Robert Loper protects his recipe for success like your grandmother guards the ingredients in her macaroni and cheese.
Outside of son Eli, 12, few lay a finger on the No. 15 rocket ship. Loper, 36, would not have it any other way. Working on cars is his passion. Even on those nights when he is still making adjustments well past 11. Loper’s labor of love has paid off in an historic 2022 season, winning six times in seven Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks features. Those six victories match his total from last year, which included his third Pure Stocks Snowball Derby title (2015, 2017, 2021).
Loper enters Saturday’s season finale at Five Flags Speedway with an insurmountable 65-point lead and has already clinched his second straight Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks track championship.
“It’s amazing. I’m always trying to find more,” Loper said. “I make major adjustments every week, always digging for more. Last race, I was three-tenths off the track record in qualifying in the middle of summer.”
Loper and the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks will race for 25 laps, sharing the Night of Champions stage Friday with three other local classes. The Faith Chapel Outlaws (35), Zoom Equipment Pro Trucks (30) and The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen (30) will also crown track champions. Grandstand gates open at 5 p.m. Saturday with racing set for 7. Admission is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, military and students; and free for children ages 11 and under. Additionally, there is an open practice from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and a pit party for race teams to follow
Racing is a humbling sport. While Loper has enjoyed a nearly perfect season at Five Flags—finishing second to Cameron Leythem when a bounty was on Loper, who started sixth—he has struggled mightily in his own backyard. Mobile International Speedway is just around the corner in Loper’s native Irvington, Ala. He finished third across the bay last week and has just one win this season.
“Last week was a reality check for me,” Loper said. “My car wasn’t handling, and they run different tires than Five Flags. I messed up the setup bad and feel like I ruined my chances for the night.
“I’ve had unfortunate luck over there. All my car troubles have come over there and not one at Pensacola. It stinks, but that’s a part of racing. I feel like it helps me in the long run.”
One of his few losses this season came when Eli topped him at Sunny South Raceway in Grand Bay, Ala. The Loper Family has enjoyed all the wins coming at racetracks in 2022, as Eli continues to win and improve in his battle against chronic pancreatitis. It has been four months since his last hospital trip, which came with regularity the last four years.
“Every time we turned around we were at (USA Children's & Women's Hospital) in Mobile and at Ochsner’s in New Orleans,” Loper said. “But he’s doing good now.”
That is Robert Loper’s biggest victory in 2022.
-Story by: Chuck Corder/Five Flags Speedway