CHAMPCAR/CART: Max Papis interview transcript 2001-10-16

An Interview With: MAX PAPIS T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART media teleconference and thanks to all of you for joining us today. Joining us today is Team Rahal driver, by Max Papis, winner of Sunday's Shell 300,...

An Interview With:
MAX PAPIS

T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART media teleconference and thanks to all of you for joining us today. Joining us today is Team Rahal driver, by Max Papis, winner of Sunday's Shell 300, the featured event of the Honda Grand Prix at Monterey on the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca.

Good afternoon, Max, and thanks for taking the time to be with us today.

Max, the driver of the No. 7 Miller Lite Ford Lola recorded his third career FedEx Championship Series victory Sunday. It was his second victory of the season following an earlier win at Portland. Max is one of four multiple winners during this FedEx Championship Series season, joining Team Rahal teammate, Kenny Brack, who leads the series with four victories, and Marlboro Team Penske drivers, Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran who have three and two victories, respectively.

In addition, to his two wins he also owns a pole position at Portland and a podium finish of second in the American Memorial at Germany last month. Sunday's victory allowed Max to move into an eighty-place tie with Patrick Carpentier of Players Forsythe Racing in the FedEx Championship Series Championship. He takes 86 points into Round 20, the Honda Indy 300 coming up on Sunday, October 28 at Surfer's Paradise on Australia's Gold Coast. The Honda Indy 300, Round 20 of the FedEx Championship Series will be televised via tape delay on ESPN on Sunday, October 28 beginning at 1:00 PM Eastern time.

Q. Last Sunday, Ferrari won the race in Japan Formula 1, Valentino Rossi won the bike race and Max Papis won the Laguna race. This is a magical moment for the Italians. Your site web, maxpapis.com that we follow, shows Angelo Romero (ph) from Europe and Italy congratulating you for the victory. Your popularity has grown outside of CART. Can you describe your feeling?

MAX PAPIS: Thanks, and welcome to everybody who is listening to me in the teleconference.

Sunday, Italian people swept the world of motor racing. Ferrari won in Suzuki, Japan. Valentino, that is a great character. And then Mario -- inaudible -- their position winning the race and winning the world championship, and I won Laguna Seca race, Shell 300, one of the most prestigious races. Italian people really swept the world of motor racing Sunday.

I'm very proud of having my Italian flag on the podium. Most of all I'm proud of the achievement we have done. As you say on maxpapis.com, we have a tremendous amount of recognition, fans everywhere around the world, and that's what I'm glad about because Max Papis is not only a race car driver, but has become someone who is loved by a lot of fans; that I hope that I do my best to be the best ambassador I can for myself and for my sport.

And all of this added value that they are within me because they are part of my growing up, they are part of what my family taught me in my life, and I bring with me everywhere I go on the track and off the track. And for me, it's a great, great reward to hear and read all of the comments that people wrote, not only on maxpapis.com, but everywhere around, the Web site and on the newspaper because it does make me proud of being Italian. And at the same time, it makes me really proud to achieve my dreams in a great country like the United States that allowed my dreams to come through; that I don't think I would have ever been able to achieve my goals and my dream in any other country of the world.

Q. A few months ago, you were about 12, 13, 14 in the standings, and I asked you, how do you foresee the finale, you said give us a chance, you see the thing will reach -- now you race and you have another chance to do good in another two races. So your prediction was good. Are you some kind of prophet? What do you do, do you look at the crystal ball?

MAX PAPIS: You know what, I'm not looking at the crystal ball, but I look at my will to succeed. My will to succeed, it's big and it's bigger than ever. I always believed in my possibility and as I kept telling everybody, people that have faith in me and people that didn't have faith in me, to wait because when we will have the opportunity, I will do my best to grab it. And Sunday, the Miller Lite team, put me in a position to grab this opportunity and I did it with both hands, and it propelled me in the Top-10 of the Championship, I'm 8th, equal points with Patrick Carpentier, and my goal is staying there and improving my position, and, you know, at the end of the season, being the top man of the championship and maybe even high as I can.

At this moment Dario is 20-something points in front of me. So I kept in my briefcase, leaving my house in Miami going to Laguna the point standing, and I put my goal post on position 5 (in the points) that was only 26 points in front of me. And now it's a little bit further in front of me, but it's not that much. So my goal post is still there on the position 5.

