News & Media


Drivers' faith, belief get kudos in RPM's recovery

October 22, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Nadir came one year ago; team coming off top-10s from Allmendinger, Ambrose

Robbie Loomis still remembers the startling realization he felt after Richard Petty asked members of his senior staff to gather at Petty's motorhome in the Charlotte Motor Speedway infield last October.

The news wasn't good. The team might not even have the finances available to tow to Talladega the following weekend. And after more than six decades in the sport, Petty's future was murky at best.

"I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and say, 'Oh, I got on the race track and everything was perfect.' But it's a lot easier knowing that you have full funding and you're here for a while."

--A.J. ALLMENDINGER

"Richard said right then, 'We're going to figure a way to finish this thing out,' " said Loomis, chief operating officer for Richard Petty Motorsports. " 'Try to keep your mind on what you're going to do in the garage and with the cars. And keep everybody focused on things.'

"He said, 'We've got no choice. This is the only thing I've done my whole life. We're going to continue doing it.' "

A.J. Allmendinger's first worry was whether he needed to cancel his travel plans. But once the cars showed up at Talladega Superspeedway, he then turned to the only thing under his control.

"My focus at that point was, 'I need to go out there and run well to try to make this team work, or if not, have somebody else look at me,' " Allmendinger said. "As a driver, that's all you can do. You can't focus on anything else and worry about fixing that yourself."

Marcos Ambrose wasn't with the team but had a vested interest in its future, having signed a deal to drive for Petty in 2011. He could do nothing but sit and watch -- and try not to consider alternatives.

"I was pleased that the cars kept turning up, and I was pleased that there was a lot of sentiment to keep the team going," Ambrose said. "I was always looking at the positive. But there was no security, no certainty."

One year later, a rejuvenated Richard Petty Motorsports returns to Talladega, coming off a pair of top-10 finishes at Charlotte. And there's a sense that even though there may be some rocky stretches still to come, the worst is over.

"We've come a long way in 12 months," Ambrose said. "I've never felt any better than sitting here that our path is secure and solid, and our performances are getting better. We're probably the best two-car team out there and I'm feeling really good about where we're headed."

With an influx of capital from Andrew Murstein and Doug Bergeron, the team seems to be on solid financial footing again.

"More money helps everything," Allmendinger said. "We've had both cars sponsored all year and that's helped. You can't race at the top level being underfunded or under-resourced. You can show signs of greatness but you can't do it every weekend, and that's what you have to do here."

Loomis credits his current two drivers for providing leadership at a time when the team was struggling to find its footing. Both drivers could have bailed, but they stayed the course -- and it's paid off.

"A.J. Allmendinger, he really stepped up and did a heck of a job from the driver's seat, as far as leading the team," Loomis said. "And the team kept focused on their jobs. And the same way with Marcos Ambrose believing in what we were doing.

"I met with him and kept giving him updates on what we were doing behind the scenes. He kept having faith. He told me, 'I'm fully on the boat. If the boat floats and makes it, I want you to know I'm there. The moment you see that it's not going to make it, you let me know so I can make plans to get a ride or go back to Australia.' "

For Ambrose, it was a matter of keeping his word, and wanting a fresh opportunity to prove his abilities.

"At the time I was 34, and I felt like, 'If I don't make a move now and change it up, I'm never going to really know,' " Ambrose said. " 'If I don't achieve everything I want to do -- was it me, was it the team, were we just too comfortable together?' Sometimes you've got to jump into the deep end and see if you can swim.

"That's really all the intent was. An opportunity came up. I was prepared to go home at the end of last year and go back to what I grew up doing, which was V-8 Supercars. I didn't want to run 25th again. I wanted to see what I could do."

For Loomis, that support was immeasurable. And all the patience and perseverance paid off when Ambrose finally broke through with a victory at Watkins Glen. Now Loomis hopes the organization can build from this year's success.

"You just want to continue to work on winning," Loomis said. "We were fortunate to get a win with the No. 9 car and we want to continue our efforts to get the No. 43 in Victory Lane, and then to win more. That's always your goal, and of course, to make the Chase and win the championship. Everything we're doing now, every practice, every qualifying, every race is building toward that.

Allmendinger is rightfully proud of what he accomplished under duress, and his role in a brighter future for RPM.

"I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and say, 'Oh, I got on the race track and everything was perfect,' " Allmendinger said. "But it's a lot easier knowing that you have full funding and you're here for a while. But in the end, no matter what the situation is, the goal when you get on the race track is to try to win. And that's all you can do."

Loomis used an example to describe where he hopes RPM is headed.

"Reach your arm as high as you can," Loomis said. "You can do that sitting in a chair. If you stand up, you can reach higher. If you climb on a ladder, you can reach higher still. It's all about how much effort you want to put into it to get to the top.

"It's a great feeling where we're at compared to last year, but at the same time, we've still got miles to go before we rest to be able to get where everybody wants to go."