MOTORSPORT - Penske eyeing Aussie V8s

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US motor racing legend negotiates with DJR, looks at FPR.

The structure of Ford’s V8 Supercars program could undergo a dramatic transformation as soon as 2015 with US motor racing legend Roger Penske seriously investigating a presence on the grid.

Penske has been in negotiations to buy, invest in or sponsor Dick Johnson Racing, but the factory-backed Ford Performance Racing team could also be as target for the billionaire who runs NASCAR and IndyCar operations in North America.

Penske’s interest in V8 Supercars and Ford’s interest in one of its key NASCAR partners getting involved here was signalled by the presence of Penske Racing president Tim Cindric and Ford Racing global boss Jamie Allison at Sydney Olympic Park last weekend for the final round of the V8 Supercars Championship.

The rumour mill immediately starting running full throttle about when and how Penske would arrive, but 2015 makes sense because that is when FPR’s recently renewed one-year deal with Ford expires.

The speculation is infuriating FPR owners Rod Nash and Rusty French, who only took over the team at the start of 2013 and have endured constant speculation about its future.

“It is just vicious rumour,” said Nash. “We have been trying to get Jamie Allison out for quite some time. He does 46 races a year and NASCAR has just finished, so given all that’s gone on with Ford this year it’s been good to get him out here. But there’s no strategy behind it, they just took the view ‘let’s go to Sydney and have a look’.

“We have no desire to sell, we have good plans and we are working on some good positives at the moment.”

There have also been suggestions that Aussie NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose will return home to headline a Penske V8 team and the newly unveiled Mustang coupe will be the race car, replacing the soon to be defunct Falcon.

Of course, that plan depends on V8 Supercars allowing two-door coupes to race against sedans, something it is known to be considering.

While both men played down the significance of their presence in Sydney -- Cindric describing Penske Racing joining V8 Supercars as “a stretch as we stand here today” -- it has emerged Penske himself has been in Australia twice in recent months and has visited DJR, FPR, Ford Australia and its president Bob Graziano and new V8 Supercars CEO James Warburton.

And it’s not all been one way, with Dick Johnson, key business advisers and investors Steve Brabeck and Ryan Story and newly appointed team sporting director Campbell Little being flown to Penske Racing’s HQ in Mooresville North Carolina to discuss a business deal. Little also attended NASCAR and IndyCar races with Penske Racing.

In that light, DJR bolstering its stocks with Little, purchasing a second Racing Entitlements Contract (REC) and hiring young gun Scott Pye when 2014 sponsorship arrangements were yet to be locked down, makes a whole lot more sense.

Penske’s Australian interest has been heightened because he purchased the Australian distribution rights in October to Western Star trucks, which services 85 dealerships.

Throughout his substantial automotive retailing career he has always used motorsport as a promotional vehicle and understands its power as business-to-business networking tool. He has clearly decided to continue that philosophy here.

“What you have to understand is Roger didn’t come down here to look at race teams. He came here to run a business,” Cindric said.

“We have a huge business interest in Australia and his marketing for his businesses is all centred around racing. And the business is a big part of what drives the racing program… so before we make any decisions about how we leverage racing and business you have to understand the business and the people in it.

“I will give him feedback and then it is completely his decision about what he does in the near future or down the road.”

Story by Bruce Newton, as can be viewed at


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