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Labonte has been speculated to become fourth driver at Childress

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Petty Enterprises plans to have Bobby Labonte in the No. 43 car for as long as he wants to drive.

Labonte has been speculated as a candidate to become the fourth driver at Richard Childress Racing.

But Robbie Loomis, the vice president for racing operations at Petty Enterprises, said Labonte has given no indication he plans to leave.

He reminded that Labonte's contract runs through 2008 and that the organization is negotiating a long-term extension with the 2000 Nextel Cup champion.

"I tell people I like having a driver everybody's talking about," Loomis said before Saturday's final practice at Watkins Glen International. "It's kind of like having a girlfriend or a wife. You want one that everyone's chasing.

"As people are probably talking to Bobby we're talking to him about extending it down the road. I feel very confident Bobby will be with Petty Enterprises until he's done driving."

Loomis said Labonte's main concern is making sure the company has the people and equipment to contend for a spot in the championship chase.

"He's 20th in points and he's a better driver than that,'' he said.

Loomis hopes the decision to expand the deal with Gillett Evernham Motorsports to include chassis support as well as engines is a step in the right direction.

Loomis said the deal ultimately could have GEM supplying complete chassis.

"We've been working through the chassis development part of it," he said."It would be easier if they were winning six races like they were last year. Right now, we're trying to tread lightly as we move forward."

Loomis said the organization remains on track to move from Level Cross, N.C., to a location closer to Charlotte, N.C., by 2009.

He doesn't foresee a time when Petty Enterprises will completely merge with GEM or any other organization.

"Petty Enterprises will always be Petty Enterprises,'' he said. "Richard and Kyle are in a family business that is real important to them.''

Meanwhile, RCR owner Richard Childress on Friday said that he has been in discussions with J.J. Yeley, who is losing his ride with Joe Gibbs Racing to Kyle Busch, to become his fourth driver.

David Newton covers motorsports for ESPN.com.