In a somewhat surprising move, Penske Racing has announced that it will leave Dodge and switch to Ford Racing beginning with the 2013 season. Penske's Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger (assuming both remain with the team) will begin running the Ford Fusions in the Sprint Cup Series, and Penske's Nationwide drivers will begin driving Ford Mustangs next year.
Beginning with their partnership in 2003, Penske and Dodge combined for 48 wins (26 Cup Series and 22 Nationwide Series), 72 pole positions (50 Cup Series and 22 Nationwide Series) and one series championship (the 2010 Nationwide Series title) in 1,048 starts (832 Cup Series and 216 Nationwide Series) as of the 2012 Daytona 500.
Penske and Ford raced together from 1976-77 and from 1994-2002. Over that time, the team enjoyed 28 wins, all of one but which came in the Sprint Cup series.
Certainly, Ford has plenty to be proud of these days, with Roush Fenway Racing winning the Daytona 500 (Matt Kenseth), earning the pole in the race (Carl Edwards), and winning one of the Duels (Kenseth again, with Greg Biffle in the mix). And Ford is coming off Edwards' near-championship year. This will only strengthen Ford's position in the coming years.
"As you know, Dodge has been aligned with Penske Racing for the past 10 years," Roger Penske said in a media conference. "Together, we've had much success on and off the track. Obviously, throughout the 2012 season we are committed to winning races, making the Chase and hopefully winning the championship."
Penske emphasized that the decision wasn't about money, but more about alignment with Ford and the resources of Roush Fenway. "We want to thank Dodge for what they've done for us," he said. "I think we've delivered and they've delivered, and we've got a big job to do ahead of time, but this was a business decision ... 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."
Certainly, this leaves Dodge's future up in the air as well, particularly as it works to roll out its new Challenger model. Many questions remain to be answered, but for now, score a win for Ford.
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