CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Rahal retuns to Michigan

HILLIARD, OH . . . It was one of the most compelling moments of the 1999 CART FedEx Championship Series. Team Rahal's Max Papis running a dominating race in the US 500 only to finish seventh when his car ran out of fuel less than a mile from...

HILLIARD, OH . . . It was one of the most compelling moments of the 1999 CART FedEx Championship Series. Team Rahal's Max Papis running a dominating race in the US 500 only to finish seventh when his car ran out of fuel less than a mile from the checkered flag. In the emotion of the heartbreaking moment Papis displayed the class and grace of a champion.

Papis and Team Rahal are back for the Michigan 500 this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. While there are many who feel this track "owes" Papis a victory, Papis would be the first to disagree. "In racing you are never owed anything," said Papis. "Your success comes from hard work and staying focused on your goals. Last year at Michigan was one of the greatest days of my life and also one of the most disappointing. We [Miller Lite team] used that success as a building block for future success and I think that disappointment served as a valuable lesson. Never take for granted your success because nothing is guaranteed in life."

There is little question that July 25, 1999 was a defining moment for the young Italian driver who is now in his second season with Team Rahal in the Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth/Reynard. The race showed clearly that Papis and his team could dominate a CART event. Prior to Michigan Papis had never led a lap in a CART race. Last year Papis led 143 of the 250 laps and built commanding leads on several occasions. "There was no question Max was the class of the field," said team owner Bobby Rahal at the time. "Max did everything he had to do to win the race, we [the team] lost it for him."

On his final pit stop for fuel and tires, the telemetry for Papis' car froze. Therefore neither Papis nor his engineering crew were able to gauge how much fuel was left in the car. Even a conservative fuel strategy over the last segment of the race wasn't enough to bring the car home. An additional 12oz. of fuel, the equivalent to a can of Miller Lite, would have been enough to guarantee the victory.

Papis has moved beyond the disappointment. A mid-June test at MIS showed Papis and his crew that the Miller car will again be among the quickest this race weekend. "We are confident coming into this race," said Papis. "When you run a 500-mile race you have to be good but you also have to be a bit lucky. I would like to think we can pick up where we left off last year, or at least where we were on lap 249."

Kenny Brack will run his first CART 500-mile event this weekend when the FedEx Championship Series heads the Michigan International Speedway for the Michigan 500. "I have been focusing this week on getting myself back into what I consider my 500-mode," said Brack. "We have been on road and street courses for the last four races so I have to dust off the oval racing mentality. The key thing in a 500-mile event is to be patient. You won't win this race in the first 495 miles; you win it in the last five miles. You have to be patient and know what you are doing at all times. A 500-mile race isn't just about being fast on the super speedway but taking care of you equipment. You have to pace yourself and run within you limitations. When I won at Indy I didn't have the fastest car on the track that day but the drivers who did were to eager to lead the race and put themselves in position where things went wrong. Sometimes it is difficult as a driver to be patient but more so than any other event we run, you must be patient in a race this long."

The score sheet from the Toronto Molson Indy shows Max Papis finished eighth and Michael Andretti won the event last week. However when the new Champ Car movie "Driven" hits theatres next summer moviegoers will see a radically different result.

Following the podium ceremony for Andretti's win last week, the production crew shot a sequence for the movie with Papis finishing on the podium third behind Jimmy Blye (winner) and Beau Brandenberg (second).

Papis was one of several drivers to participate in the shooting of the movie last week in Toronto. Papis also shot a brief speaking part with Sylvester Stallone. Team Rahal crewmembers Kevin Hanrahan, Jim Foley and Neil Everheart also appeared in the sequences with Papis.

At the halfway mark of the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series, Max Papis and Kenny Brack are on pace to set a new Team Rahal record for top-ten finishes. Papis and Bryan Herta set the team record of 22 top-ten results in a season in 1999 with Papis posting 14 of the top-ten results. Brack has seven top-ten results in the first half and Papis has five. Every race that a Team Rahal car has finished in 2000 has produced a top-ten result.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack