Dodge teleconference October 21, 2008 An interview with: Robbie Loomis, Executive VP of Racing Operations -- Petty Enterprises Chad McCumbee, Driver No. 45 Marathon Spirit of America Motor Oil Dodge Q: JIMMIE JOHNSON CAN BE CALLED 'MR.
October 21, 2008
An interview with:
Robbie Loomis, Executive VP of Racing Operations -- Petty Enterprises
Chad McCumbee, Driver No. 45 Marathon Spirit of America Motor Oil Dodge
Q: JIMMIE JOHNSON CAN BE CALLED 'MR. MARTINSVILLE'. BOBBY LABONTE HAS BEEN DOMINANT AT TIMES AT ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY WITH SIX WINS, 12 TOP-FIVES AND 13 TOP-10S. HOW DO DRIVERS BECOME SO GOOD AT CERTAIN RACE TRACKS?
ROBBIE LOOMIS: It's funny, over the years, you watch certain drivers that really come on at a place. Jimmie (Johnson) really had to learn his way through it (Martinsville). Look at how he started at Martinsville to the way he's gotten to be (four wins in the last five races) the last two or three years. I'm looking forward to Atlanta with Bobby (Labonte). That's a track that, over the years, has really fit his driving style. I think drivers are accustomed to certain race tracks. The habits they have, the ability to feel the car and communicate with the crew chief is really what gives them the success at the end of the day.
Q: CHAD, YOU FINISHED 25TH LAST WEEKEND AT MARTINSVILLE IN YOUR FIRST CAREER CUP START THERE. IN DOING SO, FINISHING HIGHER THAN THE LIKES OF JIMMIE JOHNSON AND JEFF BURTON IN THEIR FIRST STARTS AT THE 'PAPERCLIP', CAN YOU TALK ABOUT LAST WEEKEND AND YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEKEND AT ATLANTA?
CHAD MCCUMBEE: Martinsville is a tough place. A lot of guys have taken a lot of time to get comfortable there and have success. I'm very fortunate to get the finish we got. I learned a lot throughout the race. There are so many things at Martinsville that you have to pay attention to throughout the race...brakes being one. Just trying to finish that thing and hopefully finish close to the lead lap. It was definitely a tough race. It's a very long race and attrition plays a huge part in it. The main goal was to take away a lot of information so that I've got a lot more to draw on in the future. It definitely helps my learning curve quite a bit. I'm definitely looking forward to Atlanta. I had an outside pole in the truck (Craftsman Truck Series) race earlier this year. I finished fifth in the race. It's (Atlanta) one of my favorite race tracks. Hopefully, we can get the Marathon Dodge up in the front this weekend.
Q: HOW HAS THE MULTIPLE DRIVER ROTATION IN THE 45 CAR GONE THIS YEAR AND WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR 2009?
LOOMIS: We're really excited about 2009 with the 45 team. We ran some multiple drivers through there. We were fortunate when Kyle took the break to do the TV stuff; it gave us some opportunities to look at Chad more at the end of the year, to let a driver and crew chief build the relationship. In fairness to Chad, there are a lot of times that we put him in there and then made him sit out a while before we brought him back. Were real excited to get a little continuity here at the end of the year in getting them to run together. We really haven't had a base of notes, a good notebook on that car. We're looking to learn more and work together closer with Jeff Meendering and Bobby Labonte and the 43 car.
Q: CHAD, HOW HAS THE EXPERIENCE BEEN FOR YOU?
MCCUMBEE: It's a little bit tough. These are the best drivers and best people in the business. You're going against the guys driving week in and week out. For me to jump in and have to figure it out (quickly) has been a little tough. Fortunately, we went to some really good race tracks. I got to go to Pocono and that's one of my favorite race tracks. I felt comfortable there. It was a good place for a good comparison of the old car versus this new car. I've been testing which has been a huge benefit. I'm getting a feel for this thing. I'm getting to work with Stewart (Cooper, crew chief) and all the guys on the 45 team. It's been a pretty smooth transition and I feel like that we've gotten better and better the more testing we've done and the more races that we've run.
