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NASCAR Teleconference Transcript: An interview with John Darby and Robbie Loomis

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Moderator:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Welcome to the weekly NASCAR teleconference.  Thanks to everyone for joining us at this special 3 p.m. eastern start time for what promises to be a very special opportunity to discuss the long-awaited Car of Tomorrow which will debut this weekend in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Food City 500. 

We have two guests today.  Leading off is Nextel Cup Series director John Darby.  He'll be followed by Robbie Loomis, vice president of racing operations for Petty Enterprises. 

John, first of all, thanks for joining us.  Maybe to start off, give us your thoughts on just how significant you think this weekend is going to be for our sport. 

John Darby:  Well, I think it's not just NASCAR, but for all of motorsports in every venue, whether it be stock cars, open-wheel, from local to professional, international even. 

It's been longer since we've changed the race car of NASCAR's premiere series than what most of us have been around.  The last time was back in 1981.  We have been pretty much steadfast on the same equipment for all of that period of time. 

You can't help but be excited, whether the excitement comes from just the enthusiasm of finally getting it on the racetrack or whether that excitement is apprehension, wondering what's going to happen, to the expectations or the lack of and everything else in between. 

It's a moment in history specifically for NASCAR's premiere series to make a very significant change, and one that we hope will successfully carry us into the future for years to come. 

Moderator:  We're ready now to go to questions for John Darby. 

Q.:  John, are you happy where NASCAR is right now?  Where would you like to see it be, say, five years from now?  Any long-term vision you might have? 

John Darby:  I'm a little confused.  NASCAR as a sport or is this in regards to the new car? 

Q.:  About the sport itself. 

John Darby:  The sport itself.  Well, I think the sport has grown so rapidly over the past 10 years that obviously we would like to see it continue to grow and to continue to reach out to more fans and everything. 

With all that being said, as it is for all professional sports, keeping that growth on an uphill climb is a battle to say the least.  If the new car at Bristol this weekend can help generate enough new excitement to introduce NASCAR racing to a few more fans, then that's great.  Everything that surrounds it we'll continue to build on. 

Q.:  Will success be contingent on racing elsewhere besides in the U.S.? 

John Darby:  I don't know.  Obviously logistically it becomes very difficult to expand beyond the borders of the United States, especially when you say overseas, as in Europe, so on and so forth.  I wouldn't discount today there could potentially be some similar types of stock car series across the pond, yeah. 

Q.:  Mr. Darby, if the Car of Tomorrow indeed makes the racing better, improves the competition itself, is that likely to be something that's going to show up at Bristol?  If so, how will you measure it?  Are there specific indicators you'll be looking for to say this produced better racing, like number of passes for the lead?  How will you know if you succeeded? 

John Darby:  Well, the number one principle behind the Car of Tomorrow is to build a safer race car.  It has a lot of characteristics which potentially could help equalize the competition.  But ultimately our race teams are the folks that are going to make it race better, if it does.  Hopefully the indications of that are positive up to this point. 

To answer the second part of your question, is Bristol going to be a thermometer in that process, probably not.  Because, as in anything new, especially something that's so substantially different, you have to walk before you can run, which also helps people understand why we chose the timeline for the roll-out of the car as we did, starting with the short tracks, slowly progressing to Phoenix and Richmond.  It's a little bit bigger.  Darlington is a little bit bigger.  Saving most of the high speed mile-and-a-half, two-mile stuff for 2008.  It gives everybody the proper amount of time to adjust to the car, to understand what it likes and what it doesn't like, to let the drivers get a little more comfortable and everything else. 

The one thing we know is we've got the best group of competitors in the world.  They're the ones that ultimately are going to put the races on the racetrack that will make the fans smile. 

Q.:  John, can you explain how theoretically the Car of Tomorrow levels the playing field for teams like Petty and Wood Brothers and makes them more competitive with other teams in this series? 

