Sources: Labonte agrees to contract extension with Petty Enterprises
RICHMOND, Va. -- Bobby Labonte has reached an agreement to remain in the No. 43 car at Petty Enterprises after this season, sources told ESPN.com on Saturday.
Labonte has been widely speculated as a candidate to drive the fourth car at Richard Childress Racing, but Petty officials have remained adamant that he will spend the rest of his career with the organization and that he is determined to be the driver that puts the 43 back into Victory lane.
Labonte told ESPN.com earlier this week that they had no reason to believe otherwise.
"I don't want it to take two or three or four years," he said. "I want it to happen today. I would love to be the guy. If it can happen sooner than later it's better. I'm not a skip around guy anyway."
Robbie Loomis, the vice president for racing operations at Petty, has been the most outspoken on Labonte's commitment to Petty Enterprises. He remained that way on Saturday.
"As far as I know Bobby Labonte will be with us for a long time," he said before the Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway. "I feel confident where we're at with Petty Enterprises and with Bobby.
"In due time Petty Enterprises will have a lot of announcements coming forward."
One is that a Petty has finalized a deal with New York-based Medallion Financial as a business partner. Loomis said that could come within the next month to six weeks.
The other concerns Labonte's new sponsor. General Mills, Labonte's current sponsor, will be on the fourth car at RCR next season. Loomis said negotiations for a new sponsor are going well, noting Labonte's "brand is clean like the Petty's."
Loomis would not comment on the future of Kyle Petty in the No. 45 car, saying that "is a Kyle question."
Petty already has stepped away from the car for one race after falling out of the top 35 in points guaranteed a spot in the field each week and has plans to miss six other races this summer.
"I'm sure Kyle is like the Brett Favre analogy: do I want to keep playing or do I not?" Loomis said.The No. 45 is 42nd in owner's points, compared to 23rd for the 43. While Loomis would like to expand to a three- or four-car operation, he said that can't happen until the 45 is running as well at the 43.
RCR owner Richard Childress said Friday that he is interviewing three to four Cup drivers for his fourth car and he hopes to name a driver within the next couple of months.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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