Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing announced on Thursday that they have signed a letter of intent to merge operations for the 2010 season, with the four-car team racing under the RPM banner with Ford.

Current #43 driver Reed Sorenson will not be back with the team for 2010, instead being replaced by Paul Menard, who will be joining Kasey Kahne, Elliot Sadler and A.J.Allmendinger.

“This is a pretty big deal for us. We’re thrilled to partner with Ford,” Petty said. “We’ve talked with a lot of folks, but in the end it came down to the success the Gilletts and I think we can achieve with Ford Racing.”

“Right now this deal is real new. There are lots of details still left to be ironed out so we don’t have a lot of answers for anyone right now. We’ll be working on all that in the coming days, weeks and months, but we do intend to have everything in place before the start of next season. I’ve won races with Ford and plan to again.”

Petty previously won nine races with Ford in 1969, but that was the only year that he drove for the brand.

Managing partner Foster Gillett said: “If you are going to compete with the other teams in this sport you need a lot of support. We bring a lot to this relationship, as well. We’ve won twice this season and the power of Richard Petty is hard to beat, plus we have the support of some of the biggest names in corporate America.”

Petty Enterprises was the most successful team in NASCAR history, taking 268 victories since 1949.

Talking to Dave Moody on Sirius NASCAR radio Sorenson said: “I’ve kind of known for a few weeks now that I’m looking for a job next year,”

“I thought this was going to be a place where I could get with a team and start a long future but obviously that hasn’t worked out.

“It’s not a good time to be looking for a ride, especially a good one. The one good thing I have is that I am young and I’m going to work my butt off the rest of this year to try and find a job and just keep doing the best I can. That’s all you can do.”