Q&A with Roger Penske on move from Dodge to Ford
Penske Racing and Ford Racing announced today that they will be joining forces for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and beyond. Roger Penske and Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing, conducted a teleconference this afternoon to talk about the partnership with members of the media. The transcript from the teleconference follows below.
JAMIE ALLISON, Director, Ford Racing – “Indeed, this is an historic day for Ford Racing. We are so delighted to have Roger and Penske Racing back to our NASCAR program. The addition of Penske Racing, along with Roush Fenway Racing, Roush Yates Engines and all the Ford teams really gives us great depth in NASCAR to reach out to our fans and to compete on the track and go after the manufacturer’s championship. We still have a mission in 2012 as does Roger – to work with our current teams to win races, make the Chase and go after the championship. Thanks much to Bud (Denker), Tim Cindric, Walt Czarnecki and Roger. We welcome you all and the entire team from Penske to Ford Racing in 2013.”
WHY ARE YOU MAKING THIS MOVE TO FORD?
WHO IS GOING TO DO YOUR ENGINES?
AND HOW MUCH DEVELOPMENT DID YOU HAVE ON THE 2013 DODGE?
“From a development perspective, obviously we’ve had early work on the Dodge Charger for 2013. I expect Dodge will continue to take that over directly themselves, but we’ve been involved from the beginning and I think all the cars were demonstrated at Homestead several weeks ago, so there is a lot of work to be done. NASCAR still hasn’t given us the final specifications, so that’s pretty much an open book. 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.”
CAN YOU TELL ME HOW LONG THE DEAL IS FOR?
ARE YOU CONSIDERING USING ROUSH YATES ENGINES?
“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.”
JAMIE ALLISON CONTINUED – HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT FOR FORD TO LOCK DOWN A COUPLE OF DRIVERS THAT ARE 30 AND UNDER?
“Obviously, we have a stellar lineup of championship capable drivers. If you look at the roster today of the drivers and look at Matt Kenseth winning the Daytona 500. We’ve got Greg Biffle. I could go on down the line. Indeed, there is a new crop of young drivers coming into the sport. We happen to have a couple of them and we’re very fortunate that Roger has a couple of them. The combined opportunity of Penske Racing’s young drivers coupled with our lineup of drivers – champions and young drivers – could offer a great offering to the fan base – seeing the champions as well as the young stars making their way through Fords.”
ROGER PENSKE CONTINUED – HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU EMPLOY IN YOUR ENGINE SHOP?
“I think we have some cross-pollination, obviously, because we have our Nationwide programs and the Cup programs. We have about 70 people in the engine shop, but some of those are part of the main core group at our main facility in Mooresville (NC).”
WHY IS THIS A BETTER DEAL THAN DODGE?
ARE YOU GETTING MORE CASH OR TECHNICAL SUPPORT?
AND WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE FORD WAS A BETTER OPTION THAN DODGE?
“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.”
JAMIE ALLISON CONTINUED – HOW DID THIS DEAL COME TOGETHER. WHAT WAS THE TIMEFRAME?
AND IS IT POSSIBLE INDY CAR IS IN FORD’S FUTURE?
“When you’re in the motorsports industry and when you’re in southeast Detroit, you are in constant interaction with other teams and other industry members. So this is an opportunity where a few years ago we made it very public that we were interested in strengthening the Ford Racing program with the addition of additional teams. In past years we’ve looked at some opportunities and this was an opportunity – a milestone opportunity given what Roger has accomplished over decades in motorsports. He’s a captain of industry. He’s a member of the community and given our past relationship with him, a standard of excellence, all those forces came into play and with the alignment happening with the contractual agreements and the arrival of 2013, you put all those planets and they all align at a single moment in time and you have in front of you this opportunity that we are very thrilled about.”
CAN YOU GIVE A TIMEFRAME?
“All relationships start with long-term relationships, so I think the seeds were planted, I would say, over – it can be months – but the germination of the seed took hold more recently.”
ROGER PENSKE CONTINUED – HOW TOUGH WAS IT TO LEAVE DODGE AND DID YOU LOOK AT JOINING CHEVROLET?
“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.”
DOES THIS DEAL REQUIRE A CERTAIN NUMBER OF CUP CARS AND NATIONWIDE CARS?
“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.”
