RPM Not Panicking – Yet
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — With last week’s surprise release of driver Kasey Kahne setting off a firestorm of speculation about the long-term health of Richard Petty Motorsports, RPM Director of Competition Robbie Loomis did his best to put out the flames this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Loomis said that the Oct. 20 mutual parting of ways got the whole thing started. The team announced soon after that Aric Almirola would be the driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford that Kahne stepped out of for the Martinsville weekend, but beyond that, remained non-committal.
“I think that (Kahne’s release) started a lot of the stir and speculation throughout the whole week, but we’ve been working really hard and everyone is working hard,” Loomis said Saturday. “We’re just looking forward to continuing into 2011 and finishing this year up strong.”
Loomis said that the team intended to finish the 2010 season with its current four-car stable.
“I think it’s our full intention to go forward,” he said. “Most of the things we’ve been working on throughout the week is, ‘What do we look like in 2011? What’s our driver lineup look like the rest of the year since we lost Kasey?’
“I told the guys yesterday, I sat back at lunch and said, ‘Look, this is no different than running a race when you’re a crew chief. I’ve been right here at Martinsville leading a race and all of a sudden hit a pothole and you’ve got to figure out what to do and how to react to it and move forward.’ That’s what we’re looking forward to do with Richard Petty Motorsports.”
Team co-owner Richard Petty was on hand Sunday, but declined comment on the circumstances regarding his team going forward. Speculation abounded that Petty was in the process of trying to line up additional investors and take back more control over the team’s operations.
Loomis did not want to speculate on that.
“Like I said, there are a lot of people working collectively together to make this thing more successful as we go forward in the future,” he said. “Like Richard said when he came down on Thursday, he said, ‘Look guys, we’re in the same business. We’re trying to provide winning race cars and give them to A.J. Allmendinger and Elliott Sadler and our drivers that are driving the cars today, so the game hasn’t changed.
“It’s the same thing we’re doing.’”
Loomis confirmed that there have been no changes in ownership despite the troubles of majority owner George Gillett’s businesses here and abroad.
“The Gilletts, they’ve been through a lot obviously — everyone knows that. They’ve worked really hard to be a four-car team last year and continue it this year, and now we’ve got to look at what our teams are gonna look like going into next year.”
The relationship with Roush Fenway Racing and Roush Yates Racing Engines is being worked on as well, Loomis said.
“Max Jones, our president, has been working really hard with the Roush crowd and everybody on the plans for the future. I think it’s been a collective effort. The only change we’ve really had is Kasey and his spotter, Kole.”
Loomis confirmed that the team would be at Talladega this weekend.
“Yeah, we’ll be at Talladega. I hope we’re all in Talladega. It’s our full intention to keep rolling.”