Report: Don’t expect a Dodge return to NASCAR – for now

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Dodge made its way out of NASCAR following the 2012 season but did so in grand fashion with a Sprint Cup championship thanks to Brad Keselowski (pictured) and Team Penske.

But don’t expect the brand to return to stock car racing – at least for now.

Ralph Gilles, president and CEO for Chrysler Group’s SRT category (whose Vipers are competing in this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona), has left the door open but told FoxSports.com’s Lee Spencer that such a return would have to wait a little bit, citing the need to find solid partners.

“We’re never going to have the wherewithal to scoop everybody up,” Gilles said to Spencer. “We’re not big enough to have a stronghold, so it’s always been an issue of having the right team.

“When we were [with] Penske and before that Evernham [Motorsports], the moons were aligned back then. Things made sense – the right people in the right places. Today, it’s not quite the same.”

Last December during NASCAR Champions Week celebrations in Las Vegas, CEO Brian France said that there was room for more manufacturers in the series, even though he also noted the difficulties of potential manufacturers landing strong teams.

And through the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, NASCAR does has the opportunity to forge and retain links with groups such as Chrysler, which owns both the Dodge and SRT brands.

“We didn’t get into sports car racing just to be in sports car racing,” France said in Vegas. “We got in it because it gave us some strategic relationships, namely relationships with OEMs around the world, and those are going to prove to be beneficial as they see how NASCAR works in the road racing series that they participate in now, and I think they’ll like the way we handle competition and manufacturers and so on.”

With all of that taken into consideration, Dodge does have an avenue to return to America’s most popular form of motorsport. But it appears they’ll wait until they’re good and ready for that.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.