March 02, 2012  |   By Tom Jensen - SPEED

Penske Stuns With Move To Ford

Courtesy of Speed.com

Penske Racing confirmed that it will announce a switch from Dodge to Ford for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and beyond.

The timing of the blockbuster announcement is nothing less than shocking: Dodge is set to unveil its 2013 Charger Sprint Cup at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend, with Penske its only frontline team. Dodge representatives declined comment on the move, though a formal statement is expected later today.

Also coming up later today is a teleconference with the NASCAR media.

Penske Racing campaigned Fords in the Sprint Cup Series from 1994-2002, before switching to Dodges for 2003. As a team, Penske has won 71 Sprint Cup races in 1,503 starts dating back to 1971. Penske’s first foray into NASCAR was with the now-defunct American Motors and its Matador coupe. The team also campaigned Pontiacs in the late 1980s and early 90s.

Ford Motor Co. is committed to trying to end Chevrolet’s reign as the championship manufacturer in NASCAR and the addition of Penske Racing gives Ford an extra weapon in its arsenal and a powerful one at that. Chevy drivers have won the last seven Sprint Cup championships and with Carl Edwards losing last year’s title on a tiebreaker, Ford has redoubled its efforts to win big.

With Penske leaving Dodge, immediately talk will turn to who is a logical team to take Penske’s place. Frontline teams — Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing — are locked into manufacturer deals. That would seem to limit Dodge’s options to mid-pack teams, but that remains to be seen.

“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 team owner Roger Penske in a statement issued by the team Thursday morning. “Our organizations have experienced many great memories together and our teams are committed to produce wins and championships with Dodge this season. We look forward to rejoining the Ford Racing NASCAR program beginning in 2013. We appreciate the long-term commitment that Ford has made to Penske Racing and for their continued support of the sport.”

Added Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co.’s president of The Americas: “This is an historic day for our racing program, and we are thrilled that Roger Penske is returning to Ford. Working together with Penske Racing gives Ford another championship-level program, and we are excited to take our racing program to all-new levels.”

The move to Ford represents a return for Penske Racing. The organization raced with Ford in 1976 and 1977 and again from 1994-2002. Through 524 NASCAR starts (509 Cup Series and 15 Nationwide Series) with Ford, Penske Racing teams earned 28 victories (27 Cup Series and one Nationwide Series) and 42 pole positions (36 Cup Series and six Nationwide Series).