Even though Dodge fell short of winning the inaugural 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup, the manufacturer did walk away from the season's final round at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the "Hardware" in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) and the 2004 Raybestos NASCAR Nextel Cup Rookie of the Year championships.
Bobby Hamilton, owner and driver of the No. 4 Square-D Dodge Ram, became the NCTS oldest champion at 47 years of age, and Dodge's first NASCAR champion in any series since Richard Petty in 1975. Kasey Kahne, driving the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge, at 24 years old became the youngest Raybestos Rookie of the Year since Jeff Gordon turned the trick at 22 in 1993.
Hamilton, the former NASCAR Nextel Cup driver, was very happy collecting his and Dodge's first driver's championship, especially driving for his owner team.
"Obviously, I'm pretty proud of all my people," Hamilton said. "I've raced for a long time and driven for a lot of other people. I know that if you don't have good stuff or strong people to make this happen, it doesn't happen very easily. This championship is about our team, sponsors, and Dodge; without them we wouldn't be here. I was standing on stage with my son, grandchild, and all of my guys. It's almost like you wrote a script for a movie, and all of a sudden it lands that way. So, that's my soft spot with this deal."
On the younger side, Kasey Kahne walked away with the Raybestos 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Rookie of the Year after a record-breaking year that yielded everything except a win. Although rookie drivers are not usually marked out as immediate fan favorites, Kahne's exploits last year in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge won him the support of thousands of fans. Winning four Bud Poles, the talented rookie completed a countless number of daring, yet clean, passes, taking crafty veteran drivers to the very limit with sheer guts and determination. He still suffered one heartbreak after another when victory was within sight. Kahne was easily the standout driver in a year that had a good crop of rookie drivers. Kahne finished 120 points ahead of former Penske-South Dodge driver Brendan Gaughan in the rookie standings. Kahne's number of runner-up finishes tied Ryan Newman's '02 rookie record.
"We came close a lot of times, [and] just didn't get it done," said Kahne. "Either way we had a good season. The guys did a good job, and we'll be better next year for sure."
Kahne equaled last year's top rookie Jamie McMurray by finishing 13th in the final Cup Series point standings. He took Rookie of the Race honors 19 times, including 12 of the last 16 races. Gaughan came in second, taking the top spot 7 times.