Car of Tomorrow video





John Darby:  Basically it closes some of the windows of operation, if you will.  Just to touch on those briefly, where the current car has progressed is to very specialized cars for each and every racetrack that we go to.  Whether it's economically or even technically keeping up to those changes is very difficult for smaller organizations. 

One of the things that's most evident about the technical aspects of the new car is there's so many of those specialized features that have not been eliminated, but as a whole have been taken into a summary and then locked in so you don't have to constantly chase those components from track to track to track. 

Q.:  How much can teams save using this Car of Tomorrow? 

John Darby:  Well, in today's world, everybody's got budgets established that they work within.  I don't know if the car will instantly save every team a lot of money because I don't believe that's going to be true.  They're going to spend a substantial amount of money to develop this car.  But over the long-term, if the fact that the car is ¿ the specifications of the car are locked up a little bit, so to speak, the ability to use one race car at more than one racetrack is the obvious saving. 

Q.:  Do you expect to see this car filter down into other series so eventually we'll see cars of tomorrow running late-model races, that sort of thing? 

John Darby:  Maybe not this car specifically.  But as we continue to grow and learn more and more about the safety components on this car, at least those safety components and things that can help even at a weekly level keep race drivers safer will be communicated as quickly as we can, yes. 

Q.:  As a safety level, what is the biggest major change to make this car safer? 

John Darby:  I don't know if there is one bigger change.  I guess the biggest change would be the race car itself. 

Q.:  What will you look for in the races over the next few months, not just at Bristol, as you go to different types of tracks, seeing how well this car works and how well the teams are getting used to it to see the progress of this car? 

John Darby:  I actually think the first few races we'll spend troubleshooting, just to make sure that everything's working right, making sure that engines are staying cool and that radiators are getting enough air, there's sufficient brake cooling on the cars to keep the brakes up and operational the way they should be, all the little intricacies that we'll get a much better picture of with 43 cars on the racetrack, tires rubbing sheet metal, any fatigue problems with the cars, all of the stuff that NASCAR and the race teams themselves need to get much more comfortable with before we put it on the high-speed racetracks. 

Q.:  Is it because you go the next week to Martinsville?  If you see something you don't like, in theory are there enough days to make changes for Martinsville weekend? 

John Darby:  I think we're pretty confident right now if there are any issues, they'll be small enough that they'll be overcome very quickly at Bristol.  That will carry us through Bristol and Martinsville pretty easily. 

One of the things we'll be watching obviously is the reaction with two races under their belts as to what kind of differences the teams start to look at at the Richmond test as they prepare for Phoenix. 

Q.:  What do you mean by "differences"? 

John Darby:  Setup differences, suspension stop differences, spring and shock combinations, the things that our guys do the best. 

Q.:  One issue I've heard a lot of team guys raise is they're concerned about the inspection process, exactly how it's going to be conducted.  Has that all been worked out?  Are the teams satisfied that that's fixed? 

John Darby:  It won't be a whole lot that will change.  As much as we've tried to make the race teams believe that it's another race car, and they need to take the same approach on the race car as they do the current car, we're doing the same thing with the inspection process.  The inspection process for all practical purposes won't be much different.  There will still be an engine inspection and a fuel cell inspection and a chassis inspection.  The one component of all of that that may have a little visual difference to it obviously is the template and the fact that we can apply 25 of 'em at a time instead of 25 templates one at a time. 

There will be a little bit of getting used to there, but just as California's inspections were versus last week at Atlanta, NASCAR didn't do anything to change their procedures or their policies; the garage fixed the delays, the competitors themselves fixed the delays.  The way they do that is they bring cars that are correct to the racetrack.  Obviously that helps expedite the whole process. 

The same thing will happen.  We'll spend a lot more time the first two weeks out with the new car talking to all the individual teams and helping educate them on the final little details of what the inspection process is and what they need to do to get them through. 

We're real confident that once the teams understand that, they'll go back home and go to work and it will be a non-issue. 

Q.:  NASCAR had said earlier that once this car starts racing at Bristol, it will no longer be referred to as the Car of Tomorrow.  Have you come up with a new name for it? 

