ROBBIE LOOMIS, TEAM CONSULTANT FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, TALKS WITH THE MEDIA: ON MAKING THE DECISION TO REMAIN WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON BEFORE MOVING TO PETTY ENTERPRISES: "It's funny how life works out. I tried to...
ROBBIE LOOMIS, TEAM CONSULTANT FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, TALKS WITH THE MEDIA:
ON MAKING THE DECISION TO REMAIN WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON BEFORE MOVING TO PETTY ENTERPRISES:
"It's funny how life works out. I tried to ask myself on Sunday after Richmond if I would be feeling the same way if we were in the top 10 in points. My deal was to try to not make that decision 100 percent until then. Richard (Petty) told me you've already made the decision to come back. But it's just one of those things that until we talked on Monday night -- Richard and Kyle and everybody again -- when we really tried to finalize everything."
IS THE DRIVER THE PROBLEM ON THE NO. 24 TEAM?
"No, it's definitely not the driver. Jeff Gordon is one of the greatest drivers out there and so is Jimmie Johnson. It'll show in these final 10 races. I was struggling with a lot of decisions that were going on with me that weren't fair to Hendrick Motorsports or the team. I think that now you're going to see a re-energized DuPont race team. Steve Letarte is a great car chief and will make a great crew chief. Seeing the new energy -- seeing the job (crew chief, No. 5) Alan Gustafson and (crew chief, No. 25) Lance McGrew and (crew chief, No. 48) Chad Knaus do. Sometimes when you mix things up, it changes. It makes everybody stand up again. I'm real excited about the changes for myself and at the same time excited for what's going on at Hendrick Motorsports."
IF THE CARS AREN'T COMFORTABLE FOR JEFF GORDON, WHY TAKE THE CAR CHIEF AND PUT HIM IN CHARGE?
"He's going to be a great crew chief. He's more of a risk-taker, I think, and that's what you need sometimes to make those calls and get yourself in the right situation. But there are a lot of things in place. We've been working on setting that in place since last November or October, I think. You'll see in Stevie a lot of natural things there. Sure, there's some people side of it that he'll learn as he goes along. I told him my phone is always on."
IS STEVE LETARTE (AGE 26) TOO YOUNG TO TAKE THIS JOB?
"I don't know. I think that somewhere you've got to step out there and do it. That's one thing we talked about this week. "I can still be around where he can bounce things off of me. But really, he's got to live in there and do it. We have a great relationship. That's the neatest part. This whole deal is kind of a unique situation. That's what Rick (Hendrick) and I talked about on Tuesday. It's unique what we're trying to do with it all. But we know we can win the championship at Hendrick Motorsports, which would be huge. And at the same time, we have a tremendous amount of respect for Petty Enterprises and what they've done. It's a lot bigger than what's right here in front of us. That's what I'm trying to get a handle on. Always in my life, I've gone from week to week. I've focused on one car. Even when I was at Petty Enterprises before -- it's hard to look at the bigger picture. And now, I'm trying to look at a bigger picture of what's going on -- even here, starting today."
ARE BOTH THE NO. 48 AND NO. 24 TEAMS HAVING THE SAME PROBLEMS WITH STABILITY & HANDLING OF THE CARS?
"I don't know. When I look at the No. 48 from the outside, they've been great. They've had some races where they haven't finished up. Last week was probably one of their worst races. I think you'll see a whole new energy level in this 10-races. I've seen it in Chad's eyes and Jimmie's eyes. There is a lot of stuff that goes on. It's a grueling grind. They ran great at Michigan. The fuel mileage kind of changed things around and they ended up finishing 10th. But they were probably a top three car there just like they've been all year."
ARE YOU GOING TO BE MORE OF A LIASON BETWEEN THE NO. 48 AND NO. 24 TEAMS?
"I'm going to do whatever Hendrick Motorsports wants me to do to help the thing grow. I want to do anything I can to be a positive without getting in the way. Chad and the team know how to do everything. I don't want to interfere or get in the way at all. I'll do anything it takes to help."
ON THE PRESSURE OF BEING JEFF GORDON'S CREW CHIEF
"There is no question there. It doesn't matter whether you wanted to win for Richard Petty and General Mills, or if you want to win for DuPont and Mr. Hendrick, the pressure is the same. On the outside pressure of the fans and that stuff intensifies it that much more. But it's a great situation to be in.
"When you have Hendrick Motorsports bodies and chassis and then you put Jeff Gordon on top of it -- even though it's a ton of pressure, it makes your job a lot easier but it helps you deal with all that pressure knowing you have all those tools to deal with."
ON THE WORKING ARRANGEMENT BETWEEN PETTY ENTERPRISES AND HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS DURING THIS TRANSITION
"It's a real testament to what Hendrick Motorsports is and what Petty Enterprises is. Rick has a tremendous amount of respect and I think love, for the Petty family. Rick was one of the first ones to be there when they went through the accident with Adam (Petty) and has been very involved with one of the key guys at Victory Junction. Richard and those guys have the same respect for Rick. It's a very unique situation. I couldn't be more blessed."
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EMOTIONS WALKING AWAY FROM THE NO. 24 TEAM NOW -- YOU'VE WON A CHAMPIONSHIP BUT FAILED TO MAKE THE CHASE?
"It hurt. It hurt tremendously. It's one of those situations you'd love for it to be a storybook ending and you win the championship and walk off into the sunset. But the thing that gets me through it is if you look at any sports athlete out there -- I guess the exception would be Lance Armstrong -- the new beginnings usually don't start that way. They're not a storybook deal. You just have to take it for what it is. It's unfortunate. I wish I would have done a lot better job with Jeff and the team and gotten in this Chase and made a run for the championship. But sometimes in life, you can put the effort and do it but sometimes it's just not meant to be."