More than anything else, owning a NASCAR team is about surviving. And the only way to survive and thrive in the dog-eat-dog world of big-time racing is by winning.
Not only winning races, but championships as well.
To do so consistently enough to survive means an owner needs to align himself with a manufacturer who can give his team the necessary tools to be successful.
This is why it wasn't surprising Penske Racing announced today that after this year, it would be dissolving its relationship with Dodge and begin running cars bearing the Ford name.
Contrary to what Penske officials may have said publically these last few years – Penske has been the only Dodge-backed team since the 2010 season – the writing was on the wall that it had hit a ceiling on what it was going to be able to accomplish. And if Roger Penske was ever going to win that elusive Sprint Cup title, being the lone Dodge wolf wasn't going to cut it.
A change needed to be made.
"When we weighed the pluses and minuses of the opportunity, it was apparent to us that we need to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship," Roger Penske said today in a teleconference with Ford officials. "We have been trying to do it alone. Having the opportunity to benchmark with someone like Roush, who has been world-class, as you could see with their performance this past weekend with (Matt) Kenseth and how good their cars are, we thought that it was the time for us to evaluate other options."
So why not sign on with a manufacturer who has not wavered in its commitment to NASCAR, and join a car company who is steadfast in its determination to win year after year?
To do so otherwise would be foolish.
As evidenced by his 15 victories in the Indianapolis 500, 12 open-wheel national championships and 68 Sprint Cup Series wins, Roger Penske is anything but a fool – and he's certainly not going to leave his team floundering in the wind.
Which is exactly the position Dodge now finds itself in.
With its best and only competitive team now leaving at the end of the year, and with an announcement scheduled for next week in Las Vegas to debut its 2013 Sprint Cup car, Dodge is all of a sudden in a very uncomfortable position.
If Dodge officials choose to continue in NASCAR, as they've done since the beginning of the 2001 season, the only way they can do so is by finding a replacement team – a team which produces like Penske has since it begin running Dodge's in '03.
And on that front, the pickings are slim at best.
Powerhouse teams such as Roush Fenway Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing are locked into contracts and/or comfortable with their arrangements with their respective manufacturers.
Meaning, Dodge is looking at midlevel teams like Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports or Michael Waltrip Racing as possible substitutes.
Those are three organizations which over the years haven't exactly been a bastion of success and consistency, and all of whom who will struggle to match the 26 wins and eight Chase appearances Penske Racing has racked up in its nine-year association with Dodge.
While there are many unanswered questions on many fronts – among them will Penske Racing run Roush-Yates engines or build its own? – one thing is clear above all else: In a game of survival, Penske ensured its continued existence today while Dodge did not.