Report: Petty Enterprises, GEM merging

Updated: December 31, 2008, 10:58 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Petty Enterprises has agreed to a merger with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, with a formal announcement of the deal expected next week, Foxsports.com reported, citing multiple sources.

Petty Enterprises and team owner George Gillett agreed to a deal on Christmas Eve, but the terms of that agreement have yet to be made public, according to the report.

While the newly merged team would likely be rebranded under the Petty name, according to the report, the deal would close the garage doors on one of NASCAR's most historically significant teams -- a racing dynasty that dates back to the sport's roots.

Petty Enterprises has raced in NASCAR for 60 years, dating back to stock car racing's infancy, and won 10 championships. Its founder, Lee Petty, won the first Daytona 500 in 1959; his son, Richard Petty, is known simply as "The King" and remains one of NASCAR's most instantly recognizable personalities, years after his driving career ended with a record 200 wins.

The team's famous No. 43 Dodge -- painted in trademarked Petty blue glaze -- will become part of the Gillett team, with Reed Sorenson expected to be its driver, according to the Foxsports.com report. Bobby Labonte left Petty Enterprises earlier this month after piloting the No. 43 for three years, finishing 21st overall in 2008.

Most of the remaining 39 employees at Petty Enterprises will work their last day at the team's Mooresville, N.C. facility on Wednesday. The company moved to Mooresville from its longtime home in Level Cross -- adjacent to the Petty homestead -- in January, taking over the former Yates Racing facility.

Robbie Loomis, Petty's executive vice president of racing operations, is expected to assume a managerial role in the newly merged company, according to the report.

David Zucker, who was named the team's CEO when controlling interest was purchased by private equity firm Boston Ventures, is expected to be reassigned to the Petty Driving Experience, according to the report.

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