MAX PAPIS' STRONG RUN GOES UP IN SMOKE; MARTINSVILLE NEXT Concord, NC (October 17, 2009) -- Savoring the opportunity to sleep in their own beds, Max Papis and the GEICO Racing team arrived at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Thursday in hopes of ...
MAX PAPIS' STRONG RUN GOES UP IN SMOKE; MARTINSVILLE NEXT
Concord, NC (October 17, 2009) -- Savoring the opportunity to sleep in their own beds, Max Papis and the GEICO Racing team arrived at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Thursday in hopes of qualifying for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. A week ago in Fontana, Papis and the #13 GEICO Toyota Camry notched their best qualifying effort of the season when they started 15th.
Unfortunately, when the GEICO team pulled into the infield of the racetrack on Thursday, they realized that their toughest competition might not be the other cars on the entry list. Their toughest competition would initially come in the form of Mother Nature. Cold temperatures, rain and wind would need to be dealt with first if Papis and the GEICO Camry hoped to be able to attempt to qualify.
Fortunately, as the day progressed, the rain would pass allowing practice and qualifying to get underway late in the evening on Thursday.
After sitting all day contemplating his fate, 'Mad' Max toured the 1.5-mile quad-oval in just 28.893 seconds. His effort would place the #13 GEICO Camry on the starting grid in the 40th position, just behind Dale Earnhardt, Jr. However, Papis would once again be affected by the rule indicating the last 'go or go home' car to make the field be relegated to the 43rd starting position.
Race day once again found weather more conducive for a college football game than a race, as temperatures were in the 40's and rain lingered, even sprinkling during driver introductions. The cold would stay, but the rain would hold off as the green flag was displayed for The NASCAR Banking 500 only from Bank of America NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Starting 43rd, Papis and the GEICO Camry would pick up positions before the event's first caution flag was displayed on Lap 3 when Sam Hornish, Jr, spun. Just a few laps later, on Lap 10, Papis would nearly be collected when Hornish, Jr, once again found himself spinning. Papis avoided peril by the narrowest of margins and kept the GEICO Camry on-track and clean while the second caution of the night was displayed. The GEICO Camry visited pit road on Lap 11 to receive fresh tires and a tank of Sunoco racing fuel.
Strategy would prevail, as crew chief Bootie Barker instructed Papis to stay out during a caution flag on Lap 39 while rain seemed to be making its way toward the racetrack. The result was Papis and the GEICO Camry running in the 3rd position. While it would lightly sprinkle, the rain would not become substantial enough to halt the race, therefore forcing Papis to ultimately bring the GEICO Camry down pit road for service.
Logging lap times faster than cars in the Top 10, Barker radioed to Papis on Lap 122, "Keep doing what you're doing; you're very competitive." And he did.
Unfortunately, on Lap 291, Papis' #13 GEICO Camry let go with a plume of smoke from the rear of the racecar at the exit of Turn 4, indicating an oil system failure. The GEICO team had experienced their first part failure of the 2009 season. Running 33rd at the time of the failure, Papis would be relegated to a 41st place finish.
Engineer Ryan Coniam was highly complimentary of Papis' performance. "He was very competitive tonight and his ability to race people wheel to wheel has improved exponentially. Being able to race every week has been critical to his development and it really showed here this evening. I feel that this was his best oval race this year."
That is high praise from a person who can often be Papis' toughest critic. Papis appreciated Coniam's comments and shared his thoughts on the improvement.
"We've worked really hard to get better, and racing every week has been of great benefit to me and the GEICO team," Papis said. "We had a great run going tonight and I'm just disappointed that we didn't get to finish what we started. Each week we're meeting our goals and getting closer to where we want to be. I'm thankful for the support of GEICO and this Germain Racing team." He continued, "Ryan (Coniam) and I work very closely together and his input is so critical and I value everything he tells me. It's good to hear him say these things because it shows that we're getting better."
Next weekend, the GEICO Racing team will travel to Martinsville, VA, for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.