By admin | March 1, 2012
By Richard Allen
On Thursday afternoon, Penske Racing announced that in 2013 they will compete under the banner of the Ford Motor Company. The organization owned by billionaire businessman and racing entrepreneur Roger Penske plans to house two Sprint Cup teams for drivers Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger out of its North Carolina shop. There is also the possibility of Nationwide Series teams being added to the Ford/Penske partnership.
Penske ran Fords most recently from 1994 - 2002 with drivers such as Rusty Wallace, Jeremy Mayfield and Ryan Newman amassing 27 wins for the â€˜Blue Ovalâ€™ in that time span.
So now we know what Penskeâ€™s teams will be doing in 2013. What we donâ€™t know for sure is where this leaves Dodge, Penskeâ€™s soon to be former manufacturer partner, and current Ford team Richard Petty Motorsports.
Apparently Dodge has every intention of remaining in NASCAR as they have begun the process of developing a car to be used in 2013. As a matter of fact, it was the Penske organization who had done much of that development work for the company. Dodge plans to unveil their new Challenger that will be used next season during the upcoming Sprint Cup weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The auto makerâ€™s options to continue are somewhat limited, however. The loss of Penske not only equates to the loss of a championship caliber team but also the loss of their only top level engine builder in Sprint Cup racing. Any new team to sign on with the Chrysler company would need to be one that can build its own power plants. And virtually every top team who has that capability is currently locked into some sort of agreement that would prohibit such a move.
After the Penske news broke on Thursday, Dodge released the following statement:
“Dodge has enjoyed a successful partnership with Penske Racing for 10 years. It’s a partnership that has produced results for both parties on and off the track. Roger (Penske) has made a business decision to accept an offer with another manufacturer. We wish Roger and Penske Racing much success in the future.
“We are committed to work with Penske Racing to compete at the highest level, win races and contend for championships this season.
â€œOur motorsports involvement isn’t limited to NASCAR. 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.”
The emphasis on â€œother forms of motorsportsâ€ seems interesting.
But Dodge may not be the only entity suddenly left shopping for a new partnership after the Penske announcement. Richard Petty Motorsports may have also had its future clouded on Thursday. The team currently uses Fords with support from Roush Fenway Racing for drivers Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola. Will Ford be willing to support so many teams under the banners of three separate organizations going forward?
Like Dodge, RPM released a statement regarding the Penske move. “We welcome Penske Racing to the Ford Racing Family in 2013. Additional teams mean more information for everyone and that’s a very good thing from a competition standpoint. We have a partnership with Roush Fenway Racing and we are happy to be a part of the Ford Racing program. As we always do, we will evaluate all of our options and make decisions based on what is ultimately best for our race team.â€
And also like Dodge, it is the last part of the statement that is most interesting.
Whenever there is any uncertainty surrounding the Petty organization or Dodge there is the natural desire to speculate about the two getting together because of Petty Enterprises close relationship with the manufacturer during the glory years of both back in the 1960s and 1970s. And the Petty cars were indeed Dodges before their recent joining with Ford and RFR.
However, this does not seem to be a likely fit for reunification between the pair this time. RPM barely scraped together enough sponsorship to field two cars for the 2012 season. Taking on a new manufacturer that does not have an established Sprint Cup engine program would seem to be more of a burden than they could bear. Their best hope for survival would seem to hinge on aligning themselves with a bigger team that can provide chassis and engine support in the same way RFR does for them now.
So, should that RFR/RPM partnership be dissolved, another such deal would have to be found.
Penske Racing made a move that they obviously believe will allow for greater success for their organization in upcoming seasons. But while that company now has a secure future, two other organizations may have had their futures very much mired in uncertainty on Thursday.
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