ROBBIE LOOMIS (Petty Enterprises Vice President of Racing Operations) NOTE: Petty Enterprises put two cars in the top 10 at Martinsville on Oct. 22, and Robbie Loomis has been smiling ever since. Bobby Labonte scored a season-best third-place ...
ROBBIE LOOMIS (Petty Enterprises Vice President of Racing Operations)
NOTE: Petty Enterprises put two cars in the top 10 at Martinsville on Oct. 22, and Robbie Loomis has been smiling ever since. Bobby Labonte scored a season-best third-place finish in the No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Charger at Martinsville, and Kyle Petty finished 10th in the Wells Fargo Dodge Charger. It marked the first time since 1999 that two Petty Enterprises entries finished in the Top 10 in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race. The progress is evident at Petty Enterprises entering the final three races of the season. Labonte has scored top 10 finishes in four of the last six races and two of those were top fives. He's moved from 27th to 19th in the series standings in that stretch.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN FOR PETTY ENTERPRISES TO MOVE TO THE NEXT LEVEL? "I think Petty Enterprises has grown a lot this year. We've got a lot of great personnel. We're still looking to add some personnel, especially in our pit crew area and engineering. We want to step it up. The cars are so equal now we really want to work hard on our pit crews performing on the top level. We've got some good guys in there with great hearts, and we just want to keep complimenting it. We're on a hard search for pit crew members right now."
IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR PIT CREW POSITION YOU NEED? "I think when it comes down to it it's obvious that we need to look for tire changers, and that's probably the toughest position in this garage to fill. A lot of teams are looking for them, and we want to make sure we keep stepping our program up."
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF A TIRE CHANGER IS ANY GOOD? "I think the biggest thing is you just watch his body movement. It's hard to do it under pressure, but the nice thing about our program is we're getting close to winning. It's an exciting thing for a lot of people we've got on board. You can take a tire changer from the Busch Series or the truck program and if he's a great tire changer there we can make him a great tire changer on this level and find himself in victory lane at the Nextel Cup level. We have a pit crew coach, and it's a work in progress. Paul Andrews and Billy Wilburn are doing a great job with the drivers. The cars are driving good, and we want to make sure when they come down pit road they go back out out front."
DOES THE LEVEL CROSS, N.C., LOCATION FOR PETTY ENTERPRISES MAKE IT TOUGH TO HIRE CREWMEN? "The distance of being an hour from Charlotte sometimes hurts us. We're trying to figure ways to get extra incentives in there for the pit crew guys even if it's a part-time pit crew guy coming in to change the tires. I feel like we can find someone in the truck series or Busch Series that will turn out to be four or five-year veterans at Petty Enterprises. I just want the best tire changer we can get out there on pit road. I don't care if he's full-time or not. My philosophy has gone back and forth over the years. Right now, I just want the best guys we can get. If the driver has driven the car from 10th to fifth and comes in the pits, I want him to go back out third and not go back out eighth or 10th."
YOU ARE A FORMER TIRE CHANGER. ANY THOUGHTS ABOUT MAKING A COMEBACK? "I changed rear tires, but I can't do it any more. I'm too far out of shape and those guys are way too quick for me. When I did it we had three tire changers, that's how long ago it was. I think back then we were having 17-second stops. Now, we're looking for 13.5-second stops."
CAN YOU WIN ONE OF THESE LAST THREE RACES? "I think we can definitely win one. Paul Andrews has shown a lot of strength working with Bobby, and Billy Wilburn has brought a lot of excitement to the 45 team. Kyle has a new spark. That's what we want to see the most. Kyle has tremendous potential, and we'd like to win one of these last three races with either of our teams."
ANY NEW PLANS FOR 2007? "We've got a lot of plans in place. We can't do anything with hitting one home run. We've got to have a lot of singles first, make a few errors and just take small steps. We've come a long way this year, and we hope to continue the growth. I hope we can make big strides next year like we've made this season."
WHAT HAS BOBBY LABONTE MEANT TO PETTY ENTERPRISES? "I think the winning attitude he brings has meant the most. He's instilled in these guys that they're winners. A lot of them haven't won yet, but he makes them feel like they're winners and treats them great. Bobby Labonte is in championship form, and that's why I know every Sunday when we go out there that we've got to keep making the program better, the pit crews better, the cars better because Bobby is a guy capable of winning the championship and running up front every week like Kenseth and Johnson and Gordon are right now."
IS BOBBY USUALLY QUIET AROUND THE SHOP? "He will tell you what's on his mind. He's a quiet guy, but he'll tell you and I think that's what helps make the program better. I look at the program and where we've come from and Kyle and Bobby will both tell you what's what. I think Kyle is maybe more outspoken sometimes, and he'll tell you what's on his mind in the middle of the garage. Bobby will wait and tell you behind closed doors, but he will tell you."
COMMENT ON SUNDAY'S CUP RACE AT TMS "I know Terry and Bobby both love this track. It means a lot to both of them. I think a win here would only be fitting for Bobby Labonte, but this is going to be Terry's last race. It would be great to see Terry to go out on a winning note, but I'm sure both of those guys are going to be motivated Sunday. It'd be really cool to see them race each other for the win. That would really be a storybook finish."
-credit: dodge motorsports