Resurrections and Reality Checks

If you buy a pickup truck made by Chrysler Corporation, it’s no longer a Dodge. It’s a Ram. Ram used to be a model in the Dodge lineup—a damn fine truck, that Dodge Ram. But now Ram is a brand, equal to Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep. I don’t know if this is going to work. A Chevy truck is a Chevy truck, and ditto a Ford. But when is a Dodge truck not a Dodge truck? When it’s a Ram. My guess is it will take 40 years before Americans stop automatically saying “Dodge” in front of “Ram.”

And speaking of branding, on one level I love that SRT is no longer an upscale performance model of a Dodge or Chrysler vehicle, that it too is now a brand. Of course, until later this year the only SRT you can buy is an upscale performance model of a Dodge or Chrysler vehicle. Later this year the new SRT Viper hits dealerships. Not a Dodge, an SRT. I think this transition for Viper might be easier simply because, unlike Dodge trucks, they haven’t been making Vipers since the First World War. So I get this one.

But where now, SRT? The Ram brand has trucks, all trucks, and in lots of flavors. SRT cannot be a brand on one model alone. So the rumors we’re hearing that the new ‘Cuda coming to us in 2014 will be branded as an SRT make sense. For one thing, Plymouth is dead, so Chrysler would either need to revive Plymouth (which is not going to happen), or make the faithful say, “Dodge ‘Cuda” which just isn’t right. So a reduced weight modern ‘Cuda from SRT makes sense.

But that’s only two models by 2014. I don’t see how SRT can just suddenly stop making SRT versions of 300s, Chargers, etc., so I’m guessing that the new brand will follow a two pronged product strategy for many years.

All I know is that I want a 6.4L light weight SRT ‘Cuda. Put me down for a red one please!


Six short months ago, here in Southern California, we raced at Fontana Speedway, Irwindale Speedway, and drove up to the Bakersfield area to race at Famoso Raceway. As the only 1/8th mile track in the group, Irwindale was our least favorite for racing; we just prefer the full ¼ mile. Plus the track at Irwindale is a little awkward. If you’re in the right lane, the track veers to the left after the finish, and both lanes are bumpy. But Irwindale was often at the top of the fun factor for us on Thursday nights. Hundreds of cars (mostly street cars) in the lanes, and a thousand local people in the stands out to have fun.

What a difference six months makes. Fontana was ordered shut down by a judge and Irwindale closed and filed for reorganization within about three weeks of each other. Suddenly, we had just two choices for racing anywhere south of San Francisco: Famoso and the 1/8th mile at Barona in San Diego. Our planned busy early Spring of racing evaporated and we felt like someone in the family had died. But then Irwindale rose from the ashes and opened again last month. The TV news here in SoCal had covered the deaths of at least three people from illegal street racing since the tracks closed, which proves that prohibition never works. People will do what they love to do, even when it's illegal.

We missed the first Thursday back at Irwindale because we were racing in Las Vegas. But reports say that almost 300 cars were teched and over 2,000 spectators showed up. We finally made it to the ‘Dale in mid-May, and it was glorious. 250 cars, over 1,000 spectators, whole families, young and old, men and women, it was an automotive carnival. Everyone wanted to talk about racing and cars. “What’s it run?” Tire smoke, newbies who didn’t even know how to stage but were enthusiastic nonetheless, experienced racers testing their cars, food vendors, the Lucas Oil booth manned by our friend Ron De Hoop. It was an island of automotive escape. In the lanes and the grandstands there was no recession, the unemployment rate was temporarily forgotten, and all that counted was the cars, the racing, and the fun.

And there were grudge matches, most light hearted but a few very serious ones. The pent up need for a race track in the second most populous city in the country was painfully apparent by the outburst of participation upon its reopening. How many illegal street races were averted and converted into legal speed contests at the ‘Dale this night? More than a few.

Welcome back Irwindale, we almost forgot how much we love you

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