Penske Racing will in 2013 switch from Dodge to Ford in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, automotive-industry sources have informed Autoweek, an affiliate of Automotive News.
An official announcement is expected mid-day today. Penske fields Dodge Chargers for Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger.
Team owner Roger Penske’s first foray into NASCAR was in 1972, when he fielded a red, white and blue AMC Matador for Mark Donohue at Riverside. Dave Marcis and Donnie Allison also drove for him that year, none with particularly good results. Bobby Allison, Gary Bettenhausen, George Follmer and Neil Bonnett also drove for Penske until he shut down his team after the 1977 season.
In 102 starts those first six seasons (only 1976 was a full season), his drivers won seven poles and five races in Matadors and Chevrolets. Penske also ran Mercurys during the stretch but with no wins.
Penske returned to NASCAR for two races -- both with Rusty Wallace in Chevrolets -- in 1980. He stayed away again until returning with a full-blown Sprint Cup effort in 1991. For the past 22 years he’s fielded at least one team in every race and often as many as three. His two-car stable this year features Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger.
When Penske returned in 1991 he fielded Pontiacs through the 1994 season. He switched to Fords for the next eight seasons -- 1995 through 2002 -- before forming his alliance with Dodge which reached nine years last season. All told, he’s fielded 1,503 Cup entries, won 96 poles and 71 races. His cars have finished in the top-five 333 times and top-10 573 times. Penske Racing has never won a Cup championship, but has been top-10 in final points 19 times.
Penske’s NASCAR drivers have included both Allison brothers, Marcis, Donohue, Bettenhausen, Follmer, Bonnett, Keselowski, Allmendinger, Rusty and Mike Wallace, Jeremy Mayfield, Ryan Newman, Brendan Gaughan, Travis Kvapil, Chad Blount, Kurt Busch, Sam Hornish Jr. and David Stremme. Of those 19 drivers, Donohue, Mayfield, Newman, Busch, Keselowski, Bobby Allison and Rusty Wallace have won for him in NASCAR.
But Penske Racing has been in a mini-slump of late. It has won at least one race every year since 1991, but has only 18 wins in 768 starts dating to 2004. The year before, Newman won eight races, more than half his NASCAR career total of 15.
Penske’s stock-car teams have over the years won 26 races in Dodges, 21 in Pontiacs, 19 in Fords, four in Matadors and one in a Chevrolet. His overall average is better in Pontiacs, winning those 21 races in only five years, all of them with a single-car team. Rusty Wallace delivered 15 of Penske Racing’s 19 Ford wins, all in eight seasons. He was the company’s only driver for three of those eight seasons, and it wasn’t until Mayfield joined the team in 1998 that Wallace had -- much to his chagrin most of the time -- teammate.
The Dodge years -- beginning in 2003 -- are somewhat deceiving. Newman, in his second full year with Penske Racing, won eight races for Dodge in 2003, by far the brand’s best NASCAR showing since its glory days with Richard Petty in the 1970s. Wallace won once in his next-to-last season of 2004 and Newman gave Dodge only three wins in his last four years with Penske. Kurt Busch won 10 times for Dodge in his six seasons with Penske Racing and Keselowski has won three times.
In the same nine-year-and-one race span that Penske has fielded Dodges, the Ford-based team owned by Jack Roush has won 65 times and challenged repeatedly for the Sprint Cup title. Granted, Roush-Fenway has fielded more Ford entries than Penske, but at some point that 65-26 advantage must have caught the Captain’s eye and got him to thinking about what might be.