Posted on: March 1, 2012 9:05 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 9:27 pm

Penske's move to Ford has major implications

By Pete Pistone

(Will a Dodge Charger compete in the Sprint Cup Series in 2013 or will the manufacturer leave?)

Now that the dust has settled on the bombshell announcement of Penske Racing leaving Dodge for Ford next season, what are the ramifications of the decision? 

Currently the only Dodge team in NASCAR, Penske’s move to the Blue Oval means a more crowded Ford camp and at this point a giant void for his former manufacturer. 

Penske’s return to Ford gives “The Captain” a better chance to be successful in his mind and was the only motivation in the change. 

“Let me say this, this wasn’t about money,” Penske said. “We’ve been operating for the last 10 years pretty much with some support in the previous years, maybe four or five years ago, but we needed to have a benchmark and I think that having that additional technical information flow through the process as Ford has outlined it to us, I think, was very important to us.” 

Until Thursday Penske and his organization had preached the gospel of being the only Dodge team as a benefit. With no other organizations in the sport, the manufacturer was able to funnel all of its resources to the two-car effort at Penske. 

That view obviously changed and apparently the opportunity to align with Ford presented a better option. 

“I think when we weighed the plusses and minuses of the opportunity, it was apparent to us that we need to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship and we have been trying to do it alone,” Penske said of being the lone Dodge entity.

“I think with a certain amount of sponsorship available to us and we were fielding two, three cars and then some in the Nationwide, but having the opportunity to benchmark with someone like Roush, who has been world-class, you could see the performance this past weekend with [Matt] Kenseth and how good their cars are, we thought that it was the time for us to evaluate other options.” 

Now it’s time for Dodge to evaluate what options are available in the post-Penske era. There is speculation the manufacturer may simply leave NASCAR and focus its resources on the various other forms of motorsports it currently participates in. 

Dodge plans to unveil its 2013 Charger next week in Las Vegas, an event that had been in the works for several weeks. The company still plans to show the car to the world obviously without Penske’s participation. 

Since work on the new Sprint Cup car has been on the drawing board for some time, it does seem unlikely Dodge would scrap that path and pull up its NASCAR stakes. 

However the statement released by the company on Thursday did leave the door open to that possibility. 

“Our motorsports involvement isn't limited to NASCAR. We do value our NASCAR program and will be evaluating the opportunities available moving forward,” said Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Dodge’s Street Racing and Technology Brand and Motorsports, in the statement. “As those opportunities materialize, we'll reveal our 2013 plans, not only in NASCAR but in other forms of motorsports." 

That doesn’t sound like a resounding, “we’re sticking around NASCAR and the Sprint Cup Series” to me. 

Finding a new team to replace Penske appears to be a major challenge for Dodge’s NASCAR future. Most of the major organizations in the garage area are locked into manufacturer agreements for several years. 

A rumor that Richard Petty Motorsports, a former Dodge player that has its Ford contract up for renewal at season’s end, could return to the fold was shot down by the organization at least for the time being Thursday night. 

“We welcome Penske Racing to the Ford Racing Family in 2013,” read the statement.  “Additional teams mean more information for everyone and that's a very good thing from a competition standpoint. 

“We have a partnership with Roush Fenway Racing and we are happy to be a part of the Ford Racing program. As we always do, we will evaluate all of our options and make decisions based on what is ultimately best for our race team.” 

Other candidates may include Chip Ganassi’s team, which once was a Dodge operation in NASCAR. However Ganassi’s alignment with Chevy supporter DEI and his successful Earnhardt Childress Racing engine program would appear to be major hurdles to any kind of change. 

The elevation of a current Nationwide Series of even Camping World Truck Series to carry the Dodge banner in Sprint Cup is also possible, but such a program would more than likely take several years before becoming competitive at the sport’s top level. 

The coming days and weeks will very much shape the manufacturer landscape for 2013 and beyond. The introduction of the new Sprint Cup car next season pretty much levels the playing field and allows teams and their manufacturers to figure things out from a blank piece of paper.

But unless Dodge can find a new partner willing to be a lone wolf, it won’t be surprising to see one less manufacturer in the garage area next year.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: March 1, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 2:44 pm

Penske Racing leaving Dodge for Ford in 2013

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(The debut of the new Fusion in 2013 will include Penske Racing as part of the Ford program)

In a blockbuster announcement Penske Racing will join the Ford camp in 2012 leaving Dodge.

An official announcement was made Thursday morning confirming earlier reports the long-time NASCAR team would campaign Fords in NASCAR beginning next season.

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

More: Dodge statement regarding departure

The move returns Penske to the manufacturer a partnership that began in 1976 and 1977. Penske left and came back in 1994 before aligning with Dodge.

In total, through 524 NASCAR starts (509 Cup Series and 15 Nationwide Series) with Ford, Penske Racing teams earned 28 victories (27 Cup Series and one Nationwide Series) and 42 pole positions (36 Cup Series and six Nationwide Series).

The announcement was a surprise to many as Penske's two car tandem of Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger were both considered pre-season favorites for victories as well as possible Chase contenders.

Only one race into the new year, the organization and the manufacturer decided to announce their new partnership.

“It was important to get this agreement in place early so that we can plan ahead for the debut of the new 2013 NASCAR Fusion,” said Jamie Allison, Ford Racing director. “We will work with Roush Fenway on the final development of the new car during this season, but we want to be able to have our teams building their new cars for the 2013 season before the end of the year, as the transition to the new body is taking place.

“With the operations and technology resources Penske brings from all forms of racing, we know they will be a strong addition to our program, and we look forward to working with them and all our teams to create a stronger Ford NASCAR program with even greater depth.”

Ford unveiled its new 2013 Fusion during a media event in Charlotte back in January and the manufacturer sees the addition of Penske to its line-up of NASCAR organizations including Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports as another opportunity to win the Sprint Cup title in 2013.

“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.”

Where this news leaves Dodge and its NASCAR program is still murky. Penske was the only team in teh Dodge camp fielding entries in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.

Dodge is set to unveil its new 2013 Sprint Cup Charger next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but at this point does not have a team aligned with the manufacturer for the new year. 

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: March 1, 2012 10:02 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 10:31 am

Report: Penske to switch from Dodge to Ford

By Pete Pistone

Autoweek is reporting that Penske Racing will leave the Dodge camp and field Fords for the 2013 season. An official announcement is expected to come Thursday afternoon.

Penske has fielded Dodges since 2003, winning 26 times in that span.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 24, 2012 3:42 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 6:18 am

Ford debuts 2013 Sprint Cup car

Posted by Pete Pistone

Greg Biffle, Right, ClimbsGreg Biffle Drives
(Greg Biffle drove the new-look Fusion out at Tuesday's media event)

CONCORD, N.C. - Ford unveiled the 2013 Fusion that will compete on the Sprint Cup Series Tuesday as a media event held in the infield of Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The car was designed by the manufacturer in hopes of bringing back brand identity and manufacturer awareness to a NASCAR fan base that has grown tired with the current homogenous-looking Cup machines.

"We wanted Fusion to be the car that helped return 'stock car' to NASCAR," Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing said. "I think fans, when they see the car, are just going to smile and cheer. It is going to reengage them with the sport and make the sport better because there is just something natural about seeing race cars that look like cars in their driveways." 

Initial response from drivers has been positive including Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne's take on the new car.

“The coolest thing about it to me is that the Fusion looks like you just took that production version and put a race kit on it," Bayne said.
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