John Darby:  It will have a decal on the A post that has NASCAR race car.  Y'all can call it what you want. 

Q.:  There's been a lot of discussion in general this year about tire issues.  Has this been a particularly tough year for that?  Can you talk about the nuts and bolts about how you go about tire selection in concert with the manufacturer? 

John Darby:  It's developed from a wide variety of resources, from individual tire tests at individual racetracks to known data to tire testing at a laboratory called Calspan that can give them load force, all that type of information.  They have the ability to track and look at the adhesion values from each track surface, basically overall do a pretty nice job. 

Q.:  Despite what seems to be heightened talk about it this year, there isn't anything out of the ordinary this year? 

John Darby:  No, not necessarily.  Everything we do, ultimately the race car sets or contacts the racetrack in four spots, and those are the tires.  Tires wear out, and they have for a long time.  I think where you're coming from is obviously a racetrack that went under some pretty dramatic changes from '06 to '07 which always takes time to adapt to, whether it's tires, race cars, anything else. 

I don't think this year is an exception by any means. 

Q.:  Will the Car of Tomorrow in any way affect how easy or difficult it is to get the right tire setups for an individual track? 

John Darby:  Well, there will be an effect on tires from the car in the fact that the total aerodynamic downforce on the Car of Tomorrow has been reduced.  In simple terms, less pressure pushing the tires down on the racetrack.  There's still plenty of lateral g-forces and stuff that affect tires that haven't changed that dramatically.  The tire process or the development of the tire for the new car will probably be pretty slow and pretty gradual. 

Q.:  Given the newness of this thing, debut, things like that, will more tolerance be given during the inspection process both pre and post? 

John Darby:  I don't think we'll give any more tolerance, but I do think we'll take a lot more time explaining things.  A normal inspection affords us about five to six minutes to spend with every car.  The first two events, both at Bristol and Martinsville, we're going to go ahead and open the garage the day before to afford us that extra time so we can help educate the teams to that process. 

Q.:  You don't expect the teams to keep going back through the line as things get fixed? 

John Darby:  Potentially.  What we saw at the Bristol test was all of the race teams have done an absolute beautiful job at constructing these new cars.  They're fully aware of and they're very conscious about the shapes and widths, heights, sizes of what it takes to prepare one of these cars.  Ultimately that's what makes them a little easier to build. 

They did a great job.  If what we had at the Bristol test for the most part repeats, I don't expect any huge problems. 

Q.:  How much is not known that we will see at Bristol?  A lot of drivers will say, We don't really know.  The crew chiefs say, We're not really sure what.  How much are they sure of and how much is left out there besides them all being together on the track?  Any other unknowns?  Seemingly the answers are all, We don't know how it's going to perform. 

John Darby:  That's the whole list of why this weekend is going to be so exciting.  Sure, there's unknowns.  When you go to a dealership and you buy a new car, you drive it home, you don't know how it's even going to get you there.  Part of the excitement of having that new car is taking that maiden voyage.  Everything you just pointed to, all the reasons, all the type, all the excitement, the history that's going to be made this weekend, that's also exciting. 

Q.:  What goes through your mind as the series director, the unknowns that are out there, what is in your mind besides you're excited about it?  Are there moments that you are thinking, What's going to happen with this or that? 

John Darby:  It's just another race at Bristol.  Just kidding (laughter). 

Obviously the people from NASCAR that have been just wide open on this project for so long, probably good, bad or indifferent Sunday night will take a big sigh and try to grab the moment and understand the weekend that we just went through. 

The reason you're calling them unknowns is because nobody knows the answers.  What's unknown to the competitors on the one hand may be just as unknown to NASCAR.  That's, again, part of the excitement of coming into this weekend. 

Q.:  If what you see over the first couple of races still leaves you a little bit of cause for concern once there are actually 43 cars on the track, is it possible we could open up a day early, try to fit in more practice into the schedule? 

