Robbie Loomis spent 11 years working for Petty Enterprises, nine as crew chief, and helped put Bobby Hamilton and John Andretti in Victory Lane. During the 2001 season, in just his second year at Hendrick Motorsports, Loomis had Jeff Gordon back at the top of Winston Cup. In this interview with Stock Car Racing, Loomis talks about the effort needed to stay at the top of your game.
SCR: Tell us a little about your background, where you grew up, that sort of thing.Loomis: I grew up in Forest City, Florida. Actually, when I was 12 or 13, I would always go to my uncle's shop and work on his cars. Back then we didn't even have a trailer, so we would pull them to the racetrack by chain. Then I started driving a little when I was 15 or 16, realized I couldn't afford that and started working on them and have been working on them ever since.
SCR: So racing has basically been a lifelong pursuit for you?Loomis: Oh yes, definitely. My father took me when I was so little, they tell me, that I can't even remember. They said I just liked the noise.
SCR: Your dad raced also?Loomis: He did it as a hobby years ago. Then I think he took the same route I did when I was 15 or 16 and decided he couldn't afford it and just started working on them and doing it more for enjoyment.
SCR: Where did you go after stepping away from your family's involvement in the sport?Loomis: A week after I graduated high school, I went to work for Mickey Gibbs and moved to Gadsden, Alabama. We ran the All Pro circuit and worked under a man named Ray Stonkus. That's really where I learned a lot about chassis setup, by working with Ray. Just one thing led to another after that.
SCR: When did you go to Petty Enterprises, and how exactly did that come about?Loomis: Actually, in '87 we were doing some racing and bought engines from Prototype Engineering. Ron Neal was starting a Busch team with Kyle Petty, and called and wanted to know if I would be interested in taking care of it. He had Peak antifreeze and ran, I think, about 12 races that year. At the same time, Alan Kulwicki was going to run like seven races with Zerex antifreeze. It was kind of a unique thing that was out of the same shop up there in Hanesville, Illinois. So I talked to Ray Stonkus, who was my mentor at the time, about doing the thing and living up there. He said it would be a great opportunity because it would expose me to Kyle and the Pettys. I took it, and at the end of that season is when Kyle introduced me to his dad. One thing led to another from there.
SCR: If you had not achieved the success you have in this sport, would you still be involved in it? Would the motivation still be there?Loomis: The way I look at racing, I say all the time, is that racing has always been in my blood. It's been fun. I enjoy it as a hobby. I used to go Friday and Saturday nights all the time and wouldn't even get paid. I just like hearing the roar of the engines. I feel very fortunate that now I get paid for something I enjoy so much.
SCR: What are your hobbies outside of racing?Loomis: I love the sun and the beach, and I love to play golf. I only play about five or six games a year, but I love to play. That's probably about it.
SCR: If you weren't working in motorsports, what would you be doing right now?Loomis: I would probably be in the swimming pool business. My dad has a swimming pool business. I tell him all the time when we're having bad weeks, I'll check and say, "How's the swimming pool business doing?"