Roger Penske Says The Timing Was Right To Make Switch From Dodge To Ford
NASCAR team Owner Roger Penske said that the team’s switch to Ford from Dodge following this year was "appropriate" at this time because all NASCAR manufacturers "will be switching to new models for the 2013 season,” according to Mike Hembree of SPEEDTV.com. Penske said, “When we weighed the pluses and minuses of the opportunity, it was apparent to us that we need to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. We’ve been trying to do it alone.” Penske Racing currently is the “only major Sprint Cup team associated with Dodge,” and Penske said that rejoining Ford “will give his group a benchmark to measure its level of success.” Hembree reported the new deal also will “link Penske and Roush Fenway Racing under the Ford umbrella, although it remains to be seen whether that relationship will foster cooperation, competition or a healthy mix of each.” Penske has a partnership with Chevrolet in the Izod IndyCar Series, but he said that “avenue is crowded on the Sprint Cup side.” Penske added that his team “remains committed to Dodge for this season with the idea of ‘winning races, making the Chase and winning the championship.’” Hembree noted Penske’s departure leaves Dodge “without a major team in NASCAR, and there was no indication Thursday as to what direction the manufacturer might take in pursuit of new partners.” Dodge President & CEO Ralph Gilles said the group “will be evaluating the opportunities available moving forward” (SPEEDTV.com, 3/1). Penske said of the move, “Let me say this, this wasn’t about money.” He added, “We cannot sit where we are. We’ve got to get better and from my perspective, this opportunity only comes at certain times.” Penske: “We wanted a long-term deal because I have to make commitments to sponsors. Obviously with drivers today, you can’t just hire a driver at the last minute, so I think some of those things came into play. ... This was a business decision” (SCENEDAILY.com, 3/1). Penske and Ford North America Motorsports Dir Jamie Allison said that the deal “had been in the works for several months, with talks escalating in the past few weeks.” Penske said that the decision “was made before Daytona, where the Roush Yates engines were strong” (ESPN.com, 3/1).
WHAT'S NEXT FOR DODGE? USA TODAY’s Nate Ryan noted Dodge’s next move is “uncertain,” and there is “no possibility of poaching [the] Cup’s four powerhouses -- Hendrick (Chevrolet), Childress (Chevy), Roush (Ford) and Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota) -- because their manufacturer allegiances are so strong.” Some midlevel teams “might consider switching, but even some of those (such as Earnhardt Ganassi) have long-term deals that might require buyouts.” Ryan notes perhaps the “most likely option” is Richard Petty Motorsports, whose deal with Ford “expired after the season” (USA TODAY, 3/2). Gilles said that the announcement “would not alter the effort going forward for 2012.” Gilles: "We are committed to work with Penske Racing to compete at the highest level, win races and contend for championships this season” (SCENEDAILY.com, 3/1).