And I think what I can tell you is that what you see out there is my personality. I came from last to first, thanks to the team effort, and then thanks to the great support that I have, my mechanics at Team Rahal and thanks to the great will that it's always inside of me. As I said, I never give up and Sunday was proof, and I will never give up. Until I am sitting in a race car, you will see Max Papis at 100%.

T.E. McHALE: Max made reference to this: He set a record for coming from the furthest starting position on a road or street course victory on Sunday. He started 25th; he finished first. The previous record was held by Al Unser, Jr., Who started 19 and finished first at Miami in 1986.

Additionally, Max tied the overall CART record for victory from the furthest starting position; that is held my Mike Mosley who started 25 and drove to first on the Milwaukee Mile Oval in 1981.

So, Max, congratulations on that fine achievement, as well.

MAX PAPIS: Thanks a lot.

Q. Are you racing for your job right now? Is that what it's come down to?

MAX PAPIS: Absolutely not. I'm racing for myself -- and you know, I don't beg everybody for -- give me a ride. I won two races. I think that without being arrogant, you know, I think there is a lot of things that comes with Max Papis. I may enable myself during my career in Formula 3000 and Formula 1 and then in CART, and I show to the people my potential, and there are people who believe in me. You know, as I say all the time, Max Papis is not only a capable driver, but I am almost -- I am as well an ambassador for my sponsor and -- inaudible -- decided to follow my career behind the PPI after I left Toyota. And I believe that Miller is very happy for the customers, as well. I think for Miller , I've been to hundreds of bars and met thousands of people. I believe that this following goes far beyond my driving capabilities.

As you say, you know, I'm not -- I just drive it to win races. I don't drive to -- I'm not desperate. You know, I don't, you know -- I totally do not agree on the word you say; I'm not driving for keeping my job or doing my job. I'm not -- I don't have to prove much. I have to prove things to myself. And I'm out there, you know, pushing hard. And as I said, you know, I'm in contact with several CART teams at the moment, and I'm following CART scenario very closely and trying to make this decision for my future.

But, you know, I was not very surprised to receive phone calls from IRL and sports car, and, you know, possibly you are going to see me in the future testing in NASCAR, as well. I just feel that from my perspective, you know, Max Papis is in a good demand, but I don't beg anybody for my ride because I don't think I should, and at the same time, you know, I felt that I've been putting a lot of feet on the ground in my career. I came from last to first because I believe in my guys and I believe in myself.

So, you know, I'm out there to win as many races as I can, because that's my will and as I say it again, I don't consider -- the motor racing is not just my job. Of course, you know, it's what will provide my future living when I'm older, but it's a great passion for me at the moment. And it I'm out there trying to give as much satisfaction as I can toward my Miller guys, and whatever will come later on, you know, is going to be welcome.

Q. Do you intend to remain in CART? Is that your priority? Does CART remain a priority for you?

MAX PAPIS: At the moment, I'm analyzing very closely what's happening in CART and the future of CART. Of course, you know, I have a lot of fans and a lot of following in CART, and I own a lot of my name to CART and as well to sports car, to Ferrari, when I came over here. So I'm considering CART extremely closely, but at the same time, you know, I have other opportunity; I'm exploring them, and that's all I can say at the moment.

But, for sure, CART helped a lot, my career, and I consider that a lot for my future decision.

Q. Following the Zanardi accident, you became like a true ambassador for your sport, from defending CART in Europe and Italy and staying very close to Alex and his family. Do you think that being so strong on this occasion could have helped you to be better, to improve as a driver?

MAX PAPIS: Absolutely. I believe that -- I am a great believer in speaking the truth and telling exactly how the things are. I was extremely disappointed after -- I was extremely disappointed after Alex's accident to hear and read a lot of -- amplify the statement. As you said, I stood up and I wanted to just speak the truth, to let people know what we do in CART, how we take care of the safety in CART, and especially, depending my friend, Alex, because he is a great -- he is a great driver. He is a great friend. And most of all, he's a special -- he's a very, very special person with a great will to succeed.

