There was a time in the Nationwide Series when manufacturer Dodge was on top of the world.
They had some of the best organizations not only driving their cars: Penske, Evernham, and Ganassi; but those organizations were driving their cars into victory lane.
Kasey Kahne, Reed Sorenson, Kurt Busch, and Ryan Newman all made Dodge a force to be reckoned with from the years of 2005-2007.
Sorenson scored his first career Nationwide win in a Dodge with Chip Ganassi Racing at Nashville in 2005, followed by his second win later that year in Gateway.
Newman destroyed the competition in the later part of the year when he won six out of the final 12 races (including three straight) for Penske.
That helped complete an 11-win year for the manufacturer.
The following year, 2006, they would only win four races, two from Busch and two from Kahne.
But after the 2007 season, in which they won another four races: Juan Pablo Montoya scoring his first career win at Mexico City, Kasey Kahne winning at Charlotte, Sorenson at Gateway, and then Kahne again at Bristol in August; Dodge started slowly sliding off the map.
Over the last two seasons: 2008 and 2009; they haven’t seen victory lane.
That’s right, Dodge as a whole has not captured a checkered flag in the NASCAR Nationwide Series since August of 2007 and slowly teams are starting to switch out the manufacturer.
First was Rusty Wallace Racing, whom started with Dodge in 2006 before switching to Chevrolet.
Next year they’ll make another switch and be in Toyotas.
James Finch switched his No. 1 machine from a Dodge to a Chevrolet in 2007, where it remains today.
In 2010 there will only be four cars that will have the opportunity to break the Dodge winless drought.
Penske Racing will be running full-time schedules with 2009 Rookie of the Year Justin Allgaier in the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge, and new teammate Brad Keselowski in the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge.
Penske also plans to use another rookie, Parker Kligerman, whenever they can.
The other two full-time Dodge teams will be Keselowski’s brother, Brian, in his own No. 26 machine and whomever MacDonald Motorsports puts in their No. 81 car.
And of course, don’t forget the limited schedules of any other competitor that attempts to make a Nationwide race using the Dodge banner.
But if a victory is going to be seen for Dodge, it’ll most likely come from one of the Penske drivers: Allgaier or Keselowski.
Allgaier has never won a Nationwide Series race, but did finish sixth in points in 2009 to go along with his ROY honors.
He scored 12 top-10s and three top-fives. Most importantly he knows how to take care of his equipment and be there at the end of the race.
He’ll be just as strong in 2010 and most likely smarter. He and crew chief Chad Walter are a great pair and get better and better each week.
Don’t be surprised though if all eyes are on Keselowski, who for the last two years has contended for the Nationwide Series championship with former team JR Motorsports.
In those years however, he was driving a Chevrolet, now he’ll be in a different manufacturer for the first time in almost three years.
Keselowski has six career Nationwide wins and one Sprint Cup win.
When announcing his signing with Penske Keselowski said, “I want to be the guy who comes to Penske Racing and gets them their first championship.”
In order to accomplish that in the NNS he’ll have to lead the resurgence of a manufacturer that hasn’t been able to keep up with Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota.
What could help pick up Dodge is that in four races in 2010 they’ll be using the Nationwide Car of Tomorrow (COT): Daytona in July, Michigan in August, Richmond in September, and Lowe’s in October.
Chevrolet will use the Impala, Toyota the Camry, Ford the Mustang, and Dodge has decided to use the Challenger.
Allgaier has already tested the COT and says it drives like a dream. No better motivation than a new car that's bound to be fast.
Daytona in February will be a new year for everyone involved with the manufacturer.
New year, new driver, new cars, and a new opportunity to put the past behind them and get back to their winning ways.