MAX PAPIS & THE GECKO 8TH IN WATKINS GLEN Watkins Glen, NY (August 10, 2009) -- Max Papis let's everything come in its time. He's patient, poised and focused. This is good news considering that he and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series...
MAX PAPIS & THE GECKO 8TH IN WATKINS GLEN
Watkins Glen, NY (August 10, 2009) -- Max Papis let's everything come in its time. He's patient, poised and focused. This is good news considering that he and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series were knocked out by Mother Nature on Sunday and were forced to race on Monday at noon.
Two weeks ago, Papis and the GEICO Racing team experienced heartbreak at the hands of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They could have both showed up in Watkins Glen this weekend with heads hanging and a negative persona. Instead, they took the Finger Lakes Region of New York by storm.
The first practice session on Friday found them sitting as high as 3rd on the speed charts. Later that day, qualifying would find them continuing their tear, as Papis wheeled the #13 GEICO Camry around the 2.45-mile road course with relative ease and placed the car on the outside of Row 8 in the 16th starting position. As an encore, Papis would record the 5th fastest practice time on Saturday before following that up with 13th position in Happy Hour.
Needless to say, the 24-hour rain delay had little affect on 'Mad' Max. He almost seemed more relaxed when he slid behind the wheel of his #13 GEICO Camry on pit road prior to the race. This was never so apparent as when he picked up four positions on the event's opening lap.
Starting 16th, Papis wasted no time moving forward and, with the exception of a single lap where he dropped to 13th, he ran solidly in the 12th position before the event's first caution flag was displayed on Lap 17. The #13 GEICO Camry would visit pit road on Lap 18 and the Germain Racing pit crew would replenish the Toyota Camry with four new Goodyear tires and a tank of Sunoco racing fuel. Most importantly, they would do so quickly, as Papis would rejoin the field one position to the good, restarting the race on Lap 20 in the 11th spot.
Papis would reach the Top 10 on Lap 24 when he slid into 9th place before later cracking the Top 5 on Lap 47. Notably, Papis accomplished all of this while also attempting to conserve fuel at the urging of engineer Ryan Coniam.
As the necessary Lap 54 green flag pit stop approached, Papis asked for an ice cold bottle of water. When he came down pit road for the final stop of the day, Papis also received four new tires and a tank full of gas. The Germain Racing pit crew would once again produce a quick turnaround, as Papis would roll off pit road in 16th position despite the stop coming under green flag conditions. Just three laps later, on Lap 57, the #13 GEICO Camry reappeared in the Top 10. And by Lap 60 Papis was in the 6th position.
Unfortunately, on Lap 62 a major crash involving Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton and Sam Hornish, Jr, would bring out the red flag and find the field parked in the sweltering heat in Turn 2. Fortunately, Gordon, Burton and Hornish would all miraculously escape serious injury.
Twenty minutes later, the cars would begin to roll and there would be just 27 laps remaining to decide the victor.
On Friday after qualifying, Papis felt as though he may have left a little on the table, despite posting his season's best qualifying effort. On Monday afternoon, the GEICO driver cleaned off the table. Restarting 6th on Lap 67, crew chief Peter Sospenzo radioed to Papis that he was among the best in the world and that Papis himself is one of the best and that he would need to show it now. The radio transmission would end with Sospenzo telling Papis that he no longer needed to conserve fuel and that he needed to attack and go for the win.
Papis would get to run just a few laps before the race's final caution flag of the day flew on Lap 71. Restarting 7th on Lap 73, Papis would battle the hard-charging Sprint Cup Series field and hold on to an 8th place finish and record his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Top 10. (His best NASCAR finish was at the Nationwide Series race in Montreal in 2007 where he started 2nd and finished 3rd driving for Phoenix Racing.)
"It was a great day today for this GEICO Racing team because we've worked so hard and we've been so tough and it paid off today," said an emotional Papis. "These guys did such a great job today and the pit crew was there for me. I can't thank these guys enough for their awesome effort. It's also great to be able to give GEICO their first Sprint Cup Series Top 10. GEICO gave me a chance and believed in me, so I'm happy to be able to reciprocate."
Papis continued, "These guys are for sure among the top drivers in the world." Papis drew laughter at the post-race press conference when he announced, "If anyone ever again says to me that NASCAR guys can't drive road courses, I will tell them to shut up!"
Day by day, Papis is showing that he belongs here. 18th at Talladega, 12th at Sonoma and now an 8th at Watkins Glen. Papis is attempting to achieve the improbable this year by going Sprint Cup Series racing with little or no experience in NASCAR's bottom two series'. And he is running just a partial season while his peers are doing it week in and week out. So far, he is up to snuff.
The GEICO Racing team will take a week off before reporting to Bristol, TN, for double duty.
Papis and the Germain Racing team will battle the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regulars on Wednesday night, August 19th before attempting to qualify for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race two days later.