CART co-founder Roger Penske is abandoning the league he helped create for the rival IRL, a stunning move by the most successful owner in open-wheel racing.
He plans to race in all IRL events next season, including the Indianapolis 500, Penske Racing president Tim Cindric said Thursday in a statement from company headquarters in Reading, Pa.
Cindric said the decision was made in conjunction with Marlboro, the team's chief sponsor, whose auto-racing marketing plans have been curtailed by the 1998 tobacco settlement.
The shifting of the racing operation that has accounted for nine CART titles and 11 open-wheel championships overall was the latest blow for CART, which has been losing prestige in the United States since it left the Indianapolis 500 after formation of the IRL in 1996.
CART's growth in recent years has been overseas, with races in Australia, Japan, England and Germany.
The move also leaves CART without a defending champion. Gone will be Gil de Ferran, who won titles the last two years. It also guarantees that Helio Castroneves, who gave Penske his 11th Indianapolis 500 victory this year, will defend that title next May.
The IRL said Penske's defection was another indication that its form of American oval racing will continue to gain in popularity.