John Darby:  Potentially.  I guess the one thing that everybody needs to understand and give a lot more credit to our race teams than what's given to them is we've been pretty much hand-in-hand with the race teams throughout this whole project, whether it's tapping into some of the knowledge of the engineering staff of different race teams or taking ideas from different drivers and crew chiefs, car owners, everybody involved in our sport, somewhere through the process has had a hand in this car. 

We'll continue to do that and have the line of communication open probably throughout this entire season.  If there's little things that are aggravating, things that got overlooked, nobody thought about until we came up against 'em, we'll move and adjust for the whole year to make it right for everybody.  That's kind of been the platform since the project started. 

Q.:  From what I'm hearing from you and other competitors, does it seem like we're just going to skip a three-year rollout and go full steam ahead in 2008? 

John Darby:  I can't answer that because I'm not one of the voices that would ultimately drive us that way.  What I can tell you is everybody in NASCAR surely would welcome it.  I think as you move through the garage and talk to a lot of the crew members, they're understanding the aggravation of dealing with two different cars - really three if you think about it, if you think about the restrictor plate cars.  They're starting to become a little bit more anxious to make that move. 

But ultimately that decision will be handed to us by the team owners, the people that are actually writing the checks to make all of this happen.  We'll honor their wishes to the best that we can.  But conversation surrounding drop in '09 is already in progress.  We'll just have to wait and see how the year progresses. 

Q.:  Will teams be allowed to change the angle of the wing during the course of a race?  If they are allowed to do so, how practical is that?  Do you have a sense of how long that would take?  Can you do that in a pit stop? 

John Darby:  Yes, the wing has a range of what we call attack angles from zero degrees to 16 degrees positive.  It's a pretty simple adjustment.  It's a matter of removing two bolts and changing the angle of the wing and reinstalling the two bolts.  That can be done very quickly, and probably a lot more effectively than taking a hammer out and beating a couple more degrees into a rear spoiler.  That will happen everywhere except for the restrictor plate races, Daytona and Talladega, where we'll mandate a fixed angle on the wing just to help everybody at those places. 

Q.:  I assume you don't get an extra guy over the wall to fiddle with the wing? 

John Darby:  No.  We'll let the seven guys that are already there fiddle with the wing. 

Moderator:  John, thank you for joining us today and helping us out here on the few days ahead of this real historic weekend at Bristol.  Appreciate it. 

John Darby:  Thank you. 

Moderator:  We're now joined by the vice president of racing operations for Petty Enterprises, Robbie Loomis. 

Robbie, maybe we could start off, talk to us from your perspective about how the Car of Tomorrow project is going to benefit some of the slightly smaller organizations competing in NASCAR Nextel Cup, like Petty Enterprises. 

Robbie Loomis:  It's going to be exciting.  I'm really looking forward to Bristol.  I think probably the biggest thing is all the unknowns going into Bristol.  When I look at the Car of Tomorrow, if we take the number one thing that it was created and designed for, and Petty Enterprises got involved in it, especially Kyle driving it about two years ago, was really the safety factor. 

When I look at our race teams, what Petty Enterprises has, our biggest assets is our drivers in all the race teams, especially with Bobby Labonte and Kyle Petty.  Anything we can do to help protect them and keep them safe is what we're looking for.  I think the Car of Tomorrow has done a great job with that. 

With that being said, it's created a different set of circumstances.  The aerodynamics has changed a lot on the car so the chassis and handling part of the car is really going to come into play a lot more, especially as we go down the line and get into Martinsville and then Darlington, a lot of the other racetracks we're running at. 

Moderator:  We'll now take questions from the media for Robbie Loomis. 

Q.:  With Jeff Gordon talking about during the Bristol test that those guys were on the bump stops all the time going through the corner, Clint Bowyer talking about things flying off through the corners, Bristol has the record for cautions in a NASCAR race, 20 or 21 on a couple of occasions.  Do you think it's going to be a necessary evil until people get these things figured out, could there be a record number of cautions, these guys trying to get a handle on driving the cars this first race? 

