Report: Petty, GEM to merge

Petty Enterprises will merge with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, reported on Wednesday.

The deal was struck on Christmas Eve between George Gillett and Petty Enterprises. A formal announcement is expected next week.

The move, ending a 60-year run for Petty Enterprises, doesn’t come as a surprise considering the tough economic situation many NASCAR teams are facing. Petty Enterprises had already lost longtime sponsor General Mills, had recently parted ways with Bobby Labonte and had no driver signed to wheel the legendary No. 43 in 2009.

Reed Sorenson is expected to take over duties behind the wheel of the No. 43, according to the report.

It’s expected the new team will still use the Petty name, which makes sense. Despite the fact that Petty Enterprises hasn’t been to victory lane since 1999, the name still carries brand power.

In June, private equity firm Boston Ventures purchased majority ownership of Petty Enterprises. At the time, newly installed CEO David Zucker said he understood turning around the fortunes of the struggling organization would take time, but made assurances that Boston Ventures had the “patience and capital to capitalize the company appropriately to make sure we can go forward for the long run.”

Less than seven months later, it appears that run is over.

Zucker will reportedly stay on to run the Petty Driving Experience arm of the organization.

Robbie Loomis, vice president of operations for Petty Enterprises, will continue in a managerial role.

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Updated Wednesday, Dec 31, 2008