- John Schwarb
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JOLIET, Ill. -- The struggles in the U.S. automobile sales market are trickling down to racing, with the latest blow coming to the Craftsman Truck Series. Dodge will not provide any financial support to any teams in the series in 2009, Dodge Motorsports senior manager Mike Delahanty said.
"We'll have no factory-funded teams," Delahanty told ESPN.com. "When times are tough, there are certain things that are lower on the priority list than others."
Delahanty said the manufacturer's involvement with the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series is unaffected.
In recent years Dodge has scaled back its involvement, with only Bobby Hamilton Racing-Virginia receiving money from the manufacturer this season. The team ran two trucks for the first 16 races of this season but parked one prior to Saturday's race at Gateway, as financial constraints forced the team to lay off 15 employees and scale back operations to one team.
Dodge informed the team that its factory support would end this season, and BHR-VA has talked to Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota about a switch for 2009.
There are only two full-time Dodges currently in the Truck Series, the BHR-VA No. 18, driven by Dennis Setzer, and the No. 08 of SS Racing/Greenlight Racing, driven by Jason White. The No. 08 has not received any financial assistance from Dodge this year. Other Dodge trucks have raced on a part-time basis without funding, and that could continue next year.
"There's a lot of Dodge trucks, engines and parts out there, [teams] may choose to run them," Delahanty said. "We just won't be writing the checks to any teams."
Unlike the new cars being used in Sprint Cup, which are identical and only recognized as Chevys, Dodges, Fords or Toyotas by decals, NASCAR trucks still differ slightly by manufacturer.
Dodge and its parent company, Chrysler, have had the sharpest downturn in sales lately among U.S. Big Three automakers, which collectively are in their worst sales slump in a decade. Sales in August compared to the previous year were down 35 percent, compared to 20 percent at General Motors and 26 percent at Ford. Honda eclipsed Chrysler as the nation's No. 4 auto seller, and Nissan is close behind.
In July, General Motors notified officials at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway that its contracts would not be renewed, part of an overall $10 billion cost-cutting program.
John Schwarb is a motorsports contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.