Gillett Evernham scales back Nationwide program

STATESVILLE, N.C. -- Gillett Evernham Motorsports will lay off about 65 employees in several departments as part of scaling back its Nationwide Series program next season.

The No. 9 Dodge will run a partial schedule in the second-tier NASCAR series in 2009. The team will continue to field at least three Sprint Cup Series teams -- for Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler and Reed Sorenson -- and is in talks with Petty Enterprises to merge with that organization and house its famed No. 43.

"We are a Sprint Cup team first and foremost, and winning in that series needs to be our primary focus," CEO Tom Reddin said in a statement Wednesday. "The Nationwide Series is a fantastic series ... [but] we will remained focused on putting all of our effort behind the Cup program in 2009."

GEM lost sponsor Unilever to JR Motorsports at the end of the season and doesn't have enough sponsorship in place to run the full Nationwide schedule.

Some of the layoffs came from the engine department, which is being reorganized to align with the number of customers who lease motors from GEM.

The engine department supplied Petty Enterprises and Robby Gordon Motorsports last season, but Gordon is moving to Toyota in 2009.

GEM joins other NASCAR teams, the NFL, the NBA and the company that runs Major League Baseball's Internet division in announcing layoffs because of the economic crisis. The NHL hasn't laid off workers, but has a hiring freeze.

In NASCAR, Petty Enterprises has released at least 70 employees since last month's season-ending race, and Wood Brothers Racing and Bill Davis Racing have dramatically scaled back their programs as teams continue to scour the market for sponsorship.

Dale Earnhardt Inc. let go more than 100 employees when it partnered with Chip Ganassi Racing last month, and Ganassi released 71 in the summer when he shuttered Dario Franchitti's team.

The layoffs have not been exclusive to the second-tier teams, either. Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing all released employees as the teams cut back on spending and adjusted their staffs in preparation for 2009's suspension of testing programs.