Max Papis Avoids Late-Race Cautions to Bring Home Top-15 at Phoenix
MIAMI, FL (February 28, 2011) -- One week after crossing the finish line in 12th-place at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Max Papis and the No. 9 GEICO Racing team trekked cross country to compete at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway, the second stop of the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. Numerous late race cautions plagued the field, but Papis used patience to bring home a solid 15th-place finish in the Arizona desert.
A normal schedule occurrence saw the Truck Series complete a one-day show on Friday, as practice, qualifying and the race all took place during the same day at the one-mile track. After dialing in the GEICO Toyota in the morning practice session, Papis laid down a respectable lap in qualifying to start the 150-mile race from the 18th position.
The beginning of the Lucas Oil 150 saw the 36-truck field complete laps under green-flag conditions. As Papis faced a loose handling Tundra, the Italian slipped back a few spots in the first 30 laps and was placed one lap down to the leaders. The yellow flag was displayed on lap 43, with the Gecko holding 22nd-place. Crew chief Randy Goss called his driver to pit road for four fresh tires, fuel, and adjustments to help tighten up the Toyota. Restarting on lap 49 from 23rd-place, Papis began fighting for the Lucky Dog award.
The second caution of the night was brought out on lap 59, with Papis in 22nd-place, two spots shy of receiving the Lucky Dog award to return to the lead lap. Papis reported to his GEICO crew that the adjustments made on the first pit stop helped but he was still loose. Remaining on the track, Papis restarted on lap 63 from the same position. Another 40 lap green-flag period ensued as Papis continued to run strong in the 22nd position.
On lap 101, the third caution slowed the pace, sparking a string of six cautions in 40 laps. Goss radioed for Papis to come back to pit road for the final stop of the evening, taking four fresh tires and fuel. Continuing to dodge accidents in front of his GEICO Toyota, Papis swerved and swayed to break into the top-20 by lap 119. Showing extreme patience and driving skills, the driver's break finally came on lap 133 as he received the Lucky Dog award and regained his position on the lead lap.
The green flag waved for the final time on lap 140, setting up a 10-lap shootout in the Valley of the Sun. With six laps remaining, Papis battled his way into 15th-place. Never looking back, Papis crossed the finish line and recorded his second consecutive top-15 finish. Papis continues to hold the eighth position in the Camping World Truck Series Driver Championship Point Standings, only 10 points behind leader Matt Crafton.
"We battled hard tonight to get that Top 15 finish for GEICO and Germain Racing. We took what the day gave us and we will move forward to the next race in Darlington," Papis said. "I was able to stay out of trouble and we are getting better one lap at a time. We're 8th in the point standings and just ten points out of first place, so we are in a good place and we are going to keep fighting and getting better each race."