Sam Hornish Jr. drives his Dodge Challenger during the NASCAR Nationwide… (Charlie Neibergall / Associated…)
Dodge said Tuesday it plans to withdraw from NASCAR competition after this season, citing an inability to strike a favorable new deal with one or more race teams.
That leaves NASCAR with three manufacturers: General Motors' Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota.
Dodge is a division of Chrysler Group, which is majority owned by Italy's Fiat, and its decision was not unexpected. Its last remaining team in NASCAR's top-level Sprint Cup Series, Penske Racing, already had said it planned to move to Ford next year.
Penske's Cup drivers are Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr.
Although "a number of opportunities emerged" to keep Dodge in NASCAR, "in the end we simply couldn't develop the right structure" to continue, Ralph Gilles, president of Chrysler's motor sports unit, said in a statement.
However, Gilles said Dodge had "not lost focus on 2012 or the commitment to our partnership with Penske Racing," which also includes Penske's team in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series.
Dodge and its former Chrysler partner Plymouth were NASCAR powerhouses in the 1960s and early '70s when such legends as Richard Petty drove their cars. But Dodge left the sport in 1977 before returning in 2001.
"We wish them well and hope they again will choose to return to NASCAR at a later date," NASCAR Chairman Brian France said in a statement.
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