Thursday, March 1, 2012

Roger Penske talks Ford move

    Penske Racing and Ford Racing announced Thursday they will be joining forces for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and beyond. Roger Penske answered several questions about the move.

   Penske: We announced today that Penske and Ford will campaign in 2013 in NASCAR Sprint Cup. Penske Racing will obviously race the new 2013 Fusion. We’ll also run Mustangs in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2013. I personally want to thank the Ford
leadership team -- Edsel Ford, Jamie, Mark Fields, Jim Farley and Ken Czubay for their commitment in this very important time for our team to Penske Racing. As you know, Dodge has been aligned with Penske Racing for the past 10 years. Together, we’ve had much success on and off the track. Obviously, throughout the 2012 season we are committed
to winning races, making the Chase and hopefully winning the championship. The timing of this announcement with Ford is obviously very important due to the implementation of the new 2013 NASCAR Ford Fusion, which we will compete with next year at Daytona. With only a year to go, we needed to plan for the future and make important commitments to our sponsors, drivers, crews and employees. As many of you know, Penske Racing is no stranger to Ford Racing. Over the years we’ve raced with Ford for 11 seasons with over 500 NASCAR starts. We have 27 victories and 36 poles, so, again, I’m very excited to join
Ford again in 2013."

   Q: Why are you making this move? Who is going to do your engines?
   Penske: From an engine perspective, if you go back in Penske Racing’s history, I would say that all the time we’ve been in many different motorsports, we have had our own engine company and developed our own engines. And I think this was not part of the agreement, from the standpoint with Ford, that we would use Roush Yates or use other people’s engine. This is certainly something that we’re going to evaluate going forward. We have got a great engine company with great people. You can see what they’ve been able to do
with the Dodge product, so we just want to be able to benchmark, and I think that’s one of the reasons when we looked at the change in 2013 is it’s going to be a difficult year for everyone as we have to change bodies on all of our cars and if we were going to make a change, this was going to be the year that we would do that. Obviously, our contract with Dodge ends at the end of 2012, so when you take the contract ending, I think the chance for us in this particular case to be able to benchmark against someone like Roush and Roush Yates will give us a chance to be sure that we can be a leading team in NASCAR in
the future. We’ve had a great relationship with Dodge. We’ll continue, as I said earlier, to commit 150 percent to what we need to do. There’s no disincentive for Penske Racing not to be the best in 2012, and I think that at this particular time when we assessed the
options, and this is something that didn’t come overnight. We had a relationship with Ford before, and I think at the end of the day we felt that this was an option that we couldn’t turn down.

   Q: Can you say how long the deal is for? Will you use Roush Yates Engines?
   Penske: This is a long-term deal. We don’t really comment on length of different agreements, but this is a multi-year agreement and we’ve obviously have multi-year agreements with Ford and Dodge in the past, so it’s consistent with what we’ve done in the
recent deals that we’ve had. From an engine perspective, we have a commitment to our people at the engine shop. We’ve got a big investment in dynos and other things, so this is something that we’ll take a good look at, but what I like about it is we’ll be able to benchmark our capabilities at Penske Engines versus the best in the business at Roush Yates.

   Q: Why is this a better deal than Dodge?
   Penske: Let me say this, this wasn’t about money and I want to make that clear from the standpoint of everybody that’s on the call. I think that we evaluated, when you look at the strength of the teams in NASCAR – the multiple car teams – the success that Stewart-Haas had and the alignment with Hendrick. Also with Gibbs and Waltrip and the teams that were out there. We’ve been operating for the last 10 years pretty much with some support in the previous years, maybe four or five years ago, but we needed to have a benchmark and I think that having that additional technical information flow through the process as Ford has outlined it to us, I think, was very important to us. The term was important to us. We wanted a long-term deal because I have to make commitments to sponsors. Obviously with drivers today you can’t just hire a driver at the last minute, so I think some of those things came into play. We want to thank Dodge for what they’ve done for us. I think we’ve delivered and they’ve delivered, and we’ve got a big job to do ahead of time, but this was a business decision. We had a long, important relationship with Ford in the logistics and dealership area, and all of these things carry some weight in our final decision.

   Q: How tough is it to leave Dodge and did you look at joining Chevrolet?
   Penske: This was a very tough decision and I think we had discussions with Dodge. This wasn’t something that happened in the last 24 or 48 hours. It was over a few months and I
think when we weighed the plusses and minuses of the opportunity, it was apparent to us that we need to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship and we have been trying to do it alone. I think with a certain amount of sponsorship available to us and we were fielding
two, three cars and then some in the Nationwide, but having the opportunity to benchmark with someone like Roush, who has been world-class, you could see the performance this past weekend with Kenseth and how good their cars are, we thought that it was the time
for us to evaluate other options. Chevrolet, obviously, when you look at that lineup, we’d have a hard time getting in that line with the teams that are already associated with Chevrolet, and I felt that the relationship in Detroit that we had with Ford, Chrysler and Dodge is very important to us, but at the end of the day, we had very good conversations with Ralph Gilles and Beth Paretta and the SRT brand is very important. In fact, the good news is that if you saw the activation at Daytona, they’re fully committed and I know they’ll move out on the racing circuits, not only just in NASCAR, but in other areas as we go forward. So it was a tough decision for me, but, on the other hand, I think it’s the right one.

   Q: Does this deal require a certain number of Cup cars and Nationwide series cars?
   Penske: We have committed to run a minimum of two cars in the Cup Series and we’ll be running two cars in Nationwide. At some point, once we have been able to stabilize from the standpoint of the changeover, we could move one of those Nationwide cars to run in the
Cup Series. So I think we have a very viable plan with Ford, one that has some elasticity so we can change from two to three and, obviously, we’ve been able to build a lot of good people through the Nationwide programs when you look at Paul Wolfe and Chad Walter and certainly Todd Gordon are the people that we have today that have come up
through that wing, and we expect to continue that, so you’ll see us performing and running in both series.

   Q: Is there a disincentive in performance for Dodge given they are now in a lameduck situation as far as developing their 2013 car?
   Penske: They’ve got a committed group of guys there and I know for a fact in having several conversations with key management around this discussion that both of us said we are going to do our utmost to perform, not only for the Penske Racing team, but for the Dodge brand and certainly SRT as they’re growing that brand throughout the world. I think that they have an option now to look at the different teams and other areas that they can invest in motorsports. They’re fully committed and I think this might incent them even more to do more. They’ve done a lot with us on the 2013. This wasn’t just thrown over the wall to us. They’ve been involved and I’m sure they have the ability to carry it on to get it to be competitive for whatever team they might choose in the future. Obviously, when you look at the Challenger, we developed that vehicle together with Dodge and you’ve seen the success with Brad and the way Sam ran this past weekend, so there are some good bones that they have to work with. Certainly, we’re going to live up to our obligations on our contract with them throughout 2012.