US legend Roger Penske is looking at adding a V8 Supercars team to his American motor racing empire.
Penske has sent the chief of his front-running NASCAR stock car and IndyCar teams to the title-deciding Sydney 500 to look at buying an established V8 team.
Fairfax Media has learned that the factory-backed Ford Performance Racing squad has been a target of a takeover by Penske Racing, one of the most storied racing operations in the US. Penske, who heads a multibillion-dollar automotive and trucking conglomerate, has also had talks with Ford's Dick Johnson about buying his team.
They met at Penske's corporate headquarters in Bloomfield Hills, a suburb of Detroit, during a secret visit by Johnson last month.
Penske Racing president Tim Cindric has been Ford Performance Racing's guest since Friday at the Sydney Olympic Park street circuit, where the V8 Supercars championship will be settled on Sunday.
Also visiting is Ford's global motor sport boss, Jamie Allison, reinforcing speculation that Penske is negotiating to extend his racing ties with Ford to Australia.
For more than four decades, Penske has used his success in motor racing - especially at the Indianapolis 500 - to promote his business empire. He plans to acquire a V8 Supercars team to publicise his new Australian truck distribution business. At the end of July, Penske Automotive Group bought the Queensland-based Commercial Vehicles Group, which imports and sells Western Star and other leading truck and bus brands.
Penske has been secretly planning to buy a V8 team for three months. Johnson, whose Ford team has survived a series of financial crises since the end of 2005, led a consortium to meet Penske and discuss possibilities. Fairfax Media believes that Penske's preference is to buy FPR and that his interest in buying the team, which has confirmed backing from Ford Australia through to at least the end of next year, is backed by Ford chiefs both here and in Detroit.
The fact that the unheralded visit by Allison coincides with the presence at the Sydney 500 of Cindric is regarded as more than a coincidence by V8 racing insiders.
FPR team principal Tim Edwards has denied that there have been any takeover talks.