Kasey Kahne won the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta in a Dodge Charger! Kurt Busch won the Food City 500 at Bristol in a Dodge Charger. Great, so that means all of the handling quandaries with the Charger are alleviated, right? Hardly! While Kahne’s win on an aero sensitive racetrack is an indication that the Charger has potential, it doesn’t suggest that the handling is where it needs to be in order to competitively vie against the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
It’s important for us not to become deceived by Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch’s wins. The Charger is by no means a powerhouse body style. The only car the Charger has outperformed this year is the Intrepid. At Atlanta, Kahne was the lone Dodge battling for the top spot amongst the Fords of Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and Mark Martin, and the Chevrolet’s of Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson. Yeah, Kurt Busch spent some time near the front of the pack before he was taken out by Kevin Harvick and David Stremme, but the potency of the Charger was just not convincing enough. Reed Sorenson and Kyle Petty pulled off top ten finishes in the Charger, but where would they have finished if a caution would have come out late in the race, and Matt Kenseth, Robby Gordon, and Jeff Burton did not have to make green flag pit stops? Top fifteen perhaps?
Kahne and his crew should be commended for being able to hit on a productive combination, but NASCAR shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the inferiority of the Dodge Charger in comparison to the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Monte Carlo, especially at the 1.5-mile and 2-mile tracks. What needs to happen for DaimlerChrysler is for all teams to abandon the 2004 Intrepid all together, and come to some kind of consensus as to what solution they should present to NASCAR. Chip Ganassi, Ray Evernham, Roger Penske, and Kyle and Richard Petty need to thoroughly examine this issue as a group, because right now they are all on different wave-lengths.
Now that the Dodge Charger has visited victory lane two weeks in a row, any assistance from NASCAR is unlikely.
In 2005, the Dodge Charger’s abnormally shaped nose caused a profusion of handling woes for the Dodge teams. Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, and Jeremy Mayfield were the only Dodge representations in victory lane. Before the NASCAR Nextel Cup season began, Dodge officials were desperately seeking assistance from NASCAR in order to adjust the nose of the Dodge Charger in hopes of improving the aero-sensitivity issues. In fact, in January all Dodge teams were scheduled to test at Kentucky as they hoped to find common ground as to what the perfect fix would be. Of course, that test was snowed out and there seems to no impending rescheduling plans. And now, with the whole Intrepid versus Charger issue, Dodge teams seem to be at odds, and according to Ray Evernham, they are no longer seeking assistance from NASCAR.
While Evernham Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing have persistently stuck with the Dodge Charger, Penske Racing has been in another world as at least one of their teams have fielded the 2004 Dodge Intrepid in all races except for the Daytona 500 and Food City 500. Petty Enterprises appears to be sitting on the fence as they have dabbled with Intrepid at California and Atlanta.