Petty Enterprises in merger talks with Gillett Evernham

9/7/2007 - NASCAR

RICHMOND, Va. -- Petty Enterprises, NASCAR's most storied organization, is open to a change of ownership.

The two-car operation owned by seven-time champion Richard Petty is having discussions with Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr. that would allow it to merge with Gillett Evernham Motorsports and form a four-car Nextel Cup organization.

"They have quoted some numbers,'' Kyle Petty, the CEO of Petty Enterprises and driver of the No. 45 Dodge, said on Friday at Richmond International Raceway.

Gillett recently purchased majority ownership of Evernham Motorsports, now known as Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

Petty said Gillett has floated an offer in which the companies would merge but allow Petty Enterprises to continue working under its flagship name.

For that to happen, Gillett Evernham Motorsports would have to drop one of its three teams to comply with NASCAR's cap of four cars.

The No. 10 car of Scott Riggs would be the most likely victim. Riggs is out of the top 35 in owner's points that automatically qualify for races and his contract is up after this season.

Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler are solidly in the top 35 in owner's points with Kahne at 22 and Sadler at 28.

Both Petty Enterprises cars also are in the top 35 with Bobby Labonte at 18 and Kyle Petty at 34.

Evernham said there's no doubt the proper business model is for a four-car operation. Because he already has a relationship with the Pettys, supplying the organization with engines and technical support, he would be all for a merger.

"I think we could combine the organizations and be stronger,'' he said. "How the car numbers work, I don't know.''

Petty said he is far from a deal with Gillett, which took more than six months to finalize his deal with Evernham, or any suitor.

"Unlike some of the other teams, where the first pretty girl that flashes her eyes at them they marry, we'll probably date a little bit before we marry,'' he said.

Petty added that Petty Enterprises, despite its struggles for more than a decade, has more to offer than a lot of teams because of the Petty brand and the driving experience.

"When you talk to Ray about his team he's just talking about a team,'' Petty said. "We're not just talking about a team. And I'm not being arrogant, but we feel we have something more to offer investors than just a race team.''

Should a merger with Gillett occur, Petty said the organization would consider every option from relocating to Salisbury, N.C., as has been discussed regardless to moving to Evernham's shop in Statesville, N.C.

"We've been in this business 60 years,'' Petty said. "When you look at it this just seems to be the trend of the moment. Do you jump on the trend of the moment or do you stay the course? We've been the same course for 60 years. Whether that's the right course or wrong course I'm not going to say.''

David Newton covers Nextel Cup racing for ESPN.com.