Team owner Roger Penske in the garage during practice for the Daytona 500. (Rainier Ehrhardt / Associated…)
Reporting from Avondale, Ariz.-- NASCAR's Penske Racing said Thursday it's switching back to Ford race cars from Dodge next season, a move that would leave Dodge without a major team in the elite Sprint Cup Series.
Team owner Roger Penske, whose two Cup drivers are Brad Keselowski andA.J. Allmendinger, also said his team would shift to Ford in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series in 2013.
Penske had been with Dodge for the last decade but, with its contract expiring after this season, the team chose Ford to keep pace with the likes of Ford powerhouse Roush Fenway Racing, Penske said.
Roush Fenway's Matt Kenseth won the season-opening Daytona 500 on Monday night.
"It was a tough decision for me, but on the other hand I think it's the right one," Penske told reporters on a conference call. "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."
In the meantime, Penske and Dodge said they would keep striving to win a Cup championship this year. The next race is Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.
Ralph Gilles, Dodge's motor sports chief, said in a statement that "we wish Roger and Penske Racing much success in the future" and that Dodge would evaluate other racing endeavors "as those opportunities materialize."
Matt Kenseth wins wild Daytona 500 race
Crashes get off to a fast start at Daytona 500
James Buescher wins Nationwide race at Daytona