Robbie Loomis:  It's definitely going to be a lot different as far as getting the car set up, handling.  It's funny, watching the cars the first day compared to even after the dinner break, we got to run till 9 that first day, and if you went and watched in the corners, the cars were bouncing a lot.  It's funny, the cars that were running the best, they weren't bouncing a lot.  After dinner, everybody's car started to settle down, get in a groove, run in the bottom of racetrack. 

I think the potential's definitely there.  The great ones are going to figure it out and it will be a great race coming down to that last lap.  Everybody will be talking about the last lap at Bristol instead of the Car of Tomorrow. 

Q.:  How long is it going to take for teams to see cost savings out of this? 

Robbie Loomis:  That's a great question.  I think, you know, in the beginning there's no doubt, especially this year with having the phase-in, we've been fortunate here at Petty Enterprises, Jeff Troxler has been full-time on the Car of Tomorrow, and really put a lot of effort into just that project.  But when you run two parallel programs, trying to run the current existing body on the mile-and-a-half tracks, then going to the Car of Tomorrow, there's going to be quite the expense. 

I think as we change stuff over, I think that's why there's been a lot of conversation in voting for the team talking towards going next year to the Car of Tomorrow across the board.  So there's going to be a lot of expense in the beginning.  I think down the road it's going to be a great thing. 

I think the biggest thing I keep drawing back to is it's complicated, it's going to bring a lot of challenges, but the main reason we're doing it is for the safety of the drivers.  I think about it, like even when they mandated the HANS device, there are some drivers jumped up and down, hated it, thought it was the worst thing in the world.  If you look back now, they've probably been through some accidents and they're very glad they had that HANS device, and it was a big part of the safety. 

It's going to be costly in the beginning, but I think in the end we're going to take and move that money in other areas and still use a lot of money to make it happen. 

Q.:  Is that when it helps you become more competitive with bigger teams? 

Robbie Loomis:  I think as far as that part of it, there's probably a little benefit that's going to come from that.  When it comes to being competitive and winning, it really comes down to the people.  We have a lot of great people here at Petty Enterprises, we keep strengthening that up more and more.  It's not rules or NASCAR things that determines whether we win or lose, it's the job we're doing here at Petty Enterprises, or the Hendrick organization and other organizations out there. 

I think if there's one place it will probably help is right now when you're a smaller organization, a lot of time you're chasing what the bigger teams are doing and they're able to react and respond to things quicker and make changes quicker to the body and offset the roofs and do different things, where in a smaller team, seems like you're always one step behind whatever the latest, greatest thing is.  As John alluded to earlier in the conference, now they've drawn a little bit tighter box around a lot of areas.  We're going to keep the same amount of people; we're just going to go to work in different areas of the car and pay a lot of attention to details going forward. 

Q.:  Safety is the major factor in this car.  What are some of the new safety features that drivers and fans are going to notice right away? 

Robbie Loomis:  That's a great question.  I think the biggest thing that stands out probably when you're watching a race on Sunday is when you see the driver's window net up, a lot of the times the driver's helmet is right against the window net, sometimes pressing outside the window net a little bit.  In the Car of Tomorrow, he's moved over approximately two or three inches towards the center of the vehicle.  So whenever there's a left-side impact, it will definitely put his head a lot further away from harm's way. 

There's things like padding in the sides for the impact.  Outside of the door bars, if the car was to T-bone in the door  bars.  Probably the biggest area that I notice that people don't look at is the drive shaft area.  They've really strengthened that up.  If a drive shaft flies out of a car, that's one thing I always worry about most with these race cars.  With the tunnel, they way they have constructed that, it's going to be very safe for the drier.  Even if the drive shaft comes out, the driver should be completely safe. 

Q.:  With your experience in testing and stuff, is it comfortable to drive, comparable to the cars they're driving now? 

