Team owner Richard Petty said the merger between Yates Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports, now in the form of a letter of intent, should be finalised within two weeks.

Petty said the team's move from Dodge to Ford, announced Thursday, presented the best opportunity for financial support from a manufacturer. He also indicated, to the best of his knowledge, vice president of competition Mark McArdle was no longer with the team.

"The deal with Dodge was not there," Petty said Saturday from outside his motorcoach at Richmond International Raceway, "For us to continue and try to have more factory support, Ford was our best alternative.

"Right now, I can't tell you a whole lot, because there's not a whole lot went on. We just signed a letter of intent. When you do that, we don't have the particulars of who does what, who goes where - all that stuff. It has to be worked out in the next couple of weeks.

"We feel like [the deal can close in] a couple of weeks, because we don't feel like there's that much due diligence to do, because they've done a lot of it already."

RPM's Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger, Elliot Sadler and Yates Racing's Paul Menard constitute the announced driver line-up for next season, and Petty said he would like to see Allmendinger in the #43 Ford, replacing Reed Sorenson, but which driver is in which car will depend on sponsorship deals.

Petty said the plan is for all the teams to use engines built by Roush-Yates, the partnership that supplies engines to Roush Fenway Racing and Yates cars.

"The Yates engines - they're the only ones that build Ford engines right now," he said, "So, instead of us starting into a new programme, why not use their programme, because they've got the new engine, that I've never seen, and they're working on that. Hopefully they can get some of that stuff going."

Brian Wolfe, director of Ford Racing, said Saturday that Ford expected to introduce its new engine into competition before the end of the season. Which teams use it initially is still to be determined, but Ford drivers in the Chase will not. RPM has commitments to Dodge through the end of the season and, with Kahne a qualifier for the Chase, Petty would like to keep distractions to a minimum.

"One of our concerns is that this don't disturb what we've got going with Dodge for the rest of the year," he said, "That's one of the things that we're trying to keep down as much as possible. We know we're going to finish up the year. We've got obligations to Dodge; we've got obligations to our sponsors and stuff that we've got to carry out this year. We can't just say we're going to stop right now and get ready for next year. It don't work that way."

Jim Utter of reported Friday night that McArdle had left the racetrack at Richmond after a heated argument with majority owner George Gillett.

"Not that I know of," Petty said when asked if McArdle was still with the organisation, "From what I could pick up, I think yesterday was his last day. You'll have to talk to him and George. That was between them."

Petty said he did not anticipate the structure of the RPM organisation would change with the merger.

"RPM will still own RPM," he said, "Richard Petty Motorsports is there, and it's going to stay intact, with the same investors and the same people that's running it right now. ... Basically, it will absorb the Yates operation."
by Reid Spencer / Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service