Posted July 5, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Murto: Dodge future hazy in racing

By Craig Murto - sports@nvdaily.com

Brad Keselowski took a back-up car and won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Kentucky, giving Roger Penske and Dodge their third Cup win of the season.

No other driver has three wins, and the victory, which vaulted Keselowski to 10th in points, nearly assures his placement in the 10-race Chase for the Cup at the end of the year.

But is it Penske winning the races, or is it Dodge? And since Penske already announced he will not campaign a Dodge in 2013, where will Dodge go? And who will provide engines, as Penske -- the only full-time Dodge team in NASCAR -- builds its own power plants?

An announcement is expected this weekend at Daytona. Rumors are that Michael Andretti plans to expand into NASCAR, and will come in with Dodge. The driver is yet unknown, but the rumor is that it will be one of his current IndyCar drivers. Marco Andretti, perhaps? And nobody knows what will happen with the engine program.

It is a shame that Robby Gordon's operation wasn't looked into as the Dodge flagship team. Gordon is an astute businessman, currently making a small fortune marketing his "Speed" energy drink. He also plans to recreate the Mickey Thompson off-road series, a highly successful stadium truck racing series that ran its course shortly after Mickey Thompson's murder. Gordon's Cup team -- which only runs part time, as, in his own words, he's "not going to go broke" running in NASCAR -- campaigns a Dodge.

And the engines are built by Joey Arrington. Joey, the son of longtime independent NASCAR racer Buddy Arrington, knows as much about building a Dodge engine as anybody. Buddy was the last of the Chrysler campaigners, not changing to Ford until long after Chrysler pulled out of NASCAR. If anybody deserves to be involved in Dodge, it is Joey Arrington.

The fact that Dodge isn't talking to Robby Gordon and Joey Arrington may be indicative as to why Penske is leaving them. Dodge is owned by Fiat; do they really understand American racing?

It'll be interesting to hear the Dodge announcement from Daytona. It'll also be interesting to hear if any details emerge about Matt Kenseth's departure from Roush Racing.

Rumors are that Kenseth will drive for Joe Gibbs. But why did he leave Roush? Money?
Kyle Busch ran the old ASA National Tour with Roush backing, but when it came time he signed with Rick Hendrick. A rumor at the time was that Kurt Busch advised him not to go to Roush. More than one source has indicated that Roush likes to keep control of money from the sales of souvenirs. Without a driver's contract in hand it's not known if that's true, but it is true that souvenir money can be a lot of profit for a driver, and if a driver doesn't get that money he's losing out on a lot that other drivers enjoy.

There wasn't anything to enjoy at Old Dominion Speedway, as Friday night's thunderstorms caused damage at the Manassas track, blowing the roof off the scoring tower and into the grandstands. Racing will resume at Old Dominion on July 14 when the Super Cup Stock Car Series -- a heavy car series such as ARCA or the K&N Series -- returns for a 100-lap feature and a 25-lap non-winners race. It should be an exciting night at Old Dominion.

Hagerstown enjoyed an exciting night Saturday as veteran Gary Stuhler won the 47th Johnny Roberts Memorial by passing Brian Booze in the final 50 yards of the 50-lap event. It was Stuhler's seventh win in the event, and his 130th win at the track. Though it was his first win since April 2011, he remains the winningest driver in the track's history. Alan Sagi finished third.

Jason Covert won the Late Model feature at Winchester on Saturday night. This Friday the racing will be on two wheels, as Winchester Speedway hosts the All-Star National Flat Track Series motorcycle racers. Practice starts at 5 p.m., racing starts at 7.

Two-wheeled racing continues on Saturday as the big boys of the AMA Grand National Series compete in the 31st Hub City Classic at Hagerstown Speedway. If you enjoy flat track motorcycle racing, it's well worth recording the Daytona Cup race and heading to Hagerstown; you can always watch the recording on Sunday and find out then what's going to happen to Dodge in NASCAR.

-- Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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