Robbie Loomis:  I question Kyle and Bobby a lot about that when they drove up at Bristol.  It's funny, when they're in the car, it's basically the same race car they've been in.  It's not really changed.  They do have more room in the cockpit.  That's the one thing I think they both noticed, is there's a lot more room, which makes it safer inside the cockpit. 

But besides really knowing the difference, I don't think they really know much difference. 

Q.:  As a former crew chief, do what extent does the Car of Tomorrow take away your latitude to creative and sort of inventive in building a fast car?  Has it taken away some of your fun or reward? 

Robbie Loomis:  I don't think so.  It's a good question.  I think it changed.  It changes the focus.  I think in the past it used to be we focused so much on the chassis, the handling, springs, trailing arms, sway bar, shocks, that's really where we found all of our advantages beating a guy through the corner.  In the last few years, you've seen a lot of cars now they run with the nose down, spoiler up.  They really ¿ we focus so hard, our fab shop guys at the Petty Enterprises work so hard on the aerodynamics on the bodies of the car to keep making the body better and better.  Now it changes your focus a lot.  Now you're focusing a lot more back on the chassis, the handling of the racecar, the mechanical part of the car versus the aero side of it. 

Q.:  As you get used to it, will that have primarily to do with what you do with the wing and the splitter or is it more subtle things than that? 

Robbie Loomis:  We'll always be monitoring what we're doing with the wing and splitter.  That's just part of our aero package.  Probably the biggest thing we'll be doing is working with the springs and the shocks, trailing arms, all that stuff. 

Q.:  NASCAR racing is a lot about changes.  Have you experienced more apprehension by teams over changes while at NASCAR with the arrival of the COT? 

Robbie Loomis:  10 or 15 years ago, I was one of those guys when they made a change, whatever it was, if it was one shock instead of two shocks, I was jumping up and down, thought the world was coming to an end.  It would take me two weeks to get over it.  I'd realize it took me two weeks off my focus what I needed to be focusing on. 

You know, I've kind of learned to roll with the changes they make.  The majority of the time, if you look at the France family, what they've done with NASCAR, it's been amazing.  Usually everything works out and goes forward, keeps getting bigger and better for everybody involved. 

When we hear Petty Enterprises, when they started the Car of Tomorrow project, like I said, they've been in it since the beginning of June.  Two years ago, embraced it.  I think it's going to be a great thing.  I go back to the air boxes.  I remember when they put air boxes on the air cleaners, everybody thought it was the worst thing in the world.  Now if you went in there and told the guys in the garage you were going to take them off, everybody would jump up and down and want to quit (laughter). 

Change is part of our life, not only in racing, but in everything we do. 

Q.:  With your background at Hendrick Motorsports, I'm sure garage talk, you have an idea how much Hendrick Motorsports has been able to test the Car of Tomorrow with David Green.  Compared to that and compared to a single- or double-car team, how much of an advantage is that going to be especially when we go into the Chase where five of the 10 races are Car of Tomorrow events? 

Robbie Loomis:  I think what you'll see, we've talked about this a lot, I think the bigger teams, when they first come out with this Car of Tomorrow, they've had a little more chance to test, they have more resources to throw at in the beginning.  Hopefully a year, year and a half down the road, it will start to balance out some.  We can get caught up with our breath. 

You know, I think when it comes to the end of the day, at the end of the races, it comes down to the people that work on these race teams, the drivers that are in the seat, and the job that we're doing.  I don't think when you look at the rundown it's going to change a lot based on just the Car of Tomorrow or not the Car of Tomorrow. 

Q.:  How long will that take?  A ballpark, with all the testing they've done, all the technology they have, how long will it take the lesser funded teams to catch up? 

Robbie Loomis:  I'm hoping by, what, Sunday (laughter).  But that's a real good question.  I think time will just tell.  That's kind of predicting into the future.  It's going to take a lot of work.  Like I said, Jeff Troxler, all the guys here, focused on the Car of Tomorrow have been putting a lot into it.  We're excited about it and, like I said, NASCAR has done a good job of drawing a tight box around it. 

