CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Rahal Gateway Preview

May 24, 1999 PAPIS POSTING BREAKOUT SEASON HILLIARD, OH. . .Five races into his career with Team Rahal, Max Papis is living up to the lofty expectations that come with being the driver of the Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth/Reynard.

May 24, 1999 PAPIS POSTING BREAKOUT SEASON

HILLIARD, OH. . .Five races into his career with Team Rahal, Max Papis is living up to the lofty expectations that come with being the driver of the Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth/Reynard. Papis is rewriting his personal Champ Car dossier in 1999, posting a pair of top-five efforts including a career best fourth-place finish at the Rio 200.

Papis currently ranks eighth in points for the PPG Cup having posted 26 points in the first five FedEx Championship Series events. With his fourth-place finish at Rio, Papis surpassed his career high of 25 points set last season in 19 races for Arciero-Wells Racing.

Currently ranking among the CART leaders in laps and miles driven, Papis has posted three top-seven qualifying efforts this season including back-to-back top four efforts at Japan (3rd) and Long Beach (4th). He is one of just six drivers on the circuit who has finished every race this season. Before joining Team Rahal, Papis had never finished more than four consecutive races.

Team owner Bobby Rahal, who personally selected Papis to replace him, as the driver of the Miller Lite car, is not surprised at the early success of his newest driver. "Max and the Miller team have just begun to tap into their potential," said Rahal. "I have always been impressed with the way Max is able to get the most out of his car. Now that he has the proven package of Team Rahal, Max has elevated himself as a driver to where he has a chance at a podium finish every week."

In the two races which he failed to produce any points (Japan & Nazareth), Papis was running solidly in the top-five before pit related problems cost him track position. "We had a bad run of luck at Japan and Nazareth which cost us a chance to finish with some points," said Papis. "The important thing for our team is to keep building on our successes and not to focus on the mishaps."

Papis enters the Motorola 300 with confidence following a successful test at Gateway International Raceway in early May. Papis posted an unofficial lap of 25.0-seconds, seven-tenths of a second faster than Greg Moore's 1998 pole time.

"Testing doesn't mean much other than it can help to boost your confidence," said Papis. "As a team we have to continue to work hard and strive for improvement in all areas. I feel comfortable that we can build on the success of Rio and take another major step forward at St. Louis."

MAX PAPIS CAREER MARKS ESTABLISHED IN 1999

Item                        Result                 Date
Highest Career Finish         4th @ Rio         5/14/99
Qualifying Position        3rd @ Japan        4/9/99
PPG Cup Points                 26                5/14/99        

1999 Season Highlights -Currently one of six CART drivers to finish all five races. Five consecutive running finishes are a new career best.

-Three top-ten finishes are one short of his career best of four top-ten finishes set last season. 1999 is the first time in Papis' Champ Car career that he has posted a pair of top-five finishes.

-Has qualified in the top-seven three times, including back-to-back top four efforts at Japan and Long Beach.

HERTA LOOKS FOR SUCCESS AT ST. LOUIS

A podium finish at Long Beach and a pair of top-five qualifying efforts would have most drivers trumpeting their early season success but the standards set by Bryan Herta has him labeling this as a slow start. Herta has posted 15 PPG Cup points in five races, the third best start of his Champ Car career, but off the pace he set during the early stages of 1998. Last season Herta finished a career best 8th in the PPG Cup Standings with 97 points. Herta posted points in 11 of the 19 series events last season (58%), this year he has posted points in two of the five races.

"We had a couple of setbacks at Japan and Nazareth but the package we run is competitive. We know we have the ability to run up front and win," said Herta. "I hate to emphasize the importance of any race over another, but with a quarter of the season gone, the next few races starting with St. Louis will be key to our ability to challenge for the championship. We [Team Rahal] had an excellent test at St. Louis a couple of weeks ago which should put us in position to run very well at Gateway."

HERTA SEASON STARTS (PPG Pts. Through Five Races)

Year                Pts.        Final Pts. 
1998             38         97 (8th)
1997                26         72 (11th)
1997                 15        -NA-
1994*                11         11 (23rd)
1996                 6         86 (8th)
1995                 3        30 (20th)

* Herta raced in five mid-season CART events starting with Indy 500.

PIT STOP PERFECTION A less heralded but critical aspect of the Team Rahal racing team was in top form at the Rio 200 turning in their top performances of the 1999 season. The Shell and Miller pit crews were the two top rated pit crews during the race. This marks the first time this season that both of Team Rahal's pit teams ranked one-two in a race. The closest the two teams had come to the top was at Long Beach when the Shell crew was third and the Miller team fourth. At Rio, the Shell team turned in their two pit stops in 63.690-seconds edging out the Miller crew's 63.736 effort for a pair of stops. The Miller crew was a half-second faster than the third place crew from Patrick Racing at 64.231-seconds. The speedy pit stops were critical to the success of Papis and the Miller team. During his second pit stop, Papis picked up three spots in the field jumping from seventh to fourth.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Bryan Herta , Greg Moore