Penske Racing is to end its ten-year association with Dodge and return to the Ford family for NASCAR competition in 2013, the team announced in Thursday.
"We look forward to rejoining 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."
"This is an historic day for our racing program, and we are thrilled that Roger Penske is returning to Ford," said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company'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."
Penske was previously partnered with Ford from 1994 until 2002 until it decided to switch to Dodge in 2003. The new multi-year deal will see Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger compete with Ford Fusions in the Sprint Cup series, and the team fielding Ford Mustangs in the Nationwide Series for Keselowski, Sam Hornish Jr. and Parker Kligerman.
It hasn't yet been decided who will actually be building the Ford engines for Penske in 2013. Penske has its own engine shop, but Roush Yates Engines is the main supplier of Ford units in NASCAR, and Roger Penske said that they were evaluating the way forward for 2013.
"Penske Racing has had and continues to have a terrific relationship with Dodge and we thank them for their partnership and their support over the past 10 years," said Penske. "Our organizations have experienced many great memories together and our teams are committed to produce wins and championships with Dodge this season."
Penske Racing had an up and down season in 2011, with the team noticeably off the pace at times during the year but then able to surge back to claim race wins in the latter third of the year. Even so, the team's performance was nowhere close to what is was in its maiden year with Dodge in 2003, when Ryan Newman claimed eight race wins driving for the team. After that breakout first season together, Newman gave Dodge only three wins in his last four years with Penske.
Kurt Busch gave Dodge ten wins in six seasons at Penske before he left the team by mutual agreement at the end of a stormy 2011 season, and Brad Keseloski has notched up three wins for the manufacturer. By comparison, Roush Fenway Racing have 65 race wins over the same period that Penske won 26 races while aligned with Dodge.
In the Nationwide Series, Dodge won its first championship in 2010 with Penske Racing, thanks to driver Brad Keselowski.
The engine manufacturer now faces a big headache over what it will do about a lead development team in NASCAR in 2013, with Penske having been referred to in the past as a "de facto
factory team" for Dodge.