Ford Racing interview: Loomis, Allmendinger, Ambrose

Ford Racing press release

A year ago at this time, nobody knew what the future held for Richard Petty Motorsports as the team searched for investors to try and keep the operation running. Since then, Richard Petty, Andrew Murstein and Doug Bergeron have come together and brought stability to an organization that has one victory and both of its drivers in the top 20 of this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings.

Robbie Loomis, chief operating officer, and drivers AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose, spoke to Ford Racing about the state of RPM and the goals it has for the future.

A.J. Allmendinger, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
A.J. Allmendinger, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

ROBBIE LOOMIS, Chief Operating Officer, Richard Petty Motorsports

COMPARING WHERE THE ORGANIZATION IS AT NOW TO A YEAR AGO, THINGS ARE A LOT BETTER AREN’T THEY? “Yeah, I think the foundation the owners have put under us with Richard Petty, Doug Bergeron and Andy Murstein has put us on a lot more solid footing as we have tried to put the pieces into place for the team and build it up. We still have deficiencies at certain race tracks that we need to work on, namely at the mile-and-a-half tracks. We think we made some gains in practice at Kansas. When you look back at a year ago from where we came from to where we are at today it feels good, but we still have miles to go before we rest.”

HOW MUCH DID THE TURMOIL OF LAST YEAR AFFECT YOUR DRIVERS? “I think that anytime you have uncertainty going on it is hard as an athlete or a professional to block it completely out of your mind, especially when you are having a rough day or something is going on. That is what AJ was able to do though. He was able to still manage through a difficult time and not let it eat at him. I think he relies a lot throughout his career on his talent. That is a big part of what has gotten him to where he is at today. For Marcos to be a winner in everything he has drove and believe in us and still come to the organization through all that meant a lot and I think to Ford as a whole.”

WHAT WAS THE TURNING POINT FOR THE ORGANIZATION? “I think the turning point was at Charlotte last October when we found out that we might have trouble finishing the season and Richard Petty stepped up himself and said he was going to make a commitment to finish the year and worked with his partners at the time to get to the end of the year. That worked out and from that point it gave Andy and Doug something to be able to come in to. I think that was the real turning point, and I remember at Charlotte when we talked about the possibility of maybe not finishing the year out. Richard said then that, ‘This has been my life, my whole life and this is what we are going to do. We are going to finish it and start working on next year.’ Then he said, ‘We have to finish this year so we have something going into next year.’”

THAT MUST HAVE BEEN A HUGE SHOT IN THE ARM FOR EVERYONE TO HAVE HIM MAKE THAT STATEMENT. “It really pumped the guys up. I know from AJ Allmendinger especially, he stepped up. If you look at his performance those last five or six races or whatever it was when we found out we were in some trouble. He really stepped up and was a team leader to the guys and drove the car ten-tenths, which he always drives the car ten-tenths, but he was the leader during the week also for them which helped and he has carried that into this year and now he sits 14th in points. To have Marcos still believe in us and come into the deal was big too. We felt like for sure we could win one of the road course races, if not both of them. We missed at Sears Point pretty bad, but we were able to capitalize at The Glen.”

WHAT HAS MARCOS BROUGHT TO THE ORGANIZATION OTHER THAN HIS ROAD RACING PROWESS? “I think his strength obviously is with the road racing, but we went to Vegas and qualified on the front row with him and ran fourth in that race. He has brought a fresh perspective and describes what he wants in the car really good. We all have the same things in our trucks that we need to get in the cars; it is about making sure we have the right stuff in the car when we put the car on the grid. That is the thing we are working on the hardest.”

AJ HAS HAD A CAREER YEAR WHEN YOU LOOK AT HIS POINTS, WHAT DOES HE NEED TO DO TO MAKE THAT NEXT STEP AND GET A WIN? “AJ is very dedicated and passionate about racing. He is getting where he handles and manages the bad days and bad moments of the race better. That is what has helped him be 14th in points. I think for him to excel and be in the Chase we just have to keep managing and minimizing those days when we are off and how big those mistakes are so we can take a 25th or 27th place finish and turn them into 15th place finishes. That is what will propel us forward. It is time for us as a team with the 43 to step up and win. We need to win.”

ARE THERE ADVANTAGES OR DISADVANTAGES TO RUNNING A TWO-CAR SHOP? “Due to Ford and the way Ford structures their engineering program and as strong as Ford has been in supporting us through it, there are some definite advantages to being two cars. The model is you want to be four because from a financial standpoint it gives you more resources. With Ford’s support it helps us be as strong of a two-car team as probably anybody out there.”

