Q&A's with Robbie Loomis: Has winning your first Winston Cup championship sunk in yet? "It's been pretty exciting. But our focus right now is on New Hampshire. We'd like to go up there and win that race. Maybe when we get to New York we'll be...
Q&A's with Robbie Loomis:
Has winning your first Winston Cup championship sunk in yet? "It's been pretty exciting. But our focus right now is on New Hampshire. We'd like to go up there and win that race. Maybe when we get to New York we'll be able to look back on some of the things we accomplished. I was very relieved at Atlanta that we got it done. We knew we were close the last month and it was good to finally get that trophy in our hands."
Weather-wise, how do you think New Hampshire will go? "We've been checking the weather every morning and I'm really excited about the (forecast for) 50-degree weather. I was afraid it was going to be in the 30's or 40's."
Looking back on this year, is there anything in particular you would have done differently? "We try to look at each race and what went on through the race and what contributed to the bottom line. We'll do that again and look at the entire season and the places where we need to improve our performance. We'll try to analyze everything and see if there is a common denominator there from racetrack to racetrack.
"But you've got to steadily improve. The worst thing about success is that it can become your worst enemy. So we have to work real hard to make sure we're always improving and always changing and making our cars better and better."
Heading for the homestretch, were there little things you did to lower the risks and prevent catastrophe? "There are certain measures to take and that's where Randy Dorton (engine builder) comes in. He knows when to take risks and when not to take risks. The race team decisions that you make are that early in the year, all your decisions are made on two tires or four tires and on winning the race. The second half of the season, they become small decisions. Maybe you take a safer route and take four tires because you know it's going to help Jeff maneuver the car and protect himself more if we need to. When we won at Kansas City, we were still pretty much racing to win races. It's hard to sit here now and say that the subconscious part of your mind helps you made different decisions."
Are you going to be focusing hard on the first four or five races of the season? "When you win a race on Sunday, it's hard to enjoy it because when you come to the shop on Monday you've got to be focusing on checking into the racetrack the next Friday morning. The championship is kind of the same thing. We have to put ourselves in focus about how we can do that again next year. We have to come in and be real competitive."
Are you working on a flat track program? "We feel real excited about flat track. We were competitive at Phoenix and Homestead this year. We think the addition of Jimmie Johnson is going to help because when you take someone who hasn't been driving as long, there are no pre-conceived notions and you can try different things in the car."
How chaotic is it going to be at Loudon with little prep time? "It'll be under different circumstances than we're used to up there and I'm real excited about it. It will be slick the first eight, ten, 15 laps to start with. Loudon has always been slick on re-starts. Once the tires get some temperature in them, it might make for a little bit more competitive race because the track will have a little more grip in it. I think we'll put on a great race.
"Usually we prepare the car to go to the racetrack for qualifying and then you change the motor and we have to work on brake ducts and you run a different rear-end gear. The biggest difference with this event is that the guys in the Dupont shop have been preparing the car for the race. Inspection will be pretty hectic in the morning, but I'm really looking forward to this challenge. I think the one-day show is going to be a great thing for the guys. I think we're all looking forward to a different style race in the cold weather. We are excited about it and hope to get a win and earn some extra Christmas money for the guys on our team."
Is Daytona going to come up pretty quick for you? "Honestly, we've been working on Daytona since we came home from Talladega. We've had some meetings on the speedway cars and have been working on some engine stuff in the shop already. We're really excited about it."
How important is the January test at Daytona? "It's a great opportunity to get all the guys on the team working together again and everyone knowing their part on the road. It's a good time to learn a lot of things on the racecar in preparation for February."
How much downtime will you get between seasons? "With the awards banquet and the holidays, this December is going to go by pretty quick for us."
How hard did you challenge yourself this year to return the team to its championship status? "When I first came here, Brian Whitesell (team manager) and I sat down and talked. He had won three championships before. That's one of the most gratifying things about this championship. There are several people here that were in on the championships that Hendrick Motorsports had won in the past. We just wanted to get everything back on the table. All the pieces were there. We just had to get the ball rolling in the right direction."
Did you have any doubts about whether or not you could get it done? "Not really. You know where you want to go and it's about getting the most people on your team looking that way. We've got 43 teams that start these races. Week in and week out, the teams that have success are the ones that have the most people thinking about the one common goal or winning the race or winning the championship. This year, we had a focused group. It was really a team effort like you've never seen before."
Just how good is Jeff Gordon and how much does he mean to this championship and to the team? "He means everything to it. A lot of Hendrick Motorsports people were here throughout the first three championships. I think the focus was taken away from Jeff. I teased him by saying I thought maybe he was a pretty good driver after all."
Has this been gratifying for you? "Yes. This is what I've lived for all my live. So many people have made sacrifices along the way to achieve this. All the people I've worked with have taught me so much. The Petty organization itself - Richard and Kyle - have helped me so much in understanding the highs and lows of a sport. This season was our time. It wasn't that we were some great masterminds. We have a great group of people working together as a team toward one common goal."
What are your thoughts on the pit road situation? "They've already taken one step with that pit road speed line and we saw some guys wearing helmets last week at Atlanta. I think the helmets are the safest step we can take right now. We've got to keep the racing in it for the fans - which is really why we're doing all this."
What will you do to protect the engines for Loudon? "We're going to have the heaters/generators running in the truck to make sure they don't freeze. Once they're running, everything will be fine."
-Team Monte Carlo-