No question: The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Dodge Charger is a good-looking car, with a body that brings back the brand identity to fans of the brand. But beauty isn’t skin deep — a lot of work has gone into developing the Charger race car for next season’s planned on-track debut at the Daytona 500.David Bailey, senior manager for SRT Motorsports Engineering, was in it from the beginning. “In late 2010, NASCAR called the meeting with all the manufacturers,” Bailey said, and all four were unanimous in their desire to race a car that looked a lot more like their road-going counterparts. NASCAR agreed. “They wanted a production car look. Each manufacturer had the opportunity to present individually to NASCAR.
Dodge showed “Basically a production Charger sitting on top of a Cup car chassis,” Bailey said. “And it just jumped out.” By March of last year, “we had some follow-up discussions with NASCAR, and they started what they called the ‘Gang of Four’ meetings at the tracks with the manufacturers.”
Even beginning with a car like the street-going Charger, it wasn’t easy translating it to the race car. Front and rear overhang had to be adjusted to NASCAR specifications, but still maintain the Charger’s character. Everything from the angle of the windshield to the shape of the grille had to be adjusted to meet three objectives: It had to race well, it had to meet NASCAR specifications, and it had to look like something Dodge engineers and designers would be proud of.
The nose, for example: “The production Charger is aggressive in front, but the 2013 NASCAR Charger is just evil looking in the nose, ” said Mark Trostle, who heads SRT Motorsports design. “It totally encompasses that ‘Get the heck outta my way’ look we wanted because it’s lower, wider, and the lines are angrier when you translate it from the production car to the race car.”
Development began, Bailey said, with the “greenhouse,” which is the part of the car above the hood, doors and trunk, containing the windows, “and we then moved down into the rest of the critical points on the car. Finally we established a package that all of the manufacturers agreed to.” Much of it was a natural evolution from the production Charger, Bailey said: “Our car is rear-wheel drive, and available with a V-8 engine, so it lent itself to the project quite easily.
“It’s been many, many years since we’ve had a race car that looks so much like the production car,” Bailey said. “And it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
SRT Motorsports at-track engineer Howard Comstock stressed that Dodge had no interest in a purely cosmetic treatment that fans could see through. “We didn’t want to do it with just decals,” he said. “We wanted a real identity, real features on the car that you see on the street car. After the design process started — and approximately 2,000 e-mails, and 600 drawings later — we’ve got a car that everyone knows is a Dodge Charger.”
The new Dodge Charger race car, Comstock said, “has a very unique look. It’s bold. We had to stand firm in the discussions and negotiations about what the shape of this new car was going to be.” Helpful was the fact that Dodge actually has high-performance versions of the Charger. “The other manufacturers,” Comstock said, “personally, I think they’re stretching a little bit because I don’t think of some of the other brands as performance models. But hopefully in the end, everybody got something out of it.”
Bailey said everyone involved with the project is delighted with the final product. “We’re a relatively small organization, but we’re intense, we’re experienced and we’re knowledgeable about what it takes to get into the winner’s circle. There’s a lot of pride here.”
The public debut of the NASCAR 2013 Dodge Charger comes March 11, just before the green flag falls on the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
From Denny Darnell