SO ARE YOU SAYING YOU WEREN’T SURE WHERE YOUR EQUIPMENT WAS BECAUSE YOU WERE THE ONLY DODGE OUT THERE?
IS THAT THE MAIN BENEFIT YOU’RE GETTING BY THIS MOVE?
“I think we’re able to have a long-term deal, point number one. Point number two, we have not had the chance to benchmark, and I think that’s important to us from the standpoint that we’ve had tremendous resources from an engineering standpoint from Dodge, but you still need to have that guy that you’re chasing, and I think that we’ll have this as we see the Ford option. As I said earlier, this wasn’t about money. This is more about can we connect, and I think we offer with our wind tunnel and some of the things that we have available, as we bring those to the party, will give us some value on a going forward basis.”
JAMIE ALLISON CONTINUED – DO YOU ANTICIPATE YOUR FORD STABLE STAYING THE SAME OR DO YOU SEE MORE MOVEMENT IN AND OUT OF YOUR STABLE FOR 2013?
“The ink is barely dry on this agreement. There is some opportunity to look through our lineup, but ultimately we have to live in today. This is motorsports and we have to deliver, so does Roger for his teams and his sponsors, so we’re focused on working with all of our teams, focusing on winning races, making the Chase and going for the championship and then as the year unfolds, and the opportunities present themselves, we’ll sort through the planning and the transitions and we’ll have better visibility on how that will impact the lineup, but, for now, it’s about welcoming Penske Racing to Ford for 2013.”
ROGER PENSKE CONTINUED – DID YOU RUN ANY OF THIS PAST GM OR DO YOU THINK THEY EVEN CARE?
IT’S RARE TO MIX MANUFACTURERS IN RACING. “I think we’ve been operating with different manufacturers for a number of years. The involvement with Chevrolet and the Indy program is key to us. The involvement with Ilmor from a technical partner with Chevrolet is something that we wanted to make happen, and I think from a NASCAR perspective they are two different series, they really don’t compete with each other and, to me, the engine side of the Chevy piece – these are engines that will be supplied to all the competitors, we’ll all be on a level playing field – so obviously we communicated to Jim Campbell this change at the proper time and also even with Toyota, which is a partner of ours on the automotive side. So I think change is good. We cannot sit where we are. We’ve got to get better and from my perspective this opportunity only comes at certain times. Our contract was up. We’re not leaving ahead of time. You’ve seen drivers move. You’ve seen teams move, and I think this was a watershed time for us to take a good look in the rearview mirror and also look out front, and we made that decision rationally and it’s one that we’re excited about. But, again, as I said earlier on, we’re fully committed. There’s no disincentive for us not to do everything we can to win races, poles and run for the Chase and the championship this year. It was a tough decision as I said earlier, but, on the other hand, we’re excited.”
ARE YOU GOING TO DEVOTE A CERTAIN NUMBER OF PEOPLE TO THE FORD PROJECT FOR NEXT YEAR WHILE YOU’RE RACING AS A REGULAR EVERY WEEK?
“We had certain manpower that would have been committed to the 2013 Dodge Charger and we’ll take that group of people and they’ll begin the development on the 2013. The good news is that it’s all new for everyone, so we’re pretty much starting at ground zero from an aerodynamic perspective with downforce, etc. I think we’ll have the opportunity, now that’s one of the things that I thought was most important to me in making this decision was timing because this gives us almost 12 months before we’re going to be on the race track to compete competitively, so we’ll be able to take our manpower both at the engine shop and the car shop and be able to make these changes. We’ve got a lot of manpower and they’re committed. To me, this will be a real test for us.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY FORD PIECES IN YOUR SHOP?
“I do not.”
DID YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO TALK TO YOUR DRIVERS ABOUT THIS 2013 FUSION AND WHEN WILL THEY DO ANY TESTING?
“Number one, a move like this with discussions going on with both Dodge and Ford, confidentiality was critical and kept in a very small circle, so we did not have any conversations with any outside drivers regarding plusses or minuses. We saw the car and were excited about what we had seen through the media and we look forward to getting a car together and having a chance to analyze it just to see what we can do to try to make ourselves competitive. You guys are all in the early first chapter of this book and I think there will be a lot of questions and a lot of answers that will come over the next several weeks and we’ll be glad to answer them, but, at this point, this was a tight circle. We have not had any pieces. We have not asked for any. We have gauged our response on the basis of performance, but when I look at the top teams and Roush continues to be a great partner with Ford, and we hope we can follow in his footsteps.”
