Commentary

Petty Enterprises: 1949-2009

The sign on the front door at the Petty Enterprises shop says "Closed for inventory today." It may as well say closed for good, writes David Newton.

Updated: January 5, 2009, 3:20 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- The sign on the front door of Petty Enterprises says "Closed for inventory today."

It should say closed for good.

[+] EnlargeLoomis, Labonte, and Petty
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonRobbie Loomis, left, still has a job, Bobby Labonte, center, is already looking for a new job and Richard Petty may keep his name on a race team, but it likely won't be called Petty Enterprises.

The doors were locked and the lights turned off Wednesday as NASCAR's most storied organization worked to finalize a merger with Gillett Evernham Motorsports located about 20 minutes away in Statesville, N.C.

Only a handful of what once were about 120 employees remained on Monday, and they too have been given notice that their services no longer are needed, a number of employees told ESPN.com.

Only Robbie Loomis, the vice president of racing operations who helped orchestrate Petty Enterprise's move from Level Cross to Mooresville a year ago, is guaranteed a job with the new company that several sources close to the situation said may be named Richard Petty Motorsports.

Loomis and Richard Petty, who had been vacationing in Wyoming, were in a closed-door meeting early Monday. David Zucker, the CEO of Boston Ventures, joined them around 11:30 a.m.

Petty sold majority interest to Boston Ventures last year, a sign of just how financially strapped the family business had become.

Sources said an announcement that the merger has been finalized could happen this week. Reed Sorenson reportedly has been slated as the driver of the No. 43 that Petty drove to seven championships, replacing Bobby Labonte, who announced last month that he was looking for another ride.

A.J. Allmendinger is expected to replace Elliott Sadler in the No. 19 car. Sadler, meanwhile, has put in place the process -- by way of a notice in Iredell County, N.C., court -- to file a breach of contract lawsuit against GEM if a settlement can't be reached. The suit would have to be filed by Jan. 20.

Among those listed in the notice are GEM owner George Gillett Jr., Allmendinger and Ray Evernham, who in August 2007 sold majority interest in the company he founded and is looking to sell the remaining 20 percent when Gillett has enough money to buy him out.

And for the record, Evernham has not played a role in the Petty merger, Sadler release or Allmendinger hire.

The bottom line, Petty Enterprises as it has been known for 60 years will cease to exist. Behind the locked doors, inside the dark showroom, remains only the No. 45 car that Kyle Petty once drove, a cardboard cutout of Labonte and paraphernalia from the team store.

Beyond that in the main shop are unpainted cars that never may be completed -- at least in this building.

"Nothing's happening here," said one former employee, who wished to remain anonymous until his severance was paid.

A former Michael Waltrip employee found that out as he approached the front door with his resume in hand.

"I heard rumors about a possible merger," he said. "I was hoping it wasn't true."

It is.

Petty Enterprises is closed.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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