Petty Enterprises sought after for potential alliance

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Robbie Loomis said Petty Enterprises has been approached by at least three organizations about a possible alliance heading into next season.

The vice president of racing operations, speaking Friday at Martinsville Speedway, would not identify them, but published reports say Dale Earnhardt Inc. might be on that list.

DEI officials declined to comment.

"It's nothing any newer than it was a year ago," Loomis said. "The only difference is now we probably have people talking at the right level, or a higher level, than I could."

Richard Petty sold majority interest of Petty Enterprises to Boston Ventures earlier this year for financial help. But in order to keep up with the top teams merging with each other, a merger for Petty itself might become necessary.

"It won't be long and we're going to be racing against six- and eight-car teams," Loomis said, referring to alliances such as the five-car team at Roush Fenway and three-car team of Yates Racing. "When it's two against four it's not bad. When it's two versus six and eight it's a lot more complicated."

DEI has four teams inside the top 35 in points, but has full sponsorship next season for only one. Petty has two teams and only one known driver, Bobby Labonte in the 43, set for next season.

And a sponsor for Labonte's car has not been named.

"Anybody that has a one-car team to a three-car team, there's probably been conversation," Loomis said, "but our loyalties lie with Dodge and Petty Enterprises. There's a lot of avenues we could take. We just want to be smart about it."

Loomis said the Pettys' deal with Dodge extends three years past this one. DEI signed an extension with General Motors/Chevrolet before this season.

"Like all situations, a lot of ideas sound great when you first start talking behind the truck," Loomis said. "As you get into it the further away everything ends up getting."

Loomis said Petty Enterprises is closer to naming a sponsor for Labonte, and he appears close to set on Chad McCumbee to drive the second car, which will be the No. 44.

He said the key in all of this is continued growth of the Petty brand, which a merger with DEI may or may not allow.

"Anytime you do something like that there is a plus side and downside," Loomis said. "There's a lot of things we're interested in and other people are interested in."

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