NASCAR » 1 March 2012
Penske to drop Dodge for Ford power
Penske has been key in Dodge's development of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Dodge Charger due to be unveiled next week at Las Vegas on March 11, part of a revamp of NASCAR Cup cars that will allow more manufacturer-specific styling than the current models.
Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing and Richard Childress Racing are all firmly in the Chevrolet stable and unlikely to be interested in a move anytime soon, while Joe Gibbs Racing and Waltrip Racing are both tied to Toyota. The teams already aligned with Ford, including Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Petty Motorsport, show no signs of wanting a change anytime soon either.
Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing - currently with Chevrolet, but seeking an edge to break out of its recent slump in form - might be an option for Dodge. Otherwise only the much smaller teams are left, none of which are likely to have the technical expertise and capacity sought by Dodge in a lead development partner.
That raises a very real possibility that Dodge might exit NASCAR altogether, despite the sport's recent success in viewing numbers and media coverage in the US. Losing Dodge would be an embarrassment for the series and could focus attention on its economic prospects, which is just the sort of cloud that NASCAR won't want hanging over them as it head into the 2012 season.
"Our motorsports involvement isn't limited to NASCAR," said Ralph Gilles, the president and CEO of SRT Brand and Motorsports "We do value our NASCAR program and will be evaluating the opportunities available moving forward. As those opportunities materialize, we'll reveal our 2013 plans, not only in NASCAR but in other forms of motorsports."
In the meantime, Gilles insisted that they were committed to a successful final season with Penske.
"We are committed to work with Penske Racing to compete at the highest level, win races and contend for championships this season," he said. "Dodge has enjoyed a successful partnership with Penske Racing for ten years. It's a partnership that has produced results for both parties on and off the track. Roger has made a business decision to accept an offer with another manufacturer. We wish Roger and Penske Racing much success in the future."
But it was also clear from Roger Penske's comments that the lack of other top-level Dodge teams was one of the reasons for his decision to switch back to Ford.
"This wasn't about money," Penske said, indicating he wanted a manufacturer with deeper alliances as he felt he had to be better able to benchmark the team's performance against its rivals if he was to challenge for the Sprint Cup title in the next few years.
"It was apparent we need to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, and we've been trying to do it alone," he added, saying that the decision to make the move away from Dodge had been made before the Daytona 500.
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