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Letarte to Lead No. 24 Hendrick Team

LEVEL CROSS, N.C. / CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 14, 2005) – Kyle Petty, CEO of Petty Enterprises, today announced the organization’s addition of championship-winning crew chief Robbie Loomis as executive vice president of race operations.

In his new role, Loomis will head the day-to-day operations of Level Cross-based Petty Enterprises and its two full-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams—the No. 43 Dodges driven by Jeff Green and the No. 45 Dodges piloted by Petty.

“We are excited that Robbie will be rejoining Petty Enterprises,” Petty said.  “Robbie won races as a crew chief here, and then won a lot of races and a championship with Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports.  We have great respect for the entire Hendrick organization, and know that Robbie’s experience with the Hendrick team has prepared him well for the role he will take on at Petty Enterprises.

“Robbie Loomis will direct our entire race operation, and we expect his experience and his ability to mold a team to help us get to the next level.  Robbie has been a part of our family for a long time, and we’re happy to have him come home.”

Loomis, 41, will leave his position as crew chief of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 24 Chevrolets.  Before rejoining Petty, the Forest City, Fla., native will work as a consultant to Concord-based Hendrick Motorsports as the operation pursues the 2005 NEXTEL Cup championship with the No. 48 Chevrolets.

“We still have a job to do,” said Loomis, who won a Cup title with driver Jeff Gordon in 2001 after coming to Hendrick from Petty Enterprises in 2000.  “Our goal is winning that championship with Jimmie (Johnson), Chad (Knaus) and the No. 48 team.  I’m here to support them in any way I possibly can.

“Hendrick Motorsports opened my eyes to a whole different level of this industry.  The experience has allowed me to see things from a new perspective and learn important lessons about business and life.  I’m truly grateful to Rick, Jeff and the 500 people who make Hendrick Motorsports so special.

“I was with the Petty family for 11 years before being blessed to work with Jeff and the No. 24 team.  Kyle and Richard (Petty) are giving me an incredible opportunity to come home, back where I started my career, and I’m honored and excited to do that.”

With Loomis’ move, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick today introduced Steve Letarte as crew chief of the No. 24 entries driven by Gordon, a four-time Cup Series champion.  Letarte will call his first race Sunday at Loudon, N.H., less than 70 miles from his hometown of Cornish, Maine.

“Robbie and I share a great respect for the Petty family and organization,” Hendrick said.  “We talked about a lot of options, including management opportunities that would’ve kept him here.  But when it came down to making a decision, he followed his heart and I’m happy for him.  He’s a class act and will always have a place with us.

“When we first talked about this possibility before the season started, Steve’s name was the first and only one discussed.  He’s a talented young man and we’re looking forward to a bright future with him as crew chief.”

Letarte, 26, has been with the No. 24 team full-time since 1996, winning three Cup titles under the tutelage of crew chiefs Ray Evernham, Brian Whitesell and Loomis.  He has worked as a tire specialist, mechanic and car chief.

“To have a chance like this with Hendrick Motorsports is incredible,” Letarte said.  “I couldn’t ask to work with a better driver or a more talented group of people.  I’m committed to continuing the winning tradition of this team, closing 2005 on a positive note and pushing toward Jeff’s fifth championship next year.”

Letarte takes over a crew with a pair of pole positions and three victories this season.  Only two NEXTEL Cup teams have more wins in 2005.

“I’m sad to see Robbie leave,” Gordon said.  “We made a great team and had more wins ahead of us, but the Pettys presented him with a fantastic opportunity.  For him, it was time for a change and I’m happy he’s found the right fit.

“I’ve worked with Steve for more than 10 years and we already communicate extremely well, both on and off the track.  The team has a ton of confidence in his abilities, so we’re looking forward to the last 10 races of 2005 and getting an early jump on next year.”

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