NASCAR executives remain optimistic that the introduction of the Next Gen car will lead to new manufacturers entering the sport.
Asked last weekend at Phoenix Raceway how long it might be before a new manufacturer arrives, NASCAR President Steve Phelps confirmed there continue to be discussions on the topic.
“Our three existing OEMs are happy about that,” said Phelps. “Our race teams are happy about that. We’re happy about that. It’s been widely rumored that Dodge is one of those or closest. I won’t confirm or deny that.”
Dodge made a grand return to NASCAR Cup Series racing in 2001 with Ray Evernham’s new team. But after a 12-year (and 55 race win) run, Dodge again decided to exit NASCAR after the 2012 season. It went out on top as Brad Keselowski drove a Team Penske Dodge to the championship that season.
What makes Next Gen more attractive for new OEMs is the standardized parts and the expectation that it will lower costs over time. The current engine package is also expected to be phased out over the next few years, potentially leveling the playing field further for a prospective new manufacturer. To that end, Phelps believes some sort of hybridization component will be a significant draw to an OEM.
But it might not be just one: Two or three new OEMs is the target for NASCAR.
“It’s important; we’ve made no bones about the fact that we want to have a new OEM in our sport,” said Phelps. “I think we got delayed with the pandemic. With that said, we are in an attractive place, I believe, for OEMs to come into the sport. Now is an important opportunity for them to do that because of the Next Gen car.
“I also believe the fact that the sport is growing and has a relevance that it hasn’t had in decades is causing some real interest from other OEMs. Nothing to report at this particular point. I would say that things are progressing.”