I'm sure out of all these difficult moments, you know, I had time to think. I had time to spend time with myself, and I definitely became a stronger person and I had even more motivation to achieve my goals and my dreams. I'm sure that on Sunday, you know, it was very difficult in the last five laps of the race because every time I went through the corkscrew that made Alex who Alex Zanardi is here in the United States; I had his picture in my mind. Last four laps, every time I went up there, he was right there in front of me. I truly -- I had a lot of time to be focused, but it was not easy, he was coming in my mind. But I would say that after all of the situation that came, that happened, all of the situation gave me a lot of strength, and gave me a lot of will to succeed, even more than what I had before.

One of the things that I kept in my mind, even at the beginning of the race was that Alex, in an interview in talking to me, he told me that "I'm someone who will always look at the future, I'm someone that is always positive."

So starting with -- I was there with some team members and many people who are a little bit down because we were starting there on the back. They said, you know, we can win. We can do something special. Because you can always look at your future as a positive future, and that's what I did. At the start of the race, even if I was there in the last row, I had the same will that I had in Portland -- and it proved that from the last eight laps despite having not one of best car on the field, I try to achieve my dream; that they are the same dream of Alex and that those doughnuts at the end of the race, you know, they were for him. I didn't do them as good as he did, but I'm sure I will have time to practice and do a little bit more in the future.

Q. How much talk was there between you and the team concerning how you were working out your pit strategy? Five pit stops is a lot to have; did you just feel like you hit it at the right time or did you really plan a lot of that?

MAX PAPIS: We planned, me and Marv Johnson (ph) before the race, and my engineer John Dick and my other engineer, (inaudible). We planned exactly what wanted to do. We didn't know how many pit stops we would have done, but definitely we would have stop and top off the car and every time we put it back on the field. And when I saw Michael Andretti in front of me, they were doing a very similar strategy; despite him being one lap down, I didn't know about that. I felt that we are in good company and I knew that when the race was unfolding, and especially in the last, you know, I would say 25, 30 laps, that all of the leaders were pitting before those three or four yellows that came one after the other.

I could see the real -- of all the leaders in the pit lane, and while they were still going on 50 miles per hour in the pit lane, I was passing them on the track, and I say, you know, this is my moment that I can gain as much ground as I can on all of these guys. And lap by lap, I could see everybody on the pit and me passing them on the straightaway and it was just perfect timing. I felt that, you know, it was just a great strategy and at the same time, you know, pushing my car to the limit and I think those things, they paid off really well.

Q. Are you looking forward to going back to Australia?

MAX PAPIS: Australia was great for me in '99. I finished second. I almost won the race. In 2000, unfortunately pole had me off -- I was running second or third, I don't remember very well. But I love the place, and I think that in the last two races, you know, I stand a great chance to improve my position. As I said, you know, I see these two races as two other chances to win, and as T.E. said to you guys before, I am one of the few guys that won two races. I put the car on pole, I am fifth on laps led, and I completed 90 percent of the laps that we could, and 90 percent of the miles that we had at our disposal; finished 14 out of, whatever, 19 races we did -- I don't know how many we did. But I feel that I have many goals still to achieve, and we have only two races to go, but feel be blessed by God to have again the opportunity to be up there in front, I would take the best support unit I will use to the best of my ability.

Q. That was a good run, good strategy and I think Alex must have been quite pleased with the smoke that you put up.

MAX PAPIS: For sure.

Q. Do you keep in close contact with him?

MAX PAPIS: As I said, you know, in the past, motor racing is very important for me. It's my life. It's my passion. But there are a lot of other things that stand very close to it, sometimes in front of motor racing. And while this is a friendship, I know Alex is -- he is a very special friend. Of course, when I have been on the track and competing with him, the friendship ends at a certain level, but when we have been home, we have always been extremely close to each other, and I speak with him constantly, just because he's a great person and he's someone who is always close to me no matter what, and even if he's out there -- even if he's there in the hospital, I know he is following me and I keep close contact with him, just because I'm sure that -- a couple of word from me and a couple of word from all of the other people in the world make him feel that he's a great person, for sure, will help him in his quality of life.

