Penske plans manufacturer shift in 2013

Penske Racing will reunite with Ford for the 2013 NASCAR season.

The move, first reported by Autoweek, was announced Thursday. 

Roger Penske, who currently fields cars for Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger in the Sprint Cup Series, worked with Ford from 1995 to 2002. Penske Racing switched to Dodge in 2003 and has been with the brand ever since.

“This is an historic day for our racing program, and we are thrilled to see another member of the extended Ford family coming back,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas. “Working together with Penske Racing gives Ford another championship-level program, and we are excited to take our racing program to all-new levels.”

Team owner Roger Penske said he is excited about the move.

“We look forward to joining the Ford Racing NASCAR program beginning in 2013," he said. "We appreciate the long-term commitment that Ford has made to Penske Racing and for their continued support of the sport.”

The addition of Penske Racing will elevate Ford’s Sprint Cup effort to nine full-time teams. More important, Ford adds two 30-or-younger drivers to its roster with Keselowski and Allmendinger. Both have plenty of blue sky ahead.

“The combined opportunity of Penske Racing’s young drivers coupled with our lineup of drivers — champions and young drivers — could offer a great offering to the fan base: seeing the champions as well as the young stars making their way through Fords,” said Jamie Allison, Ford Racing director.

In Penske’s 29 seasons in NASCAR, his teams have amassed 68 victories in 1,327 starts. Penske won its first NASCAR title in the Nationwide Series with Keselowski in 2010, but a Sprint Cup title has eluded the organization during its tenure in stock cars. Penske Racing’s best Cup showing was second place with Rusty Wallace in 1993.

The engine component of Penske Racing’s switch to Ford has yet to be determined. Roush Yates Engines currently supplies all the Fords in Sprint Cup. However, Penske Racing currently builds its own engines.

“If you go back in Penske Racing’s history, I would say that all the time we’ve been in many different motorsports, we have had our own engine company and developed our own engines,” Penske said. “And I think this was not part of the agreement, from the standpoint with Ford, that we would use Roush Yates or use other people’s engine. This is certainly something that we’re going to evaluate going forward. We have got a great engine company with great people.”

Penske also said that moving to the larger Ford arsenal will give him a measuring point for just where his team stands in terms of development.

“I think that’s one of the reasons when we looked at the change in 2013 is it’s going to be a difficult year for everyone as we have to change bodies on all of our cars, and if we were going to make a change, this was going to be the year that we would do that," he said. "Obviously, our contract with Dodge ends at the end of 2012, so when you take the contract ending, I think the chance for us in this particular case to be able to benchmark against someone like Roush and Roush Yates will give us a chance to be sure that we can be a leading team in NASCAR in the future.”

As for the future of Dodge, its only NASCAR team at this point would be Robby Gordon Motorsports. But Dodge has also reached out to other teams, including Richard Petty Motorsports, according to owner Andy Murstein. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing officials said they had not been approached by Dodge but added that the team is happy with Chevrolet.

Ralph Gilles, Dodge president and CEO of SRT Brand and Motorsports, issued a statement later Thursday addressing the announcement.

"Dodge has enjoyed a successful partnership with Penske Racing for 10 years," he said. "It’s a partnership that has produced results for both parties on and off the track. Roger has made a business decision to accept an offer with another manufacturer. We wish Roger and Penske Racing much success in the future.

"We are committed to work with Penske Racing to compete at the highest level, win races and contend for championships this season.

"Our motorsports involvement isn’t limited to NASCAR. We do value our NASCAR program and will be evaluating the opportunities available moving forward. As those opportunities materialize, we’ll reveal our 2013 plans, not only in NASCAR but in other forms of motorsports."