HILLIARD, OH (September 1, 1999) - The 1999 season has been the breakout campaign for the Champ Car career of Team Rahal's Max Papis. The personable Papis has posted ten top-ten finishes in 1999 including seven top-five efforts. Papis...
HILLIARD, OH (September 1, 1999) - The 1999 season has been the breakout campaign for the Champ Car career of Team Rahal's Max Papis. The personable Papis has posted ten top-ten finishes in 1999 including seven top-five efforts. Papis ranks ninth in the PPG Cup Points Standings with 91 points, but he is just ten points from breaking into the top-five. Papis ranks among the leaders in laps led (206), laps completed (2,113) and miles logged (3,307.398) for the 1999 season. He captured his first Champ Car pole with a dramatic qualifying effort at Chicago nearly two weeks ago.
After running 39 races for Arciero-Wells Racing from 1996-98, Papis joined Team Rahal for the 1999 season taking over the high profile ride of the Miller Lite car upon the retirement of Bobby Rahal. The challenge facing the 29-year-old Papis was to make the transition from a developmental driver to that of a front runner with the proven Ford-Cosworth/Reynard package on Firestone tires. It is a challenge he has met by rewriting his personal Champ Car records in addition to setting his sites on various Team Rahal marks.
"I said from the start of the season that it would take us [Miller Lite team] some time to develop the chemistry that is needed to be a front runner in this series," said Papis. "We have always know that we have a winning equipment package and we have been working at developing our consistency. We are getting the right chemistry now which helps us knock on the door for a podium finish each week. I said before that the U.S. 500 was a huge step for us because it proved to everyone that we could run up front and dominate a race. We are taking a step each week towards the podium and our first win. We are close but the last few steps will be the hardest to make. I am working on the chemistry to be a top contender next year."
From the beginning of the season, Papis has touted the need for consistency as a key for his Miller Lite team. Papis has certainly done his share posting four consecutive top-ten qualifying efforts culminating in the Chicago pole. In the last six races, Papis has posted five top-ten finishes with the lone exception being Detroit where he was the victim of an opening lap mishap that ended his day. Included in those five top-ten results are four top-five finishes.
The street course at Vancouver represents an opportunity for Papis and his crew to judge their consistency. Papis' results in the four street courses this season included a pair of top-ten efforts in addition to two of his five non-points paying results. In his two previous runs at Vancouver, Papis has a top finish of ninth in 1998.
"The thing I enjoy most about racing in Vancouver is the crowd," said Papis. "The passion of the Canadian fans and the knowledge they possess makes for a great event. With the proposed improvements to the course, I think 1999 is going to be a better show and more enjoyable for the fans and the drivers." The temporary street course is a challenge a Champ Car driver will face seven times during the 1999 FedEx Championship Series. With three of the final five races of the season being run on just such a course, Team Rahal's Bryan Herta knows his final spot in the PPG Point standings will be determined by his success on these courses. "Vancouver is a beautiful city and the fan support is absolutely fantastic. Like Toronto and Long Beach, Vancouver is one of the biggest draws for fans in the series," said Herta. "Like most of the street courses passing is at a premium on the track. Barring something unusual, success on race day is usually predicated by success in qualifying. Our street set-up has consistently been one of the best this season, so I know we are going to have a shot at starting out up front." Herta posted a front row start at Vancouver in 1998 before contact on lap 51 ended his race. In four races on the streets of Vancouver, Herta has started outside the front four rows only once. In the four previous street course races this season, Herta has posted three top-ten finishes, including Team Rahal's only podium appearance of the season at Long Beach in April. Chicago marked the third time this season that both Team Rahal cars finished in the top-ten. Bryan Herta and Max Papis turned the double top-ten for the first time at Long Beach where they finished third and ninth respectively. At Portland in mid-June Herta posted a sixth place effort while Papis finished in eighth for Team Rahal's second double top-ten. In Chicago it was Papis finishing in fourth and Herta in eighth for the third double top-ten result.
Chicago also marked the second straight race that Team Rahal qualified a car in the front row. Papis' pole winning effort followed Herta's front row start at Mid-Ohio the week before. Team Rahal has an excellent chance to keep the front row streak alive entering Vancouver where Herta started on the front row in 1998. Following the Molson Indy Vancouver the FedEx Championship Series moves to Laguna Seca Raceway where Herta has never failed to qualify in the front row in four Champ Car starts.
The Miller Lite team retained their lead in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. With just four races remaining in the Challenge, the Miller crew leads the second place Ganassi Racing crew of Juan Montoya by 15 points. The top four teams in the pit crew point standings following the race in Australia will qualify for the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge Finals which will be held at the final FedEx Championship Series event, the Marlboro 500 in Fontana, CA. At the Marlboro 500 the winning crew from the four finalists will pocket the $50,000 first place prize. (9/1/99)