MAX PAPIS' PATIENCE A VIRTUE IN DARLINGTON Darlington, SC -- While GEICO driver Max Papis had visited Darlington Raceway last week to preview what awaited him for the Southern 500, it did not make his task any easier. Known as the toughest...
MAX PAPIS' PATIENCE A VIRTUE IN DARLINGTON
Darlington, SC -- While GEICO driver Max Papis had visited Darlington Raceway last week to preview what awaited him for the Southern 500, it did not make his task any easier. Known as the toughest track on the circuit, the 1.366-mile historic speedway has been known to humble even the most talented drivers.
Papis and the #13 GEICO Toyota Camry attacked the practice sessions and sat as high as 9th heading into qualifying.
Unfortunately, as qualifying approached so did the dark skies indicating the possibility of rain. Just over an hour from the time that qualifying was to get underway, the skies opened up and dumped significant amounts of rain on Darlington Raceway, all but dashing the hopes of the GEICO team. Because the GEICO team is scheduled to participate in just 20 races this season, they are required to qualify on time and Papis would be ruled out of a race where rain washed out qualifying. Smiles turned into frowns, as monsoon-like rain blanketed the speedway.
Luckily for Papis, he is a favorite among the racing gods. Without notice, the skies cleared and the sun came out. The track dryers began to turn their own laps around Darlington Raceway to prepare the track for qualifying. Soon thereafter, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the #13 GEICO Camry hit the track to attempt to qualify for the Southern 500.
While many were on pins and needles prior to Mad Max's qualifying attempt, the 2004 Grand-Am Series champion exhibited great confidence and felt comfortable with the dance he was about to have with the 'Lady in Black'. And dance he did. If Darlington is the 'Track Too Tough To Tame', then no one told Papis because he laid down a lap of 27.889 seconds, at a speed of 176.328 mile per hour, which found him out-qualifying half the field and sitting 22nd on the starting grid. It was not lost on Papis what he had accomplished. With emotion in his voice, he sat on the pit wall and reflected on what had just occurred.
"It's special what we just did here and I'm so happy for GEICO and the Germain team that the weather cleared and I was able to put it in the show," Papis said. "I can't wait to race here, where legends have raced. It's special."
While qualifying was special, racing on a Saturday night under a full moon is scary. Just three laps into the Southern 500, Papis fell victim to a lack of patience when Scott Speed sent the #13 GEICO Camry into the wall. Unfortunately, the GEICO team would need to pull the car into the garage to repair the resulting damage.
The Germain Racing team worked feverishly to repair the damage to the rear of the GEICO Camry and returned Papis to the racing surface just thirty-one laps down. Unfortunately, his 22nd qualifying position was all for not, as he now found himself sitting 43rd just thirty-four laps into the race.
Papis, who is known for his claim that he has the heart of a lion, proved his determination and character on Saturday night. He displayed patience and raced hard to make up ground. Little by little, he began to pick off positions until the checkered flag resulted in a hard-fought 35th place finish for Papis and the #13 GEICO Camry.
A dejected Papis struggled to describe the evening while thinking of what could have been.
"The #13 GEICO car was really good here tonight, but unfortunately some drivers get a little too excited and it resulted in us having to go behind the wall to repair damage to our car," Papis said. "I know we were going to have a good run tonight, but it was not to be. I am so proud of this GEICO team and the hard work they put in to make the car as good as it could get after sustaining so much damage." He continued, "After the crash, we were really fast, but when you're thirty-one laps down there is not much you can do. I just stayed focused on learning and driving as hard as I could for GEICO and Germain Racing."
This week, Papis and the #13 GEICO Toyota Camry will participate in the NASCAR Sprint Showdown at Lowe's Motor Speedway for the fifth of 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races slated for 2009 with the Germain Racing team.
Papis will hit the track at Lowe's Motor Speedway for the opening practice session on Friday, May 16th, at 12:00 PM (ET).