Brad Keselowski's run bittersweet for Dodge's NASCAR effort
As manufacturer prepares to bow out of the sport, one of its drivers is in contention for his first Sprint Cup championship.
FORT WORTH, Texas — Regardless of what happens Sunday, Brad Keselowski should leave Texas Motor Speedway within range of winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship with two races to go.
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It would be Keselowski's first title. And for the foreseeable future, Dodge's last.
The manufacturer that was at the top of the sport in the 1970s — when the legendary Richard Petty was winning more races than anyone ever in his famous No. 43 Dodge Charger — will be out of NASCAR in two weeks.
The manufacturer announced in August that it would pull out of the sport at the end of the season, despite having a few Sprint Cup teams, including Richard Petty Motorsports, that considered signing on to drive Dodge engines next year.
Keselowski's team, Penske Racing, is the only one in Sprint Cup with Dodge under the hood this year, but it was Penske's decision in March to move to Ford next year that ultimately signaled the end of the line for Dodge.
Keselowski is two points behind leader Jimmie Johnson entering Sunday's AAA Texas 500, which begins at 2 p.m. Keselowski could bring Dodge its first title since Petty won in 1975.
Dodge was out of the sport from 1977-2001, and despite some significant success since its return, another championship remained out of reach.
Rumors have circulated that Dodge's parent company, Fiat, lacks interest in NASCAR. But regardless, the manufacturer will be missed.
“For the sport, Dodge pulling out was not a great thing,” said Marcos Ambrose, who drives for Petty Motorsports. “It's been really healthy to have four manufacturers in the sport.”
At the same time, manufacturers have become less and less impactful on the actual stock cars NASCAR puts on the track.
“It's a little bit different since we went to the current template for the cars,” Chevrolet driver Jeff Gordon said. “All you're really looking at is the engine under the hood.
“It's not like back in the day when all the cars were unique to themselves. Back then it was extremely important to have more manufacturers. But we certainly like to have them involved. They're American-made and they have meant a lot to the sport.”
Keselowski is the only Dodge driver to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup this year, with five Chevrolets, three Toyotas and two Fords.
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