycar doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but the more I look at it the more sense it makes. Hopefully Dodge executives will come to the same conclusion.