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Petty to keep four cars for rest of Sprint Cup season

LONG POND, Pa. - Richard Petty won 200 NASCAR races, seven championships, and has achieved just about all there is to accomplish in stock car racing.

The surefire NASCAR Hall of Famer has done it all - except qualifying for the Chase for the championship as an owner.

Kasey Kahne is on the brink of giving the King that spot in the 10-race sprint for the title.

'I think that we have a really good shot,' at making the Chase, Kahne said. 'We need a couple more things to go our way to figure out before the Chase if we want to win races and be really competitive. I think that we have a top-10 team right now. We just need to keep building on it.'

Kahne has been propelled into the Chase with a string of strong finishes to make up for a sluggish start, while the other three Richard Petty Motorsports drivers have been mired in mediocrity. Elliot Sadler is 25th, Reed Sorenson is 26th and A.J. Allmendinger is 27th in the standings.

'They've got to start finishing better than what they've been doing,' Petty said. 'Reed's been up and down.'

They've been so inconsistent that Petty had to shoot down rumors that Sorenson was in danger of being yanked from the No. 43 Dodge for Allmendinger for performance and financial reasons.

'We're going to run all drivers the rest of the year,' Petty said. 'We'll sort of see what happens after this season and we'll make our decisions on next year.'

Kahne is in good position to earn a spot in the 12-driver field thanks to his strongest five-race stretch of the season. Kahne is in ninth place entering today's race at Pocono Raceway, where he won from the pole in 2008. Even so, with six races left until the Chase kicks off, Kahne is far from a lock for making the field.

Watching it all behind his trademark sunglasses and feathered cowboy hat has been Petty, who as an owner hasn't come anywhere close to matching his success as a driver. This could be the season when Petty, who's been nominated for induction into the inaugural class of NASCAR's Hall of Fame, finally has a vested interest in the Chase for the first time since its inception in 2004.

'All we've got to do is have decent luck the next few races here,' Petty said Saturday. 'But once the deal starts, we've got to come up with some better ideas so we can be competitive when the Chase does start. If we stay the same as where we are, and run 10 races the same way, then we're not going to win the championship.'

Petty wouldn't be in position to contend for a championship if not for an offseason merger with Gillett-Evernham Motorsports that kept his team afloat. Sorenson and Allmendinger joined GEM holdovers Kahne and Sadler to give RPM a four-car program and a legitimate shot at competing for the title.

'They were struggling, we were struggling; we were struggling more than they were,' Petty said. 'But when they combined together, then we've got four ideas instead of two ideas.'

All four drivers are signed through 2010, but Petty said there are no assurances the team can keep all the drivers.

'The economy is going to dictate to us what we need to do,' he said. 'Right now, we're just trying to keep our head above water, hoping that the economy comes around so that we can continue to run four cars.'

RPM laid off employees and sliced salaries earlier this year in the fallout from Chrysler's Chapter 11 filing. Petty's first choice is to run all four cars in a full Cup season, but economics may decide otherwise.

'We can't sacrifice three to try and run a fourth car,' Petty said. 'Right now, we're still breathing air and we're able to run four cars the rest of the season.'