PAPIS & THE GECKO ESCAPE TALLADEGA WITH 18TH PLACE FINISH Talladega, AL (April 26, 2009) -- After a busy couple of weeks off, Max Papis and the Germain Racing team delivered the ...
PAPIS & THE GECKO ESCAPE TALLADEGA WITH 18TH PLACE FINISH
Talladega, AL (April 26, 2009) -- After a busy couple of weeks off, Max Papis and the Germain Racing team delivered the #13 GEICO Camry to Talladega Superspeedway hoping to qualify for one of NASCAR's most prestigious races.
They were off to a good start when Papis rested second in practice among the drivers who were forced to qualify on time for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Qualifying also went well, as Papis was the second fastest driver with a TRD (Toyota) motor and he also out-qualified the three other cars in the Michael Waltrip Racing stable.
His two laps at the high-banked, restrictor-plate speedway were good enough for the twenty-ninth starting position, as Papis out-qualified Tony Stewart, Jimmy Johnson and a host of others. Unfortunately, due to a rule affecting 'go or go home' cars, Papis would be relegated to the back of the field and be forced to start in the forty-third position.
Papis has shown tremendous ability so far this season, as Talladega makes him three-for-three on NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts this season. While most predicted a struggle to make 'any' races, Papis has proven otherwise. With help from Michael Waltrip Racing, both Papis and the Germain Racing team have shown that they are for real.
Talladega was Papis's first restrictor-plate race of the season, also marking the first race where he would need to rely on drafting to get him to the front of the field. It is also an impound race, which means that teams are not afforded the customary practice sessions after qualifying to prepare the cars for the race. Teams not in the Top 35 in the point standings are particularly affected by this rule because they are forced to start the race in qualifying set-up, as no changes to the cars are permitted after qualifying.
The impound rule would serve of little consequence to Papis because when the green flag waved on Sunday, Papis shot forward and picked up four positions on the first lap. He would continue to draft his way through the field, reaching the Top 25 before the 'big one' would strike Talladega on Lap 8. The major crash would involve nearly half of the forty-three car field and the #13 GEICO Camry would sustain significant right-side damage when Kasey Kahne's car collided with Papis on the apron of the race track. Papis had nearly cleared the incident before being collected.
The Germain Racing team exhibited tremendous poise when Papis brought the injured #13 GEICO Camry down pit road, fixing the car quickly. They would be forced to repair nearly the entire right side, which unfortunately included the hood of the car. At a track where aerodynamics is key, damage to the hood is unwelcome. Papis would return to the racing surface losing just a few positions and restarting 31st when the green flag resumed the Aaron's 499.
Papis and the GEICO team would take advantage of subsequent caution flags to continue repairs on the GEICO Camry. Getting a push from his friend Brian Vickers, Papis would run as high as 13th position, even with the front-end damaged on his #13 GEICO Camry. As the race began to wind down, the damage to the GEICO Camry would take its toll, however Papis would show great restraint and ride patiently in the Top 30.
In typical Talladega fashion, the final laps would get interesting. The ninth caution flag of the day was displayed with nine laps to go in the race when the second 'big one' occurred. Papis missed the crash by the narrowest of margins. Most likely, he was just as surprised as everyone in attendance that he avoided peril.
Restarting 20th with just four laps remaining, Papis would once again narrowly avoid a last lap crash to record an 18th place finish in his first restrictor-plate race in the #13 GEICO Camry. After starting the race in the 43rd position, Papis picked up twenty-five spots en route to his first Top 20 finish of the 2009 season.
"What a great experience to race here in Talladega and get a Top 20 for GEICO and Germain Racing," Papis said. "I can't say enough about Mike (Hillman, crew chief) and Ryan (Coniam, engineer) and the rest of the guys on this Germain Racing team. We all worked really hard today to keep the GEICO Camry up front and at the end of the day our patience and hard work paid off. I am very proud to have raced at such a historic race track. The fans here are awesome, man."
An exciting end to an exciting day, Papis finished it how he started it: With a bang. During driver introductions, when they announced Papis as the driver of the #13 GEICO Camry, he emerged from behind the curtain wearing the head of the Gecko. The crowd cheered and laughter was abound when Papis unveiled himself, much as he did at GEICO's Indianapolis 500 announcement in Long Beach a week ago.
The GEICO Racing team will enjoy a week off before traveling to Darlington, South Carolina, for the Southern 500 on May 9th. Darlington will mark the fourth of twenty scheduled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races for Papis and the GEICO Racing team in the 2009 season.