Q: CHAD, YOUR PAST IN ARCA AND NCTS HAS ALWAYS BEEN ONE OF GETTING MORE OUT OF LESS THAN EXPECTED. DO YOU FEEL THAT YOUR PERFORMANCE ABILITY WILL BE A BIG ASSET FOR YOU?
MCCUMBEE: I feel like it's a good trait to have. I hope it's something that I've acquired that will be a benefit. We're trying to build the 45 car up and get the thing running in the top-10, top-20 week-in-and-week-out. We've seen some progress throughout the year. From the first race I went to in Texas, which we missed (didn't qualify), until I went to Pocono, our equipment was so much better. Everybody is working better together. Even Kyle (Petty) commented how much everybody has improved. It's a work in progress and I really feel that being in some tough situations before can help. I definitely think so. This is the best of the best. These guys are the best in the industry and it's tough when you're going out there racing against Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each week and knowing that's what you have to compete against. It's a great challenge and I feel like we'll have success. I've been very enlightened this season on how much we have improved and how much potential there is going forward.
Q: WHAT STANDS OUT AS ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFINCAT SKILLS THAT YOU'VE LEARNED THAT ADAPTS WELL IN YOUR EXECUTIVE POSITION TODAY?
LOOMIS: Starting from the ground floor and working all the way to the top. Being a crew chief, being able to work with the driver and pull together the engineers, the guys on the team. Now, Chad is the youngest I've ever worked with and it's exciting. He brings a lot of youth. You'll hear him say something about his racecar that you've never heard before. It's kind of neat to be recharged again with the youth of Chad McCumbee and also have the veteran of Bobby Labonte to draw from.
Q: HOW HAS THE MOVE TO THE CHARLOTTE AREA CHANGED THE WAY YOU GUYS ARE DOING BUSINESS NOW?
LOOMIS: Moving to Charlotte in 2008 has been a real transition all year. Greg Steadman did a great job with the winter move of the shop, not taking a huge hit with our performance, but it did hurt us a little bit, especially coming out of the box the first part of the year. At the same time, it really exposed us to a lot of people.
We have probably four times the number of (potential) employees come by each week looking for work that we use to have up there in Level Cross. Everyone that's involved in racing is right here within a 30 minute drive from our shop. It's been nice. The Yates made it for us. The transition...the move because Robert (Yates) already had a race shop in the building. We're fortunate for that. We're excited for Petty Enterprises and building for the future.
Q: TIRE WEAR WAS A BIG ISSUE AT THE SPRING RACE AT ATLANTA, ANY CONCERNS FOR THIS WEEKEND?
LOOMIS: I think Tony Stewart hollered so much at the last Atlanta race, that they (Goodyear) had Kyle Busch do the tire test. I think they've picked a better right-side tire. I feel confident that the tire was very, very challenging to drive in the first race. We were actually part of the tire test before the first race. It's always a fine line that Goodyear is trying to find in a tire that is safe and durable and runs all day long. They do a great job in that -- it's their number one priority. At the same time, it is good for racing and a comfort for the drivers. I'm sure most of the drivers will enjoy this tire here in the fall. One thing about Atlanta, you can run at the top and bottom and sometimes that's what pays in Atlanta. Sometimes when you do a tire test, a lot of times most of the running will be on the bottom. When you go back to the race, most of the guys will run the top side and that adds a lot of variables when you do that.
Q: CHAD, ANY CONCERNS ON YOUR TRANSITON FROM A SMALL HALF-MILE 'BULLRI TRACK TO THE HIGH-SPEEDS OF ATLANTA?
MCCUMBEE: I've had a lot of laps around Atlanta in the truck series. I feel like it will be a fairly smooth transition. Being in the truck on Friday before we get in the Cup cars will help get everything going. I feel like Atlanta is one of my strong points. I always like going there.
Q: ROBBIE, WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE AS COMPARED TO WHERE YOU WANT TO BE AT PETTY ENTERPRISE RIGHT NOW?
