Petty releases 39 employees, bringing total to 65

Updated: December 8, 2008, 4:22 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Petty Enterprises released 39 employees on Monday, bringing the total to 65 since the end of the season.

A source close to the situation said NASCAR's most storied organization, the owner of 10 Sprint Cup titles between Richard Petty (seven) and his father, Lee (three), has about 54 employees anxiously waiting to hear whether there will be a merger with Gillett-Evernham Motorsports.

"Everybody is still looking for marching orders in what direction we're going in," the source said.

The Pettys have been in negotiations to merge with several teams for months. Two were eliminated when Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates merged last month.

The possible merger with GEM would have the famous No. 43 joining the No. 9 (Kasey Kahne), 19 (Elliott Sadler) and 10 (Reed Sorenson) of GEM to become a four-car operation.

Whether 2000 Cup champion Bobby Labonte, the current driver of the unsponsored 43, would be a part of that deal remains unclear. Labonte, who signed a long-term deal that included partial ownership with Petty Enterprises earlier this year, has reportedly had talks with DEI-Ganassi about driving the Target-sponsored No. 41.

That could clear the way for AJ Allmendinger, released by Red Bull Racing late this season, to move into the 43.

Officials at Petty Enterprises and GEM were not available for comment.

Should the merger occur it would be the first time NASCAR has been without Petty Enterprises as it is known today since 1969. Richard Petty sold majority ownership to Boston Ventures earlier this year, but the name of the company and driving school remained the same.

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

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ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter