CUP: Dodge Not Worried About Teams

With hundreds of fans leaning in to get a glimpse, Dodge lifted the cover off its 2013 Sprint Cup car at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Cheers rang out and camera shutters clicked as various luminaries moved in and out to pose in front of the shiny red car and its off-the-lot counterpart next to it.

Dodge had been working on the car for two years, but now comes what may be the hard part: finding someone to drive it.

Caught off-guard by Penske Racing's announcement that it's switching to Ford next season, Dodge is scrambling to find a major team to drive a car it spent so much time creating.

"Based on the way our phone has been ringing, I'm not too concerned," said Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Dodge's rebranded SRT Brand and Motorsports. "It's been a pretty positive thing and with every storm there's a sunny day in there. It was unexpected, but we're ready for it. We've been knocked down a few times our history and we've come back."

Penske Racing has been with Dodge since 2003, winning 48 races and 72 poles in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, along with Brad Keselowski's 2010 Nationwide championship. The company announced on Thursday that it was switching to Ford in NASCAR competition next season, after its contract with Dodge runs out.

Penske and Robby Gordon currently compete with Dodge, so the company will need to find a replacement team. Gilles said Dodge is shooting mid-summer to have a team or possibly a few teams in place.

"We're keeping all our options open," Gilles said. "We're kind of putting a list together, setting up meetings in the coming months. We also have to look at the whole business strategy of how we approach NASCAR. We've been with Penske for over 10 years and it's an opportunity to look at the business model very differently and see where we go from here."

Dodge re-entered Sprint Cup racing in 2001 and had a deep stable of teams and drivers until an economic downturn left it with Penske as its only major team since 2009. The automaker has stabilized financially since parent company Chrysler was bought by Fiat three years ago and had been working on new strategies for its NASCAR program.

"We're actually investing in NASCAR more than ever," he said. "Some of the timing is unfortunate, some of the things Roger (Penske) didn't realize we were doing are coming to pass as we speak. If you see our new infield this year, it's unbelievable. We've really made some headway."

Gilles didn't provide many details on why Penske left, but said Dodge wasn't willing to do a five-year commitment because the company wanted to stay flexible.