IRL: Max Papis looks to taste the Indy 500 milk

To most of the rest of the racing world Max Papis' Indy 500 deal with Eddie Cheever was last minute and, therefore, anything other than a likely race-winning combination of driver, team owner and race crew for the sixth-row, 18th-spot starter. ...

To most of the rest of the racing world Max Papis' Indy 500 deal with Eddie Cheever was last minute and, therefore, anything other than a likely race-winning combination of driver, team owner and race crew for the sixth-row, 18th-spot starter.

"I'll bring a knife to the fight," Papis confidently said Tuesday from his Miami home during some pre-race down time.

"Penske, Ganassi and Andretti-Green have been working on their cars since the beginning of the year but I'm not going out to get my assed whipped by anyone."

Indeed, perhaps the only thing that might whip Papis' over the next 30 days or so is his schedule.

He'll take on Indianapolis 500 duties from Thursday through Monday's post-race awards banquet. On Tuesday he flies to Le Mans where he'll stay 2 ½-weeks for pre-qualifying and the 24-hour race, running a Corvette C6R with Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell. Then it's back to the States for International Race of Champions racing and - the 2004 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype champ hopes - a pick-up Rolex Series DP ride at Daytona International Speedway.

"I'm looking forward to getting on the road course at Daytona," said the former Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates DP driver.

"It's been 14 years since IROC has held a road course race and, besides being a great honor to be in IROC, it's going to be held at a place that's been very good to me."

This week, though, almost all of Papis' energy is directed toward the Indy 500.

"Eddie (Cheever) and I started talking about me getting in the second Indy car at a Rolex Series race earlier this year," Papis said, bristling at the thought he's getting into anything other than a serious effort.

"I've known my engineer, Iain Watt, since my early CART days and my crew chief, Bharat Naran, for almost as long.

"The crew is very well established and have a great amount of experience. They've been practicing pit stops every day and the only thing we've been missing is the fuel guy. But Bharat called and said he got a good one the other day who is coming over to work with us. I have no doubt that they'll not let me down in the pits and I'm not going to let them down on the race track."

Insofar as Sunday is concerned, Papis feels he's got an advantage unknown by many of the field's other drivers: a ton of endurance racing experience.

"I've won the Rolex 24 at Daytona; I've won at Sebring and placed second at Le Mans; and, during my Indy Car career, ran at least 14 or 15 500-mile races. I know how to pace myself in long races.

"I've been studying the helmets and cars of the other drivers so that I know who I'm racing with.

"I'm very confident."

Papis contends he also has a secret weapon not possessed by others.

"Thursday I'm going to (sponsor) Sport Clips and get an aero haircut for more downforce," the impish Italian said, never having been one to shy from unabashedly praising those paying his racing bills.

As for his plans after his June 29th appearance at Daytona International Speedway's Pepsi 400 weekend, Papis said he remains hard at work on the 2007 season, hustling for even more driving opportunities and sponsorships -- it's likely one thing he'll not have to work very hard to find should he just happen to be drinking some milk in the midst of 300,000 race fans come Sunday afternoon.

-Written Exclusively for Motorpsorts.com by DC Williams

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Max Papis , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Chip Ganassi , Felix Sabates
Teams Williams , Chip Ganassi Racing