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF BRAD TWEETING FROM THE CAR?
DID YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IT?
“I think that social media is here to stay. All of our businesses are involved in Twitter. I don’t Twitter myself, but I guess I’m going to have to maybe, but, at the present time, I thought during the race delay in Daytona that Brad is a creative young guy. I take my hat off to him and I think the 100,000 followers he picked up liked it and, to me, our sponsors were excited about it and I’m sure that there will probably be another rule in NASCAR to maybe eliminate that option, but, overall, I had no problem with it at all.”
YOU MENTIONED THE DAYTONA DOMINANCE BY FORD. WAS THAT A TIPPING POINT IN YOUR DECISION OR WAS IT MADE BEFORE DAYTONA?
“We had already made the decision and I think it was great to see the success that Ford had. Obviously, I wasn’t happy with our success, but we had made the decision before Daytona.”
YOU SAID THERE IS NO DISINCENTIVE IN TERMS OF PERFORMANCE FOR PENSKE RACING, BUT DO YOU FEEL THE SAME IS TRUE FOR DODGE GIVEN THE FACT THEY WILL BE IN A LAMEDUCK SITUATION SEARCHING FOR NEW PARTNERS AND TRYING TO FIND ANOTHER WAY TO DEVELOP THE 2013 CAR?
“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.”
HOW WILL IT BE TO COMPETE AGAINST JACK ROUSH?
“Let me say this, Jack has been kicking my butt here for a number of years (laughing), so I don’t expect him to stop. On the other hand, I think the association, as I said to Jamie, maybe one plus one equals three and I think that’s what we have to do and then fight it out on the race track.”
“The one plus one equals three still resonates in my mind when we first met with Penske Racing. We were in search of adding to the excellence of the program with an addition of excellence. How blessed are we at Ford or to be a Ford race fan to have the likes of Jack Roush and Roger Penske be affiliated with the Ford brand. It warms my heart. The outreach from the fans and I know the excellence by which they bring to the track and the fan outreach, I just can’t wait for 2013. I don’t care who is at the door. Our door is wide open at Ford to make sure that our teams are performing to the highest level and there is no one more motivated to excel to the next level than both Jack and Roger. We look forward to them working together in some areas because we do have something called One Ford. It has served us well inside the company. It has served us well in NHRA. It has served us well in NASCAR today and I believe it will serve us well with the addition of two giants that will proudly represent the Ford brand starting in 2013. I’m looking forward to it.”
ROGER PENSKE CONTINUED – IS YOUR TEAM GOING TO BE INVOLVED IN THE DODGE ANNOUNCEMENT IN LAS VEGAS OF THEIR 2013 CAR?
“You can’t say it was our car. This was a vehicle that was built with our people, with many of the Dodge folks involved in every step with us, so this will be a 2013 unveiling of the Dodge Charger at Las Vegas. It’s not a Penske car in any way. It was a Dodge vehicle that had been put together. In fact, if you go back a number of years, we did the Taurus for Ford back a number of years ago when they brought that into NASCAR.”
SO YOUR TEAM WON’T BE INVOLVED IN THE ANNOUNCEMENT?
“No, I don’t believe so.”
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE DYNAMICS OF YOUR JOB AND YOUR TEAM’S JOB GOING FORWARD SIMPLY BECAUSE IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE YOU HAD A COUPLE OF SUPER POWER TEAMS UNDER YOUR UMBRELLA?
“The past will be a guide on this one. There was a time when both Jack and Roger operated independently both within the Ford camp, so we’re going to reflect back on how that worked well and what didn’t work back then because these are new times. The short answer to your question is we will look at what happened. We will adjust inside what we’re doing because we do have recipes of success today in other places, so I’m looking forward to it. Roger talked about chapter one, I think we’re kind of at the introduction of a book. We haven’t yet made it to chapter one in terms of transition and all the dealings we have to work through, so it’s a long road ahead, but I also want to reaffirm that there’s a race going on this weekend and I can tell you that Roger and his team are focused on what they need to do there, and our team is singularly focused on going out to Phoenix and the race after that. We’ve got to put it in context. We’ll plan ahead, but we also have to remain focused on what we’re paid to do and what we’re commissioned to do with what our fans want to see and that is go out and succeed at the track every weekend.”
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