Q. Mario a few weeks ago made a comment about the way Alex has handled himself on getting his life back is truly inspirational to us all. And I reflected back to Vancouver when you and Jimmy and Alex were all at the gala on the Thursday night. I had a chance to talk to Alex a little bit, and I treasure those moments. I just wanted to say, what you guys did, I really appreciate it.

MAX PAPIS: Thanks a lot. I only do -- you know, I hope you by now know who I am: I only do things from my heart and for people who I like. I don't do them for everybody because I need to have a special inspiration from people around me to do special things. And for Rick and Donna and Alex, I am here for them anytime, anywhere, because they are people that they left a big, big mark in my life and they helped me to grow the person. And for me, you know, they are people that will always be close to my heart.

Q. I recall a conversation that you had had with Memo Gidley at Long Beach when he was kind of looking for a ride and I recall how supportive of him you were at the time. How special was it for you to have that podium, looking back at the beginning of the season and all of the things you have been through together during the season?

MAX PAPIS:  First of all, let me tell you that I was very pleased to
be on the podium with both Memo and Gil.  They are two great drivers and two
great persons.  Gil has already been achieving a lot in his life.

But Memo, he definitely will be able to achieve great goals. I know he has been endeavoring a difficult season of up and down and getting great results, and I was just telling him after the race that, you know, he is a great ambassador for the sport. He is American, he is a young guy, he is a nice-looking guy, and not that I have to tell you that, but all of the race fans, the girls like him. He is driving very strong. He got two podium in a row and he really deserves to be there. You know, I think if I were Chip, I would have no doubt to keep him on board. There is a lot of speculation about finding the new star, finding the new guy. Sometimes, you know, people they need to realize that that they have their own star in their house, they just need to cultivate it and to give him the opportunity and to support him on the moral side and on support them on with the right tools in order for them to achieve their goals.

That doesn't mean that -- what I wanted you to understand is that it's not me supporting other people or me just giving a good word to Memo means that, you know, all right, Max, he has a good heart; he's a loser. I just have a -- I share the frustration and I share the will that the guy is putting in because they are similar to the things I have been putting in my career. I wish him a lot of luck for the future. He went on the podium twice. I don't think that a guy like Memo now, he has to go around and prove much more that he's a good driver. He proved it already, and I wish him a lot of luck.

And I think that if -- as I say, for my career as well, if you endeavor in your own will to succeed and in your own will of achieving your goals, good things will happen.

Q. On behalf of everyone, I think you're a class act and I wish you continued success.

MAX PAPIS: Thanks a lot.

T.E. McHALE: Max, thanks for being with us this afternoon. Congratulations on a great victory at Laguna on Sunday and best of luck through the rest of the FedEx Championship Series season.

MAX PAPIS: Thanks a lot. And let me tell you something to wrap it up.

I read and heard some comments saying that our win on Sunday was a lucky win. I don't believe in lucky win; I believe in win. You know, there were people out there, there were another 24 guys out there that could have grabbed that opportunity. I felt that this was a team win, with a great strategy of Team Rahal, great strategy in the pit and a very strong driving and will to succeed. A lot of people up in the front, they proved that when put under pressure, made mistakes, and we didn't. And as I say it again, luck is important; you don't achieve anything without a little bit of luck. But luck goes to the people that deserve it. And Sunday, we in the Miller team, we prove that we deserve it more than anybody else.

And it's not done. I have two races to go. And in these two races to go that I will go out there, I will go out there and go as hard as I can to achieve my goals, and no matter, maybe I will finish first, maybe I will finish last again, but I will always be me and I will always be the person that, you know, that has a will to succeed, and has ability to use his capability when it is given a chance.

I really wanted to say that because I felt that -- I felt that sometimes speculation, there were -- it's easy to say things. But at the same time, you know, there is only one winner and this winner comes out because he has something a little bit more together with his team more than anybody else. And Sunday, we had it and nobody else had it. As I say it again, Sunday we were the king of Laguna and the other people, they have to wait one more year to be the king.

T.E. McHALE: Congratulations, again, Max. That was very well said. This win will be in the record book for you. You set a record and you can always look at it and know that it wasn't luck. Thank again for joining us. Thanks to all of you for being with us this afternoon.

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Zanardi , Kenny Brack , Al Unser Sr.
Teams Team Penske