Papis Focused On Long Beach Success HILLIARD, OH . . . Max Papis grew up watching racing on the historic road courses of Europe and as he approaches the Grand Prix of Long Beach (Sunday, 4:00 PM EDT on ABC) this weekend he knows he will be...
Papis Focused On Long Beach Success
HILLIARD, OH . . . Max Papis grew up watching racing on the historic road courses of Europe and as he approaches the Grand Prix of Long Beach (Sunday, 4:00 PM EDT on ABC) this weekend he knows he will be racing on one of the historic street circuits in the United States. For Papis Long Beach represents a challenge and a crown jewel he wants to claim for his racing career.
"Long Beach represents the pinnacle of American street racing," said Papis. "The course is a combination of a tight turns and fast straight-aways which makes it an exciting street course to race on. I have many goals and objectives that I wish to accomplish for my racing career and to claim a victory at Long Beach would be a very special achievement." In his last two trips to Long Beach as a driver for Team Rahal Papis has secured a starting spot near the front of the field qualifying then a career street course best fourth in 1999 and starting sixth in 2000. Although neither of those efforts has translated into a podium result, Papis knows that success is within his reach on the famed streets of Long Beach. "We have had success in qualifying each of the last two years and Team Rahal has amassed an impressive record through the years at Long Beach so I know we have the knowledge and capability to run strong and finish up front." In 1999 Papis was just beginning to serve notice of his breakout season when the personable Italian posted a ninth place finish at Long Beach. It was his second top-ten result in three races and he parlayed that quick start to a fifth place finish in the 1999 CART championship with a career best 14 top-ten results. Papis is coming off a points paying 12th place finish at Monterrey in the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series opener. As important as that championship point is, and more critical for this weekend at Long Beach, he has secured a spot in the "fast" qualifying session on Saturday. "It is a vicious cycle when you fall out of the fast session in qualifying," said Papis. "Several times last season we had to battle our way out of the "slow" group and so many elements conspire against you. Everybody knows the track will improve over the course of the weekend and so securing a spot in the second (fast) qualifying session gives us an advantage to start the weekend. We just have to maximize that advantage and keep ourselves focused on the job at hand."
Brack Looks To Build On Mexico Momentum
2000 CART Rookie of the Year Kenny Brack is coming off an impressive season opening performance at Monterrey in which he claimed his first Champ Car pole and led 28 lap en route to a fifth place finish. Brack has posted ten top-five results since the start of the 2000 season, the most of any driver in the FedEx Championship Series. In 2000 when Brack finished fourth in the CART championship, he didn't score his first point until the season's third race (at Rio) and he didn't amass his 11th point until the season's fourth race at Motegi. Therefore Brack is already three races ahead of his point pace from 2000. "Monterrey was a good way for us to start the season," said Brack. "Heading into the race in Mexico I still felt we had a lot to learn from the car having switched to the Lola chassis, but everyone was in the same situation with a new track and we were able to find a successful set-up pretty quickly. We still have a lot to learn from the chassis but I feel we are making great strides and we know the Ford-Cosworth/Lola combination is going to be competitive." Brack qualified seventh last season at Long Beach claiming a spot in the fourth row from the slow session on the second day of qualifying.
This season under the revamped qualifying rules Brack will be in the fast session ready to make a run for a second pole position. "Long Beach is a nice setting for a race and the weather is usually ideal for a street party which is what the event is," said Brack. "The track itself has a long history and a great tradition which is comprised the great open wheel drivers who have raced on the streets of Long Beach. The course itself is not spectacular but there is a very long front straight away so it is critical to get off the hairpin [turn 11] quickly. The rest of the track it is critical to just reduce your lap time, but the real key is the front straight where most of the overtaking will take place. There will be some passing opportunities on the back stretch but the real key is the front straight."