LOOMIS: It's a big picture when you look at it. Performance, as I've learned, is a lot different for me now than when I was a crew chief. When I was a crew chief, at the end of the day I didn't sleep at all if there wasn't performance. When I came into this job at Petty Enterprise, we looked at performance, but there are a lot of big picture things we have to get in place. The first thing is securing some sponsorship and getting some dollars in the company. The other one was getting our fabrication shop and main shop in one location. Also, we wanted to try and get down near the Charlotte area. We've been able to move the shop this year. That has been a real transition. We've been able to take on an investor (Boston Ventures) that's really helped us. Last year we finished 19th in points with Bobby and this year we're hovering around 19th or 20th. Now that we're getting our sponsorship in place and look forward to 2009, we really want to work hard towards getting a car in the Chase. Hopefully, we'll be running for Rookie of the Year and have an excited young driver in the car.
Q: DO YOU GET BUTTERFLIES AND IS THERE A GOOD WAY TO HANDLE THEM?
MCCUMBEE: It's a different type. You always have anticipation before a race weekend starts. Robbie (Loomis) is the best relief for that. It is there, but as soon as the engine fires up, it's gone. You pull the chair a little close to the dash and go to work. I feel like the only fear you have is the fear of failure. You're out there doing your job the best that you can and have a great performance that day. You're ready to take the green flag and you're in your office ready to go to work.
Q: HOW WILL THE NEW TESTING POLICY AFFECT YOUR BUDGETS?
LOOMIS: For one, we have to do the testing. It's one thing that we did when partnered with Boston Ventures. David Zucker and I have been sharing a lot of things on our testing program for next year. The greatest thing that NASCAR has done is that in the past, we've been spending so much money on testing -- we've been testing in Kentucky and Nashville and places that we really only get 40 or 50 percent value out of it. Where looking now to going to tests at the race tracks that the drivers will be competing on each week. So when we go test 22 or 24 times a year, we'll be having the right tire and the right track and that will really help a young guy like Chad to adapt to a place a lot quicker and help us get our act together with the cars for him so that the feedback he's giving us will be applied a lot more when we go back for a race weekend.
Q: DO YOU ANTICIPATE SPENDING MORE ON TESTING NEXT YEAR?
LOOMIS: I'd say that we've looked at our testing; we tested 41 days this year. I think it's going to be very similar. The only difference will be that both drivers will be at the track at the same time. At some point this year, of the 41 test days, Kyle may be testing somewhere, Bobby may be testing somewhere, and Chad may be testing somewhere. Now it will be more structured. In a multi-car test, the top guys will be there on the same day.
Q: WHERE DOES PETTY ENTERPRISES STAND WITH REGARDS TO A MERGER?
LOOMIS: We're very committed to Dodge at Petty Enterprises. If you read the news out there, everybody is talking to everyone about our merger. I've banked with Wachovia all my life when they were First Union before they become Wachovia. As the future unfolds, we all have to be smart on how we pay attention to how we operate and is there ways that we can be more efficient as we grow. That's what will drive the decision of the future.
Q: IN REGARD TO MERGERS, FOR PETTY ENTERPRISES, IS THIS SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET TO WHERE YOU WANT TO BE?
LOOMIS: It's a tough question. I think that our number one thing is.....in 2008 we wanted to move into a new shop. We wanted to move to Charlotte. We wanted to bring in an investor with Boston Ventures. We've got a new CEO in David Zucker. We have been looking at things...I know as I have the last couple years...we kind of saw that we were two cars and we wanted to get to four because years ago, NASCAR said there needs to be a four-car team. Then all of a sudden the landscaping is kind of changing and there are a lot of alliances. Before, a one or two car team was trying to hook on another two car team. Now, you're seeing a four-car team and two-car team that want to attach to them and maybe grow to a four-car team to attach to that. The competition level is just raising the bar quicker and quicker. I think that we've got to be smart about what we do from the competition stand point because the only thing that will keep our brand healthy and keep our brand out front....our Petty brand....is our competition and getting our cars back to the forefront and winning races like the Hendricks Motorsports crowd is doing today. Rick is doing a great job of making wise decisions along the way and putting the right people in the right place. That's why Hendrick Motorsports has the success today. That's our vision for Petty Enterprises. Rick has set the current model in the 90s and 2000s. We've got to be smart enough to pay attention and make sure we're doing the right things along the way.
-credit: dodge motorsports