Mopar, Dodge Dart, and Magneti Marelli chose the NHRA's first east coast stop, the Amalie Oil Gatornationals, to debut the new Dodge Dart Pro Stockers, returning the Dodge brand to a well-known name in Hemi history. Carrying on with the two-car team of Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin Jr., the Darts were introduced at a special event prior to the start of the race which featured a live elephant. By selecting the Dart model, Dodge was able to complete an overall marketing strategy that includes Charger in Funny Car, Challenger in the Sportsman class, and Dart in Pro Stock.
The new Jerry Haas-built model replaces the Avenger, which was actually the most successful Pro Stock body in Mopar's history, winning 27 events and 28 top qualifying spots while taking consecutive World Championships in 2012 and 2013. Fellow competitor V. Gaines is slated to debut his Dart sometime later this spring. When Allen Johnson drove the new car to victory at the race three days later, it took off at the exact place the Avenger left off, as Johnson won the final event for that car in Phoenix, in February. Prior to Sunday's win, no Dart had ever won a race in the history of NHRA Pro Stock.
"The new Dart is a testament to how Mopar uses the motorsports program as a technological proving ground with Chrysler's own leading-edge technology and production processes," said Pietro Gorlier, Mopar President and CEO. "We have great expectations for its on-track success."
The Dart also returns the company to a two-door production model, and benefited extensively from virtual platform modeling prior to construction. These are the same tools used to develop new passenger cars, and eliminate a large amount of the guesswork when considering aero-styling and vehicle adaptation to the Pro Stock rules. Both race and production group engineers were involved in the project, and, once finished, the new body was tested and refined in the Chrysler Group's private wind tunnel in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
In a further change, Johnson's Dart will be decorated for Magneti Marelli Quality Auto Parts for 2014, which is a subsidiary of Fiat Group. When Gorlier was asked by a media member about whether any of the F1 technology that Magneti Marelli has become noted for was being adopted to the new Pro Stock program, he grinned and said, "No comment!" Starting in 2011, a combination of Mopar and Magneti Marelli was launched as partners in the global aftermarket parts business across many makes, and the new sponsorship reflects changes in marketing for the brands.