By Mike Pryson, Crain News Service
DETROIT (Aug. 28, 2013) — Chrysler Group L.L.C.'s Mopar division's commitment to NHRA drag racing remains steady.
In the wake of the announcement of Ford Motor Co.'s pullback of its support for NHRA Mello Yello Series professional drag racing teams following the 2014 season, Autoweek magazine, a sister publication of Tire Business, asked Mopar CEO and President Pietro Gorlier his thoughts on the announcement and how Mopar's participation may be affected going forward.
Mr. Gorlier said that while Mopar remains committed to the NHRA, there are no plans at present to bring the Ford teams in to the Mopar stable. Ford will continue to support drag racing at the grassroots levels, but will no longer support NHRA Funny Car teams John Force Racing, Tasca Racing, and Tim Wilkerson's nitro team after 2014.
On Aug. 21, Mr. Gorlier issued the following statement to Autoweek:
"After being asked for my reaction to the announcement by the Ford Motor Co. that they will be withdrawing from competition in the NHRA Mello Yello Series after the 2014 season, I would simply say that I can't speak to their choices but I can only tell you this: Mopar has been involved and committed to drag racing for over 50 years and our motivation has always come from our passion for the sport, starting from the grassroots level all the way to up to the professional categories. For Mopar it is not just about putting our name on the car for all to see but rather about the vehicle itself, the equipment, the parts, the engines, but mostly about the people who are driven by our shared passion to put all those things together and get behind the wheel of our quality products.
"We are very proud of our long-standing relationship with the NHRA and will continue to foster it. Our involvement and commitment to this incredibly diverse and competitive series and sport gives us the opportunity to be closest to Mopar's core fans and supporters.
"Mopar has competed in the NHRA for over 50 years and has been actively involved with contingency awards since the 1960s. We have created and maintained programs like the long running Mopar HEMI Challenge at the U.S. Nationals, we hold sportsman barbecues at various national events, and this year added the 'Tom Hoover Sportsman Challenge' in support of the NHRA's Sportsman class racing. This year we also celebrated the brand's 25th anniversary as title sponsor of the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the longest running title sponsorship in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, and among the longest in all of motorsports. As further example of Mopar's commitment to sportsman racing, Mopar will be introducing a Third Generation 426 (Gen 3) Race HEMI engine to compete in the Factory Stock Showdown at the upcoming U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Next year Mopar will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic 426 race HEMI engine and the fact is, at the heart of every Funny Car and Top Fuel entry is a direct descendant of the original HEMI, no matter how it is dressed up.
"Mopar's commitment to sportsman and professional classes has been unwavering for more than 50 years and represents more than just a commercial relationship but rather has been a pathway to develop engineering expertise, new products and championship winning race cars. Not only did Mopar win both Pro Stock and Funny Car World Championship titles in 2012 but in its defense this season, Mopar entries have so far amassed 20 of a possible 34 national titles in both categories. Mopar also leads the Funny Car Championship with Matt Hagan, with Ron Capps and Johnny Gray in hot pursuit in second and thirds place heading to Indianapolis. In Pro Stock, 2012 Champ Allen Johnson is in second place with Mopar teammates Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Vincent Nobile right there with him in third and fourth place.
"We are extremely happy with our partnership with 2012 NHRA Pro Stock Champion, Allen Johnson, four-time World Champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., 2011 NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan and Don Schumacher Racing. Mopar has also built strong relationships with defending Funny Car champ Jack Beckman, Ron Capps and Johnny Gray, as well as Pro Stock drivers Vincent Nobile and Vieri Gaines. It is fantastic to see them all be so competitive this year and work towards defending our two NHRA championships. These drivers and teams represent Mopar's core values and competitive spirit.
"Would we consider expanding the scope of our relationship to include drivers and teams in search of a new manufacturer in the either category? There are no plans at this time but it is a topic that is always open to discussion."
This report appeared on the website of Detroit-based Autoweek magazine.