NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The car won't look like an Intrepid. It won't even look much like a traditional Charger. But the Chrysler group's Dodge division will have a new entry when next year's NASCAR season begins in February.
Pending NASCAR approval, a new version of the Dodge Charger will replace the Intrepid as the automaker's Nextel Cup car in 2005.
NASCAR officials say Dodge has submitted the redesigned Charger for consideration. After subjecting the car to safety and performance tests, NASCAR is expected to approve the car by Sept. 1.
"You can guarantee we will have a car on the track in 2005," Dodge spokesman Todd Goyer said at a recent media event in Nashville, Tenn.
Under NASCAR rules, Dodge couldn't run the Intrepid next season because it's no longer in production. NASCAR gives automakers "a reasonable amount of time" to switch to a new production model.
The Magnum sport wagon replaced the Intrepid in June.
"If you're not building the car anymore, they give you a period to change," Goyer said.
Dodge wants to use the NASCAR connection to create excitement about its forthcoming four-door Charger street sedan.
A new version of the muscle car is scheduled to begin production in March. Dodge could get a marketing lift by unveiling the Charger on the track at the Daytona 500 in Daytona, Fla., in February, a month before it arrives in showrooms.
Dodge has had a successful run in NASCAR since 2001, when it returned to competition after a 20-year hiatus.
Dodge's last NASCAR championship came in 1975, when Richard Petty won 13 races in 30 starts.
The Charger's NASCAR history is even more colorful. NASCAR banned the car in 1965 from its Grand National competition for using a V-8 engine design called the Hemi.
In response to the ban, Chrysler withdrew its support for the 1965 NASCAR season. A year later, the automaker returned to NASCAR racing with a Street Hemi Charger and won the championship.
Since its return to NASCAR in 2001, Dodge has won 22 races behind drivers Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Jeremy Mayfield and Kasey Kahne.
Dodge has won only twice this year. It ranks third in Nextel's manufacturer's standings behind Ford and Chevrolet.
Dodge used the Magnum as a pace car during a Nextel race this year in Chicago.