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Petty Enterprises don't expect to lose Labonte despite losing sponsor

FORT WORTH, Texas -- If Bobby Labonte is headed to Richard Childress Racing next season he's got everybody at Petty Enterprises fooled.

Robbie Loomis, the vice president of competition at NASCAR's most storied organization, said on Wednesday he was confident that the 2000 Sprint Cup champion would finish his career with the Pettys.

Team owner Richard Petty and his son, Kyle, said the same thing on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.

"From what my conversations have been with Bobby, I never questioned it," Richard said. "I read all this stuff; I hear all this stuff -- and it goes in one ear and out the other."

Kyle, who stepped aside from the No. 45 car this season in favor of rookie Chad McCumbee, agreed.

"All indications of anytime I've talked to Bobby or any meetings that I've been in with Bobby is yeah, [he'll be back]," he said. "He's committed. He may walk out tomorrow. But when he came to Petty Enterprises he . . . committed to Petty Enterprises. I don't know how to describe that to people.

"Maybe that's why we're in the position we're in, because it is an old style of racing. But he committed himself, and he committed his resources and what he was willing to do for Petty Enterprises. He's been true to that. He has not in any way shape or form strayed from that."

Finding Labonte, who has declined to speculate on his future, a sponsor might help keep him in the famed No. 43. General Mills announced on Monday it was leaving next season to help form a fourth team at Richard Childress Racing.

That prompted speculation that Labonte, who is driving a few Nationwide Races for Richard Childress this season, also will go to RCR.

"We've got to find a sponsor for Bobby Labonte on the 43 car," Kyle said. "We've got to create a solid organization to back that team."

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