PAPIS & THE GECKO CELEBRATE ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY IN VEGAS Las Vegas, NV (February 28, 2010) -- After laying over in Los Angeles for a few days with his wife and children after the Fontana race, Max Papis made the four-hour drive from Southern ...
PAPIS & THE GECKO CELEBRATE ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY IN VEGAS
Las Vegas, NV (February 28, 2010) -- After laying over in Los Angeles for a few days with his wife and children after the Fontana race, Max Papis made the four-hour drive from Southern California to Las Vegas looking to improve upon last year's marks. This weekend celebrated the one-year anniversary of the debut of GEICO and Papis in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Except that a year ago, the GEICO Racing team was not coming off a near Truck Series win in Daytona, along with their participation in the Great American Race.
It was different this year. Papis did not have to spend an entire morning walking pit road and learning the details of the racetrack. Rather, he strapped into the #13 GEICO Toyota Camry and went straight to work, as he shot to the top of the speed charts in practice. When the opening session concluded, Papis and the #13 GEICO Camry sat 15th on the charts, outpacing well over half the field. Furthermore, he was the fastest of the 'go or go home' cars.
Qualifying also proved fruitful for the GEICO team when Papis wheeled around the 1.5-mile D-shaped oval in just 29.111 seconds, at a rate of speed of 185.497 miles per hour. His time was good enough for a 21st starting position, directly behind his close friend Jimmie Johnson. Considering that Johnson has over twice as many wins as Papis has starts, it was most certainly a moral victory for the GEICO team.
When race day arrived, it was evident that Papis had as well. During driver introductions, he paced across the stage, son in hand, to a roar of applause that was not present a year ago. Then during the National Anthem, Papis and the GEICO team found the television cameras bearing down on them as they sang along. In just a year, he has endeared himself to the NASCAR fan base and it was never so obvious as it was today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Starting 21st, Papis gave up just two positions in the opening laps before the first of several cautions was displayed on the third lap of the race. While a driver finding the wall caused the opening caution, subsequent cautions emerged unexpectedly when the yellow lights began to flash without warning.
Initially, Papis and the #13 GEICO Camry would free-fall through the field as they battled a loose condition early in the race. However, it would not take long before they gained their footing and began charging forward. Falling as far as 40th, crew chief Bootie Barker and spotter Jason Jarrett led Papis on a surge that found him approaching the Top 20.
After getting a lap back, Papis made a scheduled green flag pit stop late in the race. While he was positioned to eventually put the #13 GEICO Camry back on the lead lap, the pit stop would deliver a devastating blow when a tire cut loose from a tire changer and NASCAR penalized the GEICO team. Consequently, Papis was black flagged and served with a pass-through penalty, which would require him to travel down pit road under green flag conditions.
The GEICO team quickly found themselves down five laps due to the penalty. Unable to recover from such a tough break so late in the race, Papis rallied to record a 33rd place finish in the GEICO Camry; three positions ahead of where he finished a year ago.
"We started out okay, but the #13 GEICO Camry got really loose in a hurry. We made it better, but it was just not our day," Papis said. "That pit lane penalty really hurt us and we lost two laps after we just made a green flag pit stop, but our performance was still better than last year. It's continued improvement we're after and today, despite the setback, we managed to improve." He continued, "I need to be patient and keep driving as hard as I can. I know that Bootie (Barker) and the guys on the team are with me all the way. We're taking it one turn at a time."
Papis and the Germain Racing team will return to the east coast this week and travel just a few hours from the race shop to Atlanta, GA, for next week's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Papis and the #13 GEICO Camry will hit the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the opening practice session on Friday.