CHAMPCAR/CART: Papis Fontana preview

HILLIARD, OH . . . A season of frustration will end for CART all-star Max Papis on Sunday with the Marlboro 500 at the California Speedway. For Papis the 2000 FedEx Championship Series started off with his first Champ Car victory at Miami. It ...

HILLIARD, OH . . . A season of frustration will end for CART all-star Max Papis on Sunday with the Marlboro 500 at the California Speedway. For Papis the 2000 FedEx Championship Series started off with his first Champ Car victory at Miami. It seemed that Papis had picked up where he had left off in 1999 as the highest scoring driver in the series over the last half of the season. Papis' season has featured a bizarre mixture of problems which have cost the Miller Lite team results and laps.

In 1999 Papis was easily the most consistent driver in the series posting the most laps and miles completed, tying a CART mark with 18 running finishes and notching 14 top-ten results. In 2000 Papis has been plagued with 11 DNF's many stemming from simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"We started this season with a win and now we are looking to end the season with a win. This has been a long tough season, one that has been very frustrating and difficult on my crew. It seems that anything that could have gone wrong has but my crew has never lost site of the challenge that lies ahead and each week they have worked hard to provide me with the best car they can. We have been a factor in the last three 500-mile races in CART and I see no reason why we can't go to Fontana and duplicate or better our success from last year."

In each of the last three CART 500-mile races, Papis has been a major factor. In July of 1999 Papis dominated the US 500 at Michigan International Speedway only to run out of fuel with less than a lap to go. He finished seventh. At Fontana in the 1999 season finale, Papis again dominated the event leading 112 laps en route to finishing second. At Michigan in July of this year after leading earlier in the race he was running third with three laps to go when an oil leak claimed his engine and prematurely ended his day.

"One of these times a 500-mile race is going to go our way," said Papis. "It might as well be one with a million-dollar pay day." The winner of the Marlboro 500 receives a one-million dollar prize for winning the season finale.

Max Papis will wear a specially designed helmet this weekend at Fontana. Alyssa Halfman, a native of Wisconsin, won design contest on Papis' Internet site www.MaxPapis.com <http://www.MaxPapis.com> . The design was selected personally by Papis from the entries submitted by fans from around the world. The new look helmet will be unveiled on Thursday at the Marlboro 500 media luncheon.

Alyssa will receive an autographed copy of the helmet that Papis will wear this weekend. "I hope Alyssa will be as proud to display the helmet in her home as I will be to wear it at Fontana this weekend," said Papis.

<pre> 2000 Max Papis File

Starts:                 19
Points:                 87 (13th)
Highest finish:         1st (Miami)
Podiums results:        2
Top-5 results:          3
Top-10 results:         10
Laps led:               19
Points on road/street:  44
Points on ovals:        43

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis