Penske leaving Dodge for Ford

Updated: March 1, 2012, 6:52 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Roger Penske is moving his racing organization from Dodge to Ford in 2013 to give it the best opportunity to compete for a Sprint Cup championship, he said Thursday after the move was announced.

Penske's teams will run Ford Fusions in the Sprint Cup Series and Ford Mustangs in the Nationwide Series, starting next season. His organization, which fielded Fords from 1995 to 2002, switched to Dodge in 2003.

Penske said being associated with Ford "gives us a chance to make sure we can beat any team in NASCAR in the future.''

He said the move will allow Penske Racing to measure its success against Roush Fenway Racing, which is also associated with Ford, instead of competing as Dodge's lone Sprint Cup team.

"When we weighed the pluses and minutes of opportunities it was apparent to us we need to win NASCAR Sprint Cup championships,'' Penske said. "We've been trying to do it alone.

"But having the opportunity to benchmark with someone like Roush, who has been world-class as we saw with the performance last week with (Matt) Kenseth (winning the Daytona 500) and how good their cars are, we felt it was time to evaluate other options.''

Penske's two-car operation with Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger, as well as Robby Gordon as an owner-driver, are the only Dodge teams in the Sprint Cup Series.

As Gordon has an agreement with Penske for his racing engines, the move could leave the Sprint Cup series with three manufacturers in 2013: Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota.

Penske said his contract with Dodge ends after the 2012 season, creating a "watershed moment'' to look for a new partner.

Penske would not commit to running his own engine department, as he has since entering the sport. The other Ford teams get their engines from Roush Yates Engines.

"This is something we'll evaluate going forward,'' said Penske, who has about 70 employees in his engine department. "From an engine perspective, we have a commitment to our people at the engine shop. This is something we'll look at."

However, Walt Czarnecki, the executive vice president of Penske Corporation, made it clear that "our intent is to utilize our engine department.''

Czarnecki said that while Penske Racing benefited greatly from the technical support of Dodge, having another organization such as Roush Fenway Racing with which to share information during practice, test sessions and at the shop will be an advantage.

"We've done more than a reasonably good job the last couple of years when we were the only show in town, but we couldn't sit down with another Dodge engine builder and share their best practices,'' Czarnecki said.

Penske and Ford Racing's Jamie Allison said the deal had been in the works for several months, with talks escalating in the past few weeks. Penske said the move gives his organization a better opportunity to compete with teams such as Stewart-Haas Racing, which has an association with Chevrolet powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports.

The decision was made before Daytona, where the Roush Yates engines were strong, Penske said.

Allison called it a "historic day'' for Ford Racing.

Ralph Gilles, the president and CEO of Chrysler Group LLC's motorsports division, wished Penske success and pledged his company's support of the team's efforts to win races and 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," Gilles said. "As those opportunities materialize, we'll reveal our 2013 plans, not only in NASCAR but in other forms of motorsports."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

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