Papis looks to MAINTAIN Miami momentum Hilliard, OH . . . One down, 19 to go. The CART season opener in Miami supplied plenty of reasons for Team Rahal to celebrate. The victory by Max Papis, his first CART win and a performance which kept ...
Papis looks to MAINTAIN Miami momentum
Hilliard, OH . . . One down, 19 to go. The CART season opener in Miami supplied plenty of reasons for Team Rahal to celebrate. The victory by Max Papis, his first CART win and a performance which kept alive a streak of five consecutive top-four finishes for the Miller Lite team. For Papis the win seemed overdue after he nearly won several races in 1999.
The season opening victory marked the first time that Team Rahal has opened the CART season with a win. Papis victory also marked the first podium appearance for a Team Rahal driver in a season opening event since Bobby Rahal finished third on the downtown streets in Grand Prix of Miami in 1995. Papis finds himself in the unique position of going to Nazareth as the series points leader. The attention focused on Papis has grown steadily since the personable Italian was named to replace Rahal as the driver of the Miller Lite car for the 1999 season. "We have to go to Nazareth with the same determination to succeed that we went to Miami with," said Papis. "The win at Miami validates everything that we [Miller Lite team] have felt since the middle part of last year, that we are capable of being successful in this series. When I first came to Team Rahal we were happy to be finish in the top-ten and we hoped to finish higher. Now we expect to run in the top-five and we have raised our expectations to the podium. That is the attitude that has brought us our recent success and that same desire and attitude will allow us to be successful in the future."
Team Rahal owner Bobby Rahal thinks the best is yet to come for Papis. "I think now that Max has broken through and won his first race, the proverbial floodgates will open and he will be even tougher. Max has been consistent finishing races and finding a way into the top-five. Now he knows not only how it feels to win but how to win and that makes him a stronger driver." Since July of last year Papis has posted 10 top-ten results in the last 12 CART events, including ten consecutive top-ten results when he has a running finish.
In nine of the 12 events Papis has posted a top-five result. On four occasions he has driven from a double figure starting position to finish in the top-five and twice that effort has resulted in a podium appearance, including last week at Miami.
Maximizing Mad Max . . .
<pre> Race Start Finish Points Elkhart Lake 14th 5th 10 Toronto 18th 5th 10 Michigan 6th 7th 7 Detroit 10th 26th DNF Mid-Ohio 9th 5th 10 Chicago 1st 4th 13 Vancouver 12th 23rd DNF Laguna Seca 3rd 3rd 14 Houston 5th 4th 12 Australia 11th 2nd 16 Fontana 2nd 2nd 17 Miami 13th 1st 20
</pre> A strong CART debut gives Brack a base to build for Nazareth
The FedEx Championship Series most notable newcomer, Kenny Brack made an immediate impact in the series, becoming just the second driver in CART's 22-year history to lead in their inaugural race.
Brack, the 1998 IRL Champion and the 1999 Indy 500 winner, ran among the leaders all weekend at Homestead, never finishing out of the top-five in any session, posting the fastest lap of the weekend and qualifying fifth for his CART debut. When the green flag dropped, Brack ran at the front, even leading six laps, until problems with an o-ring ended his race on lap 78.
"I was disappointed that we weren't able to make it to the finish line in the opener, but I have been around racing long enough to know you don't win them all," said Brack. "We have to keep our focus and keep knocking on the door and one of these weekends, the door will open."
Team Rahal tested at Nazareth in early March and Brack was second at the test trailing only Team Penske's Gil de Ferran. "The track was slick due to the repaving of the corners, still we got a good feel for the track and we know what we must do to be quick there."
Twin lead and victory for Team Rahal at Miami
Miami was unique for Team Rahal in that both drivers led the race, giving Team Rahal it's first twin lead since August of 1998. Kenny Brack led the field from lap 48 to 53 and Max Papis led the final ten laps after claiming the lead from Paul Tracy on lap 140.
On four of the previous five occasions when both drivers led the race it was a fuel strategy scenario where a driver picked up the lead for a lap. In August of 1997 both Bobby Rahal and Bryan Herta led 10 laps each for Team Rahal in the Molson Indy Vancouver. Miami marked the first time that Team Rahal had a twin lead in the race and picked up the victory.