News & Media

Keselowski weighs in on Penske shift to Ford

March 02, 2012, Joe Menzer,

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- While driver of No. 2 has no issues with Dodge, he understands reason for switch

He drives a Dodge Charger for now, but that will change soon enough.

And for now, that appears to seem kind of strange to Brad Keselowski. He won three Sprint Cup races in a Dodge last season and finished a surprisingly stout fifth in the final point standings. His 2011 teammate at Penske Racing, Kurt Busch, also made the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Keselowski seems poised to make a return to the Chase and a possible run at a championship this season. But after the stunning announcement Wednesday that Penske will be switching from Dodges to Fords beginning next season, Keselowski and others were left Friday to wonder what that means for the 2012 season that is only one week old heading into this Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Blue-oval bound

Penske Racing announced Thursday that it will join Ford Racing as part of a multi-year agreement that will begin with the 2013 NASCAR season.

Keselowski admitted that he had no dissatisfaction with Dodge as his team's manufacturer. Although the two Penske Racing teams were the only ones in the Sprint Cup garage left running Dodges at the end of 2010, team owner Roger Penske had for two years touted his belief that his organization was in an advantageous situation -- not the other way around.

Penske abruptly changed his tune with Wednesday's announcement, saying he felt his teams needed to be aligned with others who run the same types of cars to reach their full potential going forward.

"Personally, I still feel like it's not a disadvantage. But I don't speak for everyone at Penske Racing," said Keselowski, whose other Cup teammate at Penske this season is A.J. Allmendinger, driver of the No. 22 car. "Personally, I don't feel like it's a disadvantage to be the only [organization] with a manufacturer. There were some things about it I liked, so I'm going to stick with my story as far as that's concerned."

At the same time, Keselowski said he understands why Penske is making the move to run Fords. Several other Sprint Cup teams run the Ford Fusion, including those from Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and Wood Brothers Racing.

"I think it's important to back up two to three months and maybe not even that far," Keselowski said. "Let's back up a month ago to media day in Charlotte where obviously we made the announcement that Miller Lite extended [its sponsorship contract commitment] and two or three before we made the announcement that I had re-signed and that [crew chief] Paul Wolfe had re-signed.

"I think you look at that and there's a big picture going on there and that's that Penske Racing wanted to have every duck in a row for long term. So you have sponsor, driver, crew chief, obviously the owner is already there, and what's the last one left? The manufacturer."

Keselowski admitted he was not privy to the negotiations that took place between Ford and Penske, saying that Roger Penske called him "only a couple of nights ago" to inform the driver that Penske was going to sign the deal to make the switch in manufacturers.

"I knew there were talks going on. As far as a specific day, well heck, as far as I'm aware, the contract wasn't even signed until this week," Keselowski said. "You know I was obviously aware that there were talks going on, but it all happened very quickly."

The news of the pending switch came at an awkward, bad time for Dodge -- which already had announced plans to reveal its new 2013 Dodge Charger race car for the Sprint Cup Series next weekend in Las Vegas.

Now, at least for the time being, Dodge has no one to drive its new car.

Keselowski admitted the fact Ford already had unveiled its 2013 version of the Fusion that will be run in Sprint Cup was probably a factor in Penske's decision. Ford unveiled its 2013 stock race-car version of the Fusion during NASCAR's preseason media tour in Concord, N.C., in late January.

"The easiest way to explain why I'm encouraged by the decision, I think you just look no further than again, a month ago, or a month and a half ago, when Ford made their announcement on their '13 car," Keselowski said. "I think that's obviously at least a month and a half, two months ahead of every other manufacturer and I think that shows the spirit that they have for this sport and the commitment they have for NASCAR. And I want to be aligned with someone that wants to be the first one out the gate that shows me that they want it that bad.

"I thought that was a key moment for me in drinking the Kool-Aid, so to speak, of why that's going to be the right way for our company to go."