Q.:  You mentioned it's going to come down to people working on the race teams on these cars.  Certainly here in this recent era there's been changes to the cars, tires, tracks.  How challenging has it become for teams, crew chiefs, team managers in the last couple years in the sport?  Certainly you need a smarter individual than what you needed even a couple years ago to keep up with all these changes in the sport? 

Robbie Loomis:  Yeah, you know, I think the sport's changed.  Richard was in here talking today with us.  I think the sport has just changed so much.  It's changed so rapidly.  At the end of the day, it's still the same thing:  we're going out there racing, trying to beat the competitors.  When it comes down to the bottom line, you just always want to try to have the guy that's on the leading edge of the development.  Like I said, if they take the body things away that you can do for the aerodynamics of the car, then you got to get on to the next advantage where you can find it. 

I think that's where you see the great crew chiefs, the great team leaders have always excelled in the past. 

Q.:  Where do you find those people nowadays? 

Robbie Loomis:  We were talking earlier, race car drivers, guys on the team, there's a lot of talent out there.  It's just a matter of we get a lot of great help that comes in here out of different series.  There's always somebody on the team that's a car chief, say, at one of the other marquee teams that's looking to be a crew chief.  There's crew chiefs that aren't in the right situation, looking for something different.  Usually in our sport, there's a certain amount you can get from within the teams.  A team like Petty Enterprises, we like to give guys an opportunity from outside, like from Busch racing, Truck racing also. 

Q.:  Would you like to see the schedule for putting this on all tracks accelerated to next year everywhere? 

Robbie Loomis:  I would.  I swear, I think looking at the hardship it's put on the guys in the shop this year, all the work that everyone's done here at Petty Enterprises, I think for all the race teams out there, it's been a ton of work focusing on two wind tunnels, wind tunnel for the mile-and-a-half car, wind tunnel for the car that the Dodge Avenger we'll be running up there at Bristol. 

I think, yeah, it would definitely be a lot easier.  Plus by the end of this year every team out there is going to have eight or 10 of these Dodge Avengers or Car of Tomorrow, however you want to look at it. 

Q.:  Could you talk about what Bobby Labonte has brought to your organization, how that can help you grow and become more competitive. 

Robbie Loomis:  I think Bobby, it's just amazing what he's brought to Petty Enterprises.  He's a cornerstone of the place now.  He's raised the water table for all of us here.  He's challenged us all to be better.  I mean, every week when he does a race report, he drives us to make our product better. 

I think it's great.  Really, really felt good having him and Kyle up there at the Bristol test.  We got together after the first day, kind of fed information off each other.  It's neat because Bobby's drove in the Busch Series, he's drove in a lot of different cars.  He's been a champion.  Once you've been a champion, you're a winner, you want to keep driving towards that. 

You know Bobby probably as well as anybody out there, he's great for the sponsors.  Any time he meets a sponsor, they love him.  The thing he has best about him, he's like Petty, he's got the cleanest name out there. 

Q.:  When the King walks through the shop, you mentioned you have new people, do still see guys turn around and look, Wow, that's Richard Petty walking through the shop? 

Robbie Loomis:  Petty Enterprises is a very special place.  That's a lot of what we've been talking about, you know, it has a special heart to it and a special feeling.  I think with whatever we do as we grow, we want to make sure we keep that Petty touch into it. 

I see drivers, race car drivers out there, when they see the King, it's a special moment.  I think for us it's really neat.  I see it with Bobby and Richard when they're talking.  It's a neat thing seeing two winners like that talk. 

Moderator:  Robbie, we really appreciate you taking some time out from your schedule to join us today and help us talk about this long-awaited project about to come to fruition, the Car of Tomorrow. 

Robbie Loomis:  Let's go win Bristol with Petty Enterprises. 

Moderator:  There you go.  Again, thank you. 

Thanks to all the media for joining us today.  Good participation.  We really appreciate the coverage.  Thank you.

Tagged: Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Clint Bowyer

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