New generation Nationwide cars shown

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Dodge is giving its NASCAR Nationwide entry more than a facelift when the series introduces its own version of the Car of Tomorrow in 2010.

The company is switching from the Charger to the Challenger for four races next season, coinciding with the implementation of the new Nationwide car that will be fully integrated into the series in 2011. Dodge unveiled the updated Challenger on Friday.

Toyota and Chevrolet followed suit Saturday, showing off revamped models of the Camry and Impala. Ford presented its new Nationwide Mustang at Roush Fenway Racing this month. The cars are scheduled to for tire testing at the massive oval Monday.

The new cars are closer approximations of the street version, a move manufacturers hope will lead customers into show rooms across the country. The current Nationwide cars are largely uniform save for variations on the grille.

"We're very proud of the look of the car," said Dave Bailey, senior manager of Dodge Motorsports engineering. "It's great looking. We've maximized the brand identity of the vehicle. We feel this is the right opportunity to showcase the Dodge Challenger in this series as the Challenger came back to the market in 2009."

The cars will debut at Daytona in July. Dodge will provide two Nationwide cars for Penske Racing.

"The car looks great and will give the Nationwide Series its own identity," said Justin Allgaier, who will drive the new car along with future Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski.

NASCAR announced the plan to move to new cars last month following a meeting between owners, crew chiefs and NASCAR officials in July. NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said the four races next year will give teams good feedback heading into 2011.

NASCAR used a similar plan to roll out the "Car of Tomorrow" on the Sprint Cup circuit in 2007. The car was introduced during the 2007 season and became the official Cup car a year later.