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DEARBORN – Penske Racing is coming back to Ford.
After a 10-year hiatus, Penske Racing returns its two-car NASCAR Sprint Cup operation to Ford Racing beginning with the 2013 Daytona 500, and if its latest term is anything like the most recent one, Ford fans will have plenty to cheer about.
Penske Racing, recognized as one of racing’s all-time great teams, most recently spent nine seasons with Ford from 1994-2002, posting 27 wins and 33 poles among three drivers. In addition, its teams finished in the Top 10 48.6 percent of the time (228-of-469 starts).
The organization first raced with Ford in 1976 and 1977, before coming back in 1994. In total, 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).
“This is an historic day for our racing program, and we are thrilled to see another member of the extended Ford family coming back,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of The Americas. “Working together with Penske Racing gives Ford another championship-level program, and we are excited to take our racing program to all-new levels.”
Penske Racing officially takes the track with Ford in the 2013 season, and the organization will be part of the competition debut of the 2013 NASCAR Fusion, which was first shown in Charlotte on Jan. 24, as part of the Charlotte Media Tour.
“It was important to get this agreement in place early so that we can plan ahead for the debut of the new 2013 NASCAR Fusion,” said Jamie Allison, Ford Racing director. “We will work with Roush Fenway on the final development of the new car during this season, but we want to be able to have our teams building their new cars for the 2013 season before the end of the year, as the transition to the new body is taking place.
“With the operations and technology resources Penske brings from all forms of racing, we know they will be a strong addition to our program, and we look forward to working with them and all our teams to create a stronger Ford NASCAR program with even greater depth.”
Added Roger Penske: “We look forward to joining 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.”
Penske Racing was instrumental in bringing the first four-door sedan to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with the Taurus in 1998. As one of the teams responsible for getting Taurus on track, Penske worked closely with Ford and Roush officials in designing the car. They were rewarded immediately as Rusty Wallace won the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona in the car’s debut race.
Wallace was Penske’s lead driver throughout his initial time with Ford, and it didn’t take long for them to find victory lane as they won at Rockingham in only their second start. That was the first of 23 wins for Wallace, which ranks eighth on Ford Racing’s all-time list. Wallace, who finished in the Top 10 in points every year during that stretch, also dominated in qualifying, as he won 21 poles – including a series-high nine in 2000.
The 1994 season was memorable as Wallace won a series-best eight times, including three straight in June at Dover, Pocono and Michigan. He also won back-to-back events at Dover and Martinsville in September en route to a third-place finish in the point standings.
After expanding to a two-car team in 1998 through the purchase of the No. 12 team from Michael Kranefuss, Penske oversaw the first series wins for Jeremy Mayfield (Pocono, 1998) and Ryan Newman (New Hampshire, 2002). Newman turned in one of the best rookie seasons in NASCAR history as he won the All-Star Race and captured six poles while winning top rookie honors and finishing sixth in the final point standings.
“Penske Racing contends for the Sprint Cup title every year, and our goal, with the addition of this program, is that Ford will compete for the manufacturers’ title every year as well,” Allison said.