Sabates says Ganassi 'keeping our options open' in merger talks

LAS VEGAS -- Felix Sabates was emphatic three months ago that the NASCAR Sprint Cup organization he co-owns with Chip Ganassi was not looking to merge with another company.

Now the company is negotiating with several organizations, including Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Petty Enterprises.

"We're talking to a lot of different people," Sabates said on Tuesday. "We're keeping our options open. Obviously, the way things are going today with sponsors, unless you have the sponsors you can't run.

"We only have a sponsor for the 41 car [Target] and the 42 [Wrigley's Big Red] for half a year. We're looking at all possibilities."

DEI and Petty Enterprises are in similar situations. DEI has only the No. 1 car of Martin Truex Jr. fully sponsored for next season, with partial sponsors in line for the No. 8 and none for its other two cars.

Petty Enterprises is looking for sponsors for the No. 43 and 44 that is expected to replace the No. 45.

So how would a merger with DEI help Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates?

"They have a sponsor for one and a half cars and we have a sponsor for one and a half cars, that makes three cars, doesn't it?" Sabates said. "The same thing with Petty. They've got one car. There are other people out there, too."

The biggest stumbling block for DEI to merge with Ganassi or Petty may be manufacturer permission. DEI is under contract with General Motors to field Chevrolets and the other two are under contract with Dodge and Chrysler.

The proposed merger between GM and Chrysler could help that situation, but there remain other obstacles on both sides.

"Everything is up in the air," Sabates said. "We're just talking in theory. We don't know what is going to happen. We don't have anything concrete with anybody. And I'm not saying we will do anything."

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