Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing have announced that they plan to merge their operations in time for the start of the 2010 season to run a four-car Ford team.
The new organisation is set to bring together two great names in the history of NASCAR as both Yates and Petty have won championships in the top series, albeit racing for different brands and under different structures.
Under the new alliance, which still has to be arranged in detail following the signing of a letter of intent, the merged squad will operate as a four-car team running Ford Fusions for Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, Paul Menard and AJ Allmendinger.
Petty's team had been pondering a move to a different manufacturer for some time, after racing Dodges for many years. A move to Toyota was a possibility, but the Yates merger provides the team with an opportunity to strengthen its operation technically and trim its resources.
"This is a pretty big deal for us," said Richard Petty, who drove for the Blue Oval in 1969, finishing runner up in the championship. "We're thrilled to partner with Ford. We've talked with a lot of folks, but in the end it came down to the success the Gilletts and I think we can achieve with Ford Racing.
"Right now this deal is real new. There are lots of details still left to be ironed out so we don't have a lot of answers for anyone right now. We'll be working on all that in the coming days, weeks and months, but we do intend to have everything in place before the start of next season. I've won races with Ford and plan to again."
Originally Richard Petty's team had four entries, but it will most likely drop the No. 44 car, moving Allmendinger to the No. 43 car. Meanwhile Yates Racing will probably cease its operation of the No. 96 Hall of Fame entry driven by Bobby Labonte and Erik Darnell this year.
However, Yates plans to continue to run both of its entries for the remainder of the 2009 season.
"This plan is clearly in the best interest of the Ford Racing community," said Yates Racing co-owner Doug Yates. "On a personal level, I am excited about the opportunity to focus my full energy on building Ford horsepower.
"We look forward to working with Richard Petty Motorsports to produce power second to none. There are many details to be worked out with Richard Petty Motorsports and as we finalize those details we will keep everyone informed."
The new merger is the latest iteration of a process that started with the demise of Petty Enterprises at the end of last season. At the start of the year Gillett Evernham Motorsports assumed the running of the iconic No.43 car, adding another entry for Allmendinger as the organization was renamed after Richard Petty.
The team's lead driver Kahne is currently the best ranked among the Dodge camp in the drivers' standings, following his second win of the season last weekend at Atlanta.
"Richard and Kasey showed us Sunday night in Atlanta that they like winning quite a bit and Ford is going to provide the support that we need to go to victory lane more often," said the team's managing partner Foster Gillett. "If you are going to compete with the other teams in this sport you need a lot of support.
"We bring a lot to this relationship as well. We've won twice this season and the power of Richard Petty is hard to beat, plus we have the support of some of the biggest names in corporate America."
Petty's announcement leaves Penske as the only team set to Dodges in 2010 at present. On Yates' side, it means that the team will not absorb the running of Roush Fenway's fifth car, currently driven by Jamie McMurray, who has been linked with a return with Chip Ganassi's squad for next year.