Dodge Disappoints at Daytona: Is this the Beginning of the End?

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brad keselowski charger.jpgWhen the 54th running of the Daytona 500 finally got underway after a day of delays due to hard rains, three Dodge Charger stock cars were in the 43 car field. And when the checkered flag waved, none had managed to finish better than 32nd.

The three teams that managed to qualify for the 2012 Daytona 500 included the #2 Miller Lite Charger driven by Brad Keselowski, the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Charger driven by AJ Allmendinger and the #7 Speed Energy Charger driven and owned by Robby Gordon.  Allmendinger was the strongest of the Dodge Charger drivers in qualifying, starting in the 15th position while Robby Gordon started 17th and Keselowski started in the 23rd position.

Unfortunately for Dodge-loving NASCAR fans, the problems started early for Ma Mopar. AJ Allmendinger hit a loose tire on pit road on lap 14 during a
caution caused by former Dodge driver Ryan Newman spinning out on the
backstretch.  After hitting the tire, Allmendinger’s #22 Shell Pennzoil
Charger was pushed behind the wall for repairs and while he would
return, he would only end up completing 177 laps and he finished in 34th

The next bad news for Dodge fans came on lap 25 when the engine in Robby
Gordon’s #7 Dodge Charger expired early. Gordon’s engine blow did not
lay down any oil so there was (surprisingly) no caution flag but this
would spell the end of Gordon’s 2012 Daytona 500.  Due to these
mechanical failures, Gordon finished 41st.

Even though Brad Keselowski started towards the back of the field in his
#2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger, he avoid the early multicar pile ups to
work his way towards the front of the field.  Keselowski was running in
3rd place when David Stremme’s Chevy Impala blew an engine and spun out,
bringing out a caution flag and sending nearly the entire field to put
road for tires and gas.  While Keselowski was in the pits, former Dodge
driver Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his #42 Target Impala slammed
into the track crew jet dryer truck, causing a massive spill of jet and diesel fuel followed by a towering inferno that would damage the
track and cause a delay of over two hours.

Once the Daytona International Speedway track crew got the racing
surface in turn three repaired, the field was led back to the green flag on
lap 166 with Keselowski in the middle of the field.  Keselowski worked
his way back towards the front of the field until yet another massive
crash on lap 187 took out his #2 Miller Lite Charger, along with other
front runners Jamie McMurray (another former Dodge driver), Carl Edwards
and Regan Smith.  As a result of the crash, Brad Keselowski was forced
to settle for a disappointing 32nd place finish.

The number of teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series running Dodge race
cars has been diminishing over the past few years and with just three
cars (two teams, Penske Racing, Robby Gordon Racing) in the Daytona 500 the rough start for the Dodge teams could be the beginning of the end
for the Dodge racing program.  The good news is that Keselowski’s early
success shows that his #2 Dodge Charger can be successful but if the
Dodge race teams want to survive the few drivers they have will need
to start winning some races.

Complete results for the 54th running of the Daytona 500:
Position – Driver – (Car #) – Dodge drivers in Bold
1 Matt Kenseth Matt Kenseth (17)
2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88)
3 Greg Biffle (16)
4 Denny Hamlin (11)
5 Jeff Burton (31)
6 Paul Menard (27)
7 Kevin Harvick (29)
8 Carl Edwards (99)
9 Joey Logano (20)
10 Mark Martin (55)
11 Clint Bowyer (15)
12 Martin Truex Jr. (56)
13 Marcos Ambrose (9)
14 Bobby Labonte (47)
15 Dave Blaney (36)
16 Tony Stewart (14)
17 Kyle Busch (18)
18 Terry Labonte (32)
19 Tony Raines (26)
20 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (6)
21 Ryan Newman (39)
22 Landon Cassill (83)
23 David Gilliland (38)
24 Regan Smith (78)
25 Casey Mears (13)
26 David Reutimann (10)
27 Elliott Sadler (33)
28 Joe Nemechek (87)
29 Kasey Kahne (5)
30 Michael McDowell (98)
31 Jamie McMurray (1)
32 Brad Keselowski (2)
33 Aric Almirola (43)
34 A J Allmendinger (22)
35 Trevor Bayne (21)
36 Juan Pablo Montoya (42)
37 David Stremme (30)
38 Danica Patrick (10)
39 Kurt Busch (51)
40 Jeff Gordon (24)
41 Robby Gordon (7)
42 Jimmie Johnson (48)
43 David Ragan (34)

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