Richard Petty Motorsports drivers AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose are coming off their best performances of the season as they registered fifth and sixth place finishes in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. Robbie Loomis, Vice President of Race Operations for RPM, spoke with Ford Racing about the team’s season to date during a test session on Tuesday at VIR.
ROBBIE LOOMIS, Vice President of Race Operations, Richard Petty Motorsports – YOU HAD TO BE HAPPY WITH SUNDAY’S RESULT HAVING AJ AND MARCOS FINISH FIFTH AND SIXTH, RESPECTIVELY. “Yeah. Everyone at Richard Petty Motorsports and our relationship with RFR has been working really good this year. Doug is doing a great job with the engines and I couldn’t be prouder of the job Mike Shiplett and Todd Parrott and those guys are doing as far as keeping the team focused. I think in the past we’ve struggled a little bit on those mile-and-a-half tracks, but we’ve run two or three of them now and have had some pretty solid cars, especially with the 9 and then this weekend with the 43 was probably our best performance to date. With AJ, we’ve really been fighting with keeping the front tires on the car, so we feel really good about the direction we’re going there and have a lot of good race tracks coming up for us through this summer stretch.”
MARCOS LED 18 LAPS AND AJ LED 5 LAPS DURING THE COCA-COLA 600, SO YOUR CARS WERE UP FRONT MUCH OF THE NIGHT. SOME MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO SEE WHERE YOUR TWO CARS FINISHED, BUT THAT WAS A JUSTIFIABLE RESULT, CORRECT? “Oh yeah, for sure. On the 9 car we actually had a loose wheel during the race and that kind of got him behind, but the way these races go – sometimes you get the finishes like we got the other night and sometimes a situation like we had with the loose wheel can put you in a circumstance that we might have been involved in one of those accidents or been in a different situation. Some weeks things play into your hands. You look at the way Harvick has won these races. Somebody told me he has led only nine laps in the three wins that he’s got, but he’s been able to put himself in that position to win. That’s what Richard said to me coming home the other night he said, ‘You know, if we keep running the way we’re running, we’re gonna get us a couple of wins before the year is out,’ and that’s what we’re gonna stay focused on is keeping up the performance of the cars.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR TEAM HAS FLOWN UNDER THE RADAR SO FAR THIS YEAR? “I kind of like flying under the radar and let them talk about everybody else. I like to let our results speak for themselves, but we’ve still got work to do and have to continue to do it every week and every day of the week to get there. I definitely like the direction that the whole company and the team is moving in and ownership has shown a true commitment and stability to the program, which, when it starts from the top it trickles down through the whole organization.”
AJ IS 13TH IN POINTS AND MARCOS IS 17TH. HAVE YOU GUYS TALKED ABOUT TAKING MORE RISKS AND CHANCES TO TRY AND GET A WIN OR TWO TO MAKE A RUN AT THOSE WILD CARD SPOTS? YOU HAVE THE ROAD COURSE AT INFINEON COMING UP AND SOME OTHER GOOD TRACKS. “The first thing we talked about when the season started was to be as consistent as we can be and finish the races and see if we can keep ourselves in a position to be close enough in the points to make the top 10 in the point system. The second thing is as the season winds down and gets in the middle of summer, then if we’ve got to start pressing and rolling the dice to gamble, I mean, the way these races are going right now those crew chiefs have got the toughest job in the world calling these races. Guys are using all kinds of different pit strategy. Clean air just means the world to these cars right now, so I think you’ll see more of that as the season winds down, but, right now, we want to keep being consistent and building our program to have strong cars and strong performances. Then you can afford to take those chances, but, right now, the cars are running great. The teams are communicating well with the engineers and Eric Warren, our technical director, is doing a great job from an engineering standpoint and Sammy Johns, as far as the cars rolling out and being prepared well, is working well with the crew chiefs. All of the parts are working, but it’s a very, very fine line of how quick you can get off base. We’re trying to keep our guard up for sure.”
SO WHAT YOU’RE SAYING IS YOU’RE GLAD NOT TO BE A CREW CHIEF ANYMORE AND HAVING TO MAKE THESE CALLS. “Exactly. I really feel for them. There’s not a crew chief in there that I haven’t felt the emotions they feel when a race is over with, but it’s always been tough. The competition and these cars are all so close that everybody is rolling the dice sometimes to put themselves in better track position. Sometimes it works out and sometimes there’s a big wreck behind you that changes the circumstances of where the cars are at, but, right now, those crew chiefs have a really tough job.”
YOU MENTIONED SOME GOOD TRACKS COMING UP WITH KANSAS AND POCONO AND MICHIGAN AND INFINEON. IS THIS A STRETCH YOUR TEAM CAN WIN A RACE OR TWO AND SOLIDIFY YOUR SPOT IN THE STANDINGS? “I think so. I’ve always taken more of a rhythm type of approach to it. I can’t stand having an off weekend. I like when you get in a rhythm and you just race and race and race. I think it keeps everybody focused more and keeps everybody’s head in the game a lot better. From the drivers, who are the leaders, all the way down to the guys working on the car.”
Ford Racing PR