CHAMPCAR/CART: Interview with Max Papis

Max Papis, driver of the No. 7 Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth, has had a season filled with peaks and valleys. Although he earned his first career CART victory in the season-opener at Homestead and has five more top-five finishes, Papis has also...

Max Papis, driver of the No. 7 Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth, has had a season filled with peaks and valleys. Although he earned his first career CART victory in the season-opener at Homestead and has five more top-five finishes, Papis has also endured seven DNF's and currently sits 13th in the CART FedEx Championship Series Driver's Championship standings after 12 races. Looking ahead to this weekend's Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Papis reflects on his first 12 races, the frustrations he and Team Rahal have endured and shares his thoughts on the remainder of the season.

AFTER STARTING THE SEASON ON SUCH A HIGH NOTE WITH YOUR FIRST CAREER CART VICTORY AT HOMESTEAD, THIS WOULD APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN A FRUSTRATING SEASON FOR YOU THIS FAR. "For sure the season up to now has been relatively disappointing compared to what we really wanted to achieve. We've had seven DNF's in 12 races, and that's not what we really wanted to do. There are still many points available in the championship, so my goal is to go out and take as many points as I can and improve upon my fifth-place finish in the points championship that I had last year. But I'm going to go out with the same will to succeed that I had before. When we started (the season) and won the first race the goal was to be in the hunt for the whole season. In the races we've finished, we had a first (Homestead), a second (Detroit), a seventh (Milwaukee) and an eighth (Motegi and Japan), so if you put them together the consistency is there when we finish, but unfortunately the seven DNF's were really detrimental to where we wanted to go."

SUCCESS THIS SEASON SEEMS TO HAVE COME TO YOU IN SPURTS. WHAT DO YOU AND THE TEAM NEED TO DO TO BECOME MORE CONSISTENT FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE SEASON? "I do my best, 100 percent, all the time. I feel that there are circumstances, a variety of them, not only one. Sometimes it's a small mistake, a problem here and there that cut our hopes short. I feel that within myself I'm always the same person. Last year I was the most consistent driver with the most laps completed, so unfortunate circumstances have not allowed us to show well this year. We have eight races to go and there are many (championship) points available, so I feel that people shouldn't count me out."

BOBBY RAHAL TAKING OVER AS INTERIM PRESIDENT AND CEO OF CART HAS HAD A PROFOUND EFFECT ON THE SERIES IN A NUMBER OF WAYS. HOW HAS IT AFFECTED YOU AND THE TEAM THIS SEASON? "Bobby has been really busy and we have not seen him a lot due to the work he has been doing up to now, but in the long term these things pay back because CART is getting stronger and better. He's extremely busy, but we have Scott Roembke who is a very good general manager. He has been running the company very successfully up to now and has been doing an excellent job. However, I also feel that Bobby is a very charismatic person and for sure Team Rahal needs him."

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO BECOME MORE CONSISTENT AND REVERSE YOUR BAD RUN OF LUCK? "I don't believe in luck. I don't believe in good luck, bad luck and things like that. You make your own luck and your own choices. We need to look into each other's eyes and understand why we didn't finish these seven races. On my side, I've always given my 100 percent and I can't ask much more. There is always room for improvement on any side, my side as well, but we need to be realistic and understand what we didn't do right, what we did right and make it better. It's not only one problem. It's a lot of small problems that have created these seven DNF's in 12 races."

YOU'RE KNOWN THROUGHOUT THE CART PADDOCK AS ONE OF THE MORE POSITIVE AND UPBEAT DRIVERS IN THE SERIES. HOW DIFFICULT HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU TO MAINTAIN THAT POSITIVE ATTITUDE DESPITE ALL THE SETBACKS THUS FAR THIS SEASON? - "Definitely it's not easy. I'm always thinking positive because that's how I've built my career and my life, but for sure you need the support from the team and everyone needs to pull towards the same goals, and here we are trying to make it happen and pushing towards the same goals. It's not easy because sometimes frustrations come into play and there are some doubters here and there, but I would say that in general the strongest thing we have in Team Rahal is that we believe in each other. That's why I have a good feeling that things are going to turn around very fast and we're going to fight for the podium. In all the DNF's we've had, we were always up there trying to fight for a podium finish, and unfortunately we've taken home very, very little, but that's motor racing as well."

YOU MADE YOUR CART DEBUT AT MID-OHIO DURING THE 1996 SEASON. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE TRACK AS YOU HEAD THERE THIS WEEKEND FOR THE MILLER LITE 200? "The track is special for sure. It's special because there are a lot of very knowledgeable race fans there, so it's always great to be over there, and it's also good for the team because there's always lots of supporters from Team Rahal. I felt this great support even the first time I went driving there, even when I was driving for PPI (Motorsports), and the fans have a lot of knowledge about what we are doing. It's a great show, it's a good feeling to be there and we've always had very strong runs at that track, so I think we're going to do even better this year."

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO WELL IN ORDER TO RUN A SUCCESSFUL RACE AT MID-OHIO? "(Mid-Ohio) is a typical permanent (road) course. It's a track that requires a very good front end on the car, a very precise set up on the car and a strong engine to push you down the straightaways with a lot of downforce on the car to go around the corners. It's a compromise between engine and chassis where both count a lot. (You need) a lot of horsepower to carry the downforce on the car, as much downforce as you can, and a very good and precise car to go fast in the slow turns, so it's a combination of both."

SIX OF THE LAST EIGHT RACES OF THE SEASON ARE ON EITHER PERMANENT ROAD COURSES OR TEMPORARY STREET COURSES. WITH YOUR EXTENSIVE ROAD RACING BACKROUND, DO YOU FEEL THAT THE SCHEDULE IS IN YOUR FAVOR TO MAKE A SECOND-HALF CHARGE AT THE POINTS CHAMPIONSHIP? "If you look at it like that, yes, but I won my first race on an oval. I know I'm stronger on road and street courses because that's what I raced on growing up, but I think I've equalized my strengths on ovals and street and road courses in the last year. I would say that it (the championship) is open to the team that believes the most in itself, and is open to the people who have the strength to believe in themselves as a team sport. The people and the team that believe the most in itself, its driver and its personnel will be the successful one."

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