WHAT IS THE FOCUS FOR RPM IN THE FINAL STRETCH OF THIS SEASON? “We have big tasks ahead of us. We have struggled a lot at flatter, mile-and-a-half, lower grip race tracks. We tend to run great at Atlanta and some other places but the flatter they get and lower the grip level the more we struggle to get the right parts and pieces and feel for the driver so that he can have confidence and capitalize on it from there. We will continue to work on that for sure. I think looking ahead that we are looking forward to Martinsville, which has been a great track for AJ. Marcos was a top-five car at Texas. Last year at Homestead we finished fourth and fifth down there, so we have a lot of great race tracks coming up. We just need to finish up strong because it is that momentum you end the season with a lot of times that carries you into the next year.”

Marcos Ambrose
Marcos Ambrose

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

AJ ALLMENDINGER – No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion

WHAT’S YOUR RECOLLECTION OF HOW YOU GUYS WERE ABLE TO MAKE IT THROUGH LAST YEAR WITH ALL THE TURMOIL SURROUNDING THE ORGANIZATION? “I don’t want to remember it (laughing). It was a tough time and it was right about this time when everybody started feeling the pressure and hearing things about what was going on. Ultimately, some of it was selfish. I thought we had a good thing going and I didn’t want my guys to leave. All of these guys in here have a lot more at stake in a certain way. They have families and they work so hard. They’re gone from their families a lot and the way this sport is right now it’s a tough time and I didn’t want them without jobs more than anything, so I was trying to just focus on keeping them updated with what was going on and trying to keep them here if that was what was gonna happen and, if not, trying to let them know as soon as possible if not because they had the right to know and those guys are usually the last to know, so, at that point, it was just about trying to get us all together and when the time was right let them know the information I knew. Most of the credit goes to them because they could have easily just packed it in and said, ‘screw it,’ but they showed up to the race track and they jumped through hoops to get the race cars ready when they weren’t allowed in our own shop and out in parking lots of race tracks, so most of the credit went to them. They showed up. They’re racers. They knew all they could do was show up and try to run as good as possible and we did a good job. We were really fast every weekend and, at that point, luckily it worked out.”

DO YOU FEEL YOUR TEAM IS A TIGHTER-KNIT GROUP THIS YEAR BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU WENT THROUGH AT THE END OF THE YEAR? “I think so. We had a couple of minor changes on the race team from last year, but I felt that all of the core guys were really tight. We were really tight anyway. I try to do my best to let them know how much I appreciate them. Maybe I don’t do it enough, but I try to do everything I can to show them that. I feel like if they consider me a friend or somebody that’s close, maybe they’ll work just that little bit harder. There’s no secret that my life is in their hands whenever they want it to be, but I feel like we all get along pretty well. I think the team going down to two cars really helped the whole organization because I feel like everybody is a lot closer, so, overall, it was tough to go through but I think it did make us stronger.”

MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion

HOW FAR HAS THIS ORGANIZATION COME IN A YEAR? “It’s been a fairytale year for RPM and all of us associated with the company. We didn’t know what the future held. It was completely out of most of our hands. We had to rely on good faith and judgment by people smarter than me and AJ and I’m just pleased it has all worked out so well. We’ve got a lot of momentum and a lot of good things to talk about. We’re competitive. I would say we’re the best two-car team right now and it means a lot to all of us. It’s a privilege to drive for the King and to have the King’s support and have him treat me like he did. He could have walked away. It’s not as if it’s his first season of racing and he’s got the blinkers on. He knows this sport and it can cost a lot of money when things go wrong, but he put his money where his mouth was and shored the team up. He found the investors to make it happen and we’ve come out the other side a lot stronger.”

DID YOUR WIN AT WATKINS GLEN VALIDATE YOUR DECISION TO MAKE THE MOVE TO RPM? “Yeah, definitely. You’ve got to take chances in life and I knew it was a gamble. I didn’t know how much trouble was going to happen when I signed the contract with RPM, but we had Stanley and DeWalt who were committed and they were happy for me to be their driver and we made it work. I’m really happy with it.”

IS THIS RACE TEAM STRONGER AS A RESULT OF WHAT HAPPENED? “No doubt. We’ve been through a lot together and racing is a tough sport because no one remembers what it took to get to where you are, they’re worried about the next race. None of us can rest easy saying, ‘Now we’ve made it. Here we are.’ We’ve got a lot more to strive to do and we’ve got more goals we need to reach. We’ve got a lot of coherency. We’re a great team. We get on well and communicate well and we perform well.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Richard Petty , Marcos Ambrose , A.J. Allmendinger , Eric Gilbert , Robbie Loomis
Teams Richard Petty Motorsports
Tags allmendinger, ambrose, ford. pettry, loomis