Thursday, March 1, 2012

Penske Racing opens all kinds of possibilities with move to Ford in 2013

An offseason of near non-stop driver and team moves has carried right into the beginning of the 2012 NASCAR season.

Penske Racing announced Thursday it will switch manufacturers by ditching Dodge to return to Ford for the 2013 season, a move that sets up a long line of dominoes for the next Silly Season.

Over the last several years the number of Sprint Cup Series teams running Dodges had dwindled to just Penske and Robby Gordon. Now that number could drop to zero without Penske. Gordon is looking to sell his team or find investors to keep it afloat.

Team owner Roger Penske previously fielded Fords from 1994 through 2002 with Rusty Wallace leading the charge.

Ford Motor Co. had to offer Penske a pretty sweet deal to leave Dodge, even though “The Captain” said the move is not about money. Penske often talked about the virtues of being the only big-time team for an entire manufacturer, even though other manufacturers found success as more teams joined the fold.

Apparently prevailing assumptions that being on a manufacturer island is a bad thing are true. Penske might have gotten Dodge’s full support, but it still had just two full-time teams to use to gather information. Other manufacturers such as Ford and Chevrolet have as many as seven and nine teams that finished in the top 20 in points a year ago.

Still, Penske did well under the Dodge banner and consistently put cars in the championship Chase.

Just like with driver moves, this move by Penske is going to have a ripple effect throughout the sport. Dodge said it will remain in the sport and will unveil its 2013 Charger next week, but right now it doesn’t have a team lined up to drive those new cars.

People quickly turned to Richard Petty Motorsports as a likely candidate to move to Dodge, and there are decent reasons to think that might happen. RPM’s contract with Ford is up at the end of the season, and Petty has long been connected to the Dodge brand.

But, the Petty organization has had trouble just staying in existence throughout the past several years, and it is tough to think the organization suddenly has the resources to venture out on its own with a new manufacturer.

If they do, the performance on the track could be dreadful. Just think of the 2001-2006 stretch when Petty Enterprises switched to Dodge and never had a car finish in the top 20 in the points standings.

The other factor in this situation is how Roush-Fenway Racing will react to Penske’s move. Owner Jack Roush had been on a decade-long run in which he became Ford Racing in NASCAR. Anything associated with Ford was also associated with Roush. The “Cat in the Hat” might not welcome a new organization with open arms, especially if it doesn’t run Roush-Yates engines.

Penske hasn’t yet said how his organization will handle the engine situation. If Penske Racing runs its own engines, there likely won’t be much information flowing between Roush and Penske. If Penske does run the Roush-Yates engines, then he might as well be in the same position as what RPM is in now.

Either way, it didn’t take long for teams set their sights on the 2013 season even though the current season is only one race old.

With Penske’s move forcing a manufacturer to look for teams, the door is now wide open for all kinds of movement to begin.


  1. Why would Petty go back to Dodges? Wasn't one of the reasons he left was the fact that Dodge wasn't paying him the money they promised?

  2. Anybody but Petty please! Best driver ever is the worst owner ever.