MAX PAPIS/MCI CART TEAM CLAIM TOYOTA'S FIRST TOP-FIVE FINISH LAZZARO/MCI ATLANTIC TEAM POST THIRD WIN HOUSTON (October 4, 1998) - MCI Racing Team/Arciero-Wells driver Max Papis finished 5th today in round 17 of the 1998 FedEx Championship ...
MAX PAPIS/MCI CART TEAM CLAIM TOYOTA'S FIRST TOP-FIVE FINISH LAZZARO/MCI ATLANTIC TEAM POST THIRD WIN
HOUSTON (October 4, 1998) - MCI Racing Team/Arciero-Wells driver Max Papis finished 5th today in round 17 of the 1998 FedEx Championship Series in Houston, Texas, earning Toyota its highest ever finish, and its first top-five finish. Robby Gordon, racing the MCI/Panasonic Duskin-sponsored entry, finished 13th.
Papis qualified 14th for the 100-lap race through the new 1.68-mile downtown street course. Gordon qualified 24th. The start of the race was delayed approximately 30 minutes because of rain, and heavy rain eventually limited the scheduled 100-lap race, to just 70 laps.
Papis moved into the top-ten on the race's first lap and stayed there for virtually the entire race. His fifth place finish eclipses Toyota's previous best of seventh, established by Papis' teammate Robby Gordon, in April of this year at Nazareth.
"This is a wonderful birthday present for me and the MCI Team," said Papis. (Papis's 29th birthday was on Saturday) "It was so hard today with the rain and not being able to see or race under these conditions. I am so proud and happy for MCI, Toyota and the Arciero-Wells team. I want to enjoy and remember this moment. We have all worked together hard to get here. This is a great day for all of us. Iain (Watt) and Richard (Buck) and all of my guys were fantastic."
Gordon moved the MCI/Panasonic Duskin Toyota into 18th position on the first lap, and eventually claimed 16th position, before he was entangled in a multi-car accident on the 13th lap. The accident caused the race to be red-flagged for 17 minutes. The delay gave the Gordon crew time to repair damages suffered to the car, and the team had Gordon back on the track for the re-start. Gordon re-started in 15th position, and eventually moved into 13th place, where he was when the race ended.
"I am proud and excited for Max, the Arciero-Wells Team and Toyota," said Gordon. "It is great to be involved in this continued effort. I am looking forward to running the next two races at Australia and Fontana."
Two races remain in the 19-race schedule: Australia and Fontana. The next race for the MCI Racing Team/Arciero-Wells will be the Indy Carnival Australia in Queensland, Australia, Sunday, October 18. The race will air tape delay on ESPN at 8:00 p.m. ET. Please check local listings.
"We have the best ever finish for us, MCI and Toyota and now we are looking for an even better finish at Australia and Fontana," added Papis.
Atlantic results: MCI Racing Team/Precision Preparation, Inc. (PPI) driver Anthony Lazzaro passed pole sitter Alexandre Tagliani on the first lap and led flag to flag in the Toyota Atlantic Championship season finale. His teammate, Masaoki Nagashima racing the number 24 Panasonic Duskin/Swift, finished 25th. Lazzaro qualified second for the 13th race of the 1998 Atlantic season and Nagashima qualified 5th in the inaugural Texas race. The team can now credit for the season: three wins, three poles and two fastest race laps.
"The MCI/PPI Team gave me a great car," said Lazzaro. "In the beginning I felt like we controlled the pace and took it easy on my brakes. After the last restart I started sliding around. Then it started raining. I had to make sure not to make a mistake; there was a lot of pressure from behind."
"Anthony drove one of the best races all year," said Nick Harvey, Team Manager. "We were owed a win after losing out to the rain at Gateway (were unable to race to the end after challenging one-two position)."
Today's race will air tape delay on ESPN2. Please check your local listings for exact air time and date.
The final race of the season will be the inaugural Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, Sunday, October 4, on the city's 1.68-mile temporary street course.