Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing plan to merge in 2010, with the four-car team running Fords under the RPM banner.

Under the agreement announced Thursday, Yates driver Paul Menard will join RPM drivers Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler and A.J. Allmendinger next year.

RPM was formed in January when Petty Holdings merged with Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

The team has met with mixed success, though Kahne is in good position to make the 12-driver chase for the championship after picking up his second victory of the season last week in Atlanta. Kahne is sixth in points heading into Saturday's race at Richmond, the final race before the chase begins.

"This is a pretty big deal for us," Petty said. "We're thrilled to partner with Ford. 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."

The switch from Dodge to Ford should ease some of the financial pressure felt by RPM since Chrysler's Chapter 11 filing. RPM laid off employees and cut salaries after Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection.

"If you are going to compete with the other teams in this sport, you need a lot of support," said RPM managing partner Foster Gillett. "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 in America."

The merger leaves RPM driver Reed Sorenson and former NASCAR champion Bobby Labonte _ who has been driving for Yates _ looking for work while bringing Kahne full circle with Ford.

Kahne was being groomed by for big things by Ford in 2003 when he suddenly left the fold and signed with Ray Evernham's Dodge team, a move that gave Kahne a full-time ride at the Cup level. Ford sued for breach of contract, but the case was eventually thrown out of court.

Brian Wolfe, director of Ford North America Motorsports, called RPM's decision to switch manufacturers "gratifying."

"We will work with them closely on the technical front to help them become even more competitive than they are," he said. "What's also really good to me is the chance to have someone with the class and the legacy of Richard Petty involved with Ford."

Petty, winner of a record 200 NASCAR races, said some of the details are still being worked on. But he added there is little doubt the merger will help RPM make inroads on NASCAR super teams like Hendrick Motorsports.

"I've won races with Ford and plan to again," he said.

Just not with Sorenson, who is 28th in points this year with just one Top 10 finish.

Labonte is 30th while driving for Yates as part of a joint venture with Hall of Fame Racing, but was pulled from last week's race at Atlanta in favor of rookie Erik Darnell. Labonte ended up driving the No. 71 car for TRG Motorsports and finished 18th while Darnell was 30th.

Yates Racing co-owner Max Jones said it will still field two cars for the remainder of the 2009 season. Menard, who is 32nd in points, will drive one car while Darnell and Labonte will split time in the other.