Labonte switch could guarantee Petty Enterprises future starting spots

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Bobby Labonte could find himself in the No. 45 instead of the 43 at Petty Enterprises should Kyle Petty fall out of the top 35 in Nextel Cup owners' points over the next five weeks.

Petty said he would consider switching cars with his teammate so both would be guaranteed a starting spot, him on Labonte's points [17th] and Labonte on his past champion's provisional, the remainder of this season.

That also could help for next season if Labonte could race the No. 45 back into the top 35 that will be guaranteed a spot the first five races of 2008.

"Yeah, we'd consider it," Petty said Saturday between practices at Martinsville Speedway. "I'm not gonna lie. Look, as long as they don't change the rules and the rulebook is written that way, we're in the business to run racecars.

"We have two racecars, the 43 and 45. Whatever it takes to get those in, I don't see the issue with it."

Labonte, who won the 2000 title at Joe Gibbs Racing, doesn't sound thrilled about the prospect.

"I probably don't have a stance," he said. "I just do what I'm told, I guess. We'll have to wait and see how that turns out."

Petty is 35th in owners' points heading into Sunday's race. He is only 109 ahead of the No. 21 car being driven by Bill Elliott for the Wood Brothers.

Petty will start 42nd and Elliott will start 43rd.

"Michael [Waltrip] used Dale Jarrett, the Wood Brothers used Bill Elliott. Other guys have used Terry Labonte," said Petty, referring to teams that have used the past champion's provisional to make races. "So what's the issue? I mean, it's out there. I'm not going to fall on the sword and say, 'No, we're above that. We're not going to do it.'

"It's not the best way to do things at all, but whatever it would take for us to survive as a company and continue to race, that's what we'll do."

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