CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Max Papis' return to series comments

Portland holds many memories for Papis as he returns to CART Champ Car racing. "Mad Max" Papis is in his element this week at Portland International Raceway for the CART G.I. Joe's 200. He makes his return to CART Champ Car racing after a...

Portland holds many memories for Papis as he returns to CART Champ Car racing.

"Mad Max" Papis is in his element this week at Portland International Raceway for the CART G.I. Joe's 200. He makes his return to CART Champ Car racing after a one-year absence. But Papis drove like it was just yesterday, especially when the rains came out during the morning practice session.

"It feels good to be back in CART," said the 33-year old Italian. "It would have been easier had I just jumped out of a Champ Car into this ride, but I will be confident, yet at the same time patient. I feel pretty comfortable with the car already. We're setting some realistic goals. The team knows what they are doing, so we should be pretty prepared. I think we're going to be able to have a good performance this weekend, and continue to grow from there."

Papis, who is a three-time CART winner, is the only former Portland victor in the field this weekend. He collected a classic victory, leading the entire race from the pole in the rain in 2001 while driving for Team Rahal. Last year was an emotional year for Papis, who returned to defend his victory, only to have the plug pulled on the Sigma team due to financial difficulties.

"Portland seems to play a major role in my CART career," added Papis. "The past two years were both very memorable, but for different reasons. Now, 2003 is the return of 'Mad Max'."

Papis put the No. 27 PK Racing Lola-Ford Cosworth tenth on the provisional grid today. The effort satisfied PK Racing team manager Russell Cameron.

"We felt we needed to find out where we were at with the car, so we needed a veteran with Lola experience," Cameron said. "We've run 11th before, but the encouraging thing is that the gap to the leader is more respectable," Cameron continued. "We've been 1.2 to 1.5 seconds off the pace, and Max was within eight-tenths today. That came in his first day back after not driving one of these cars for a year. It's great for the team, because they needed to regain the feeling of coming to the track with a chance to win."

"It was definitely a very demanding day, especially psychologically," declared Papis. "It was a lot to absorb in a short amount of time. Overall, we are pretty pleased with what we did - not that it's okay to be P10 or P11, but we improved every time and peaked when necessary. Our last session was our fastest. Tomorrow we will find the remaining half-second we need to be on the front row. I'm pleased to be back!"

Sponsors of the No. 27 PK Racing team are Japhiro Swiss Watches and Prosperco, along with Scientific-Atlanta and Bridgestone Tires.

-www.maxpapis.com

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis