Penske said Thursday his drivers will compete with Ford Fusions in the Sprint Cup Series, and Ford Mustangs in the Nationwide Series. He said the multi-year deal calls for Penske to field two Cup cars and two Nationwide cars, and he hopes to eventually move one of his Nationwide teams up a level to create a three-car Cup program.
Only Penske and Robby Gordon currently compete with Dodge, which recently rebranded itself to SRT Brand and Motorsports.
Penske fielded his first entry in NASCAR in 1972, but did not launch a full program until 1991 with Rusty Wallace. Although he’s one of the most successful team owners in open-wheel history, his only NASCAR championship came in the second-tier Nationwide Series, with Brad Keselowski in 2010.
Penske noted that with all four NASCAR manufacturers rolling out new 2013 models next season, the time was right to switch brands. His contract with Dodge ends at the conclusion of this season.
“This was a watershed time to take a good look in the rear-view mirror and also out front,” he said. “It was a tough decision.”
Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of SRT Brand and Motorsports, said the brand is committed to auto racing.
“Roger has made a business decision to accept an offer with another manufacturer,” Gilles said. “We are committed to work with Penske Racing to compete at the highest level, win races and contend for championships this season.
“Our 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.”
Penske said he’s not decided yet who will build his engines, and there’s no contingency that he must use Roush Yates engines. The engines were the strongest in Daytona the last two weeks _ Carl Edwards won the pole for the Daytona 500, and Matt Kenseth won the race _ but Penske noted he has his own in-house engine program.