Gatorade Duels at Daytona Post-Race News Conference February 11, 2010 An interview with MICHAEL McDOWELL and MAX PAPIS KERRY THARP: We are going to roll into our post race press conference for the Gatorade Duel No. 1 at Daytona. Making his...
Gatorade Duels at Daytona Post-Race News Conference
February 11, 2010
An interview with MICHAEL McDOWELL and MAX PAPIS
KERRY THARP: We are going to roll into our post race press conference for the Gatorade Duel No. 1 at Daytona. Making his initial start in the Daytona 500 on Sunday will be Max Papis. He drives the No. 13 GEICO Toyota.
Max, how does it feel to be running in the Daytona 500 on Sunday?
MAX PAPIS: I mean, this track for me, it's really special. You know, I came over here in '96. It was my first ever race in America, racing the Rolex 24 Hour. A lot of satisfaction for me in that race.
For me, this being the first 500 is just a dream coming true. It came to great teamwork. Bootie left me up there in front. It was hairy. Sliding around, everybody pushing me, kind of fell a little bit in the black. He told me that's the black car you need to pass. That's it. Kept it wide open as hard as I could and slid around and made it happen.
You know, it's difficult to explain, you know, in words what this means for us. It's the beginning of the season. For me, my first ever laps on a Cup car around Daytona. I mean, I'm speechless because you guys need to really, you know -- I know you know this, but those guys out there, they are the best of the best in the world. When you can compete with them, when you have someone like Mark Martin coming to you and saying, I'm really happy that you made the show, it means the world for me.
So I'm really happy. Especially when I didn't know he made it. We are two guys that that's not our background, and we're kind of making it happen, so it's special.
KERRY THARP: Making his first Daytona start on Sunday also will be Michael McDowell, driver of the No. 55 Prism Motorsports Toyota.
How does it feel to be starting your first Daytona 500?
MICHAEL McDOWELL: I actually feel like I've already won it. Going into this race, we had high hopes. You never know. You're racing for four spots today. A lot of great cars out there. That last caution came out, I knew we had a good shot at it. Our car was really good on the short run. The pit stop before, made an adjustment. I knew if we had a second shot at it, we had a good shot. Got the pushes we needed. Picked the right line at the right time. Fortunate we had tires sitting there ready to go, good calls by the guys.
It's unbelievable, like Max said. A couple sports guys sitting up here. This is the best of the best. I had my shot in Cup with Michael Waltrip in 2008, didn't know if I'd ever get back here. It's awesome to be back here starting the Daytona 500. Looking forward to this season driving the 55 for Prism. Those cars are from Michael Waltrip Racing. So thanks to them and their technical alliance. Gave us a great car here. It was a car that Michael raced last year. Just want to thank those guys for letting us run the 55 car and giving us a great racecar.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions.
Q: Max, what about that last pit stop? Did you think you would be coming in for tires? Was there ever a question?
MAX PAPIS: I have total faith in Bootie. Whatever he tell me, roll it upside down on the frontstretch, in the grass, I do whatever he tells me (smiling).
I knew was going to be tough. I was sliding. I kind of messed up right in the middle of the race. I was right behind the 21. I did a pretty good restart. They checked up, I hit him, I had my hand on the gear, popped out. For a second, I didn't want to put it in first. I ruined a little bit the left fender.
It was hairy, but at the same time was awesome. You know, I had the 5 car, and I pushed him. You know, it was like, Whoa, that's how Jimmie Johnson feels every weekend.
Q: Max, you've obviously raced in a lot of different forms of races all around the world. Can you compare the pressure today of trying to make the Daytona 500 to the most pressure you've ever faced in other series.
MAX PAPIS: You know, when you drive underneath that tunnel here in Daytona, it is game day, you know, you got to be on it. To tell you the truth, I didn't feel pressure today. I was just excited. The pressure comes because the difference that I had in the past. Compared to everything else I've done, you can kind of take it easy a little bit or breathe for a second. Here, if you breathe, they run you over, literally over.
That's why I say that for me, you know, I've been able to race in Formula One, I've been lucky to drive a Champ Car, IndyCar, whatever, but these guys, now I know when they were complaining before, why all the American drivers they're not in open-wheel racing? Because they're over here.
The pressure, you know, it's something that goes away when you tight your belt. Bootie has been really great just of keeping me focus and use the best of me, my instinct and my aggression, and don't make me think of anything else.
Q: Michael, the last time you were here in July, your full-time Nationwide ride went away; now you come full circle and you're in the biggest race of them all. Can you talk about the wide range of emotions you've experienced at this track.
MICHAEL McDOWELL: Well, yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's a very special place. Like you said, last year when I started the July 4th race in the Nationwide Series, I didn't have anything moving forward. I was very fortunate that Randy MacDonald, MacDonald Motorsports was walking on the grid and said, Hey, what are you doing next week? Without that I probably wouldn't have been in the game.
It all comes around. It's really crazy 'cause running good in the Nationwide and staying up in the top 10 in points last year gave me the opportunity to drive for Tommy Baldwin in the 36 car which put me sort of back on the map as a guy that can make races, and that's what put me in position for this ride today.
It's kind of cool to see how it all works out. For me, it's just an unbelievable feeling to know. It's a humbling sport, for sure. It's very difficult. Like Max said, I've had good success in other series. You win races. It's really just not that hard. Then you get here and you run three laps down and you get ran over every weekend, he just don't get how hard it is.
Just getting the experience in the Nationwide cars, running the Cup car here a year and a half ago in the 4th of July race, these things move around. Right now we're going a lot faster, which is a lot of fun. The cars are very, very busy. They're difficult on old tires. I think you're going to see a great race on Sunday. I'm just thrilled to be a part of it.
Q: Michael, does this give you a new highlight film?
MICHAEL McDOWELL: You don't like Texas (laughter)?
You know, for me, it's one race at a time. You're only as good as your last race in this sport. Especially when you're a guy like myself, sort of just barely hanging on. That's how I feel, every weekend I got something to prove and justify my existence in this sport. It's a very difficult deal. It's a lot of pressure.
But I feel like just getting the experience I'm getting here, running with these guys every weekend is something that's going to allow me to do this for a very long time. So I just remind myself every weekend that there's a big picture and plan here. I put a lot on my faith, too, that every weekend I get a shot to run; I got to prove myself. These opportunities happen for a reason.
Q: You talked about the range of emotions from the middle of last year. What about the range of emotions during the race. For a long time, neither of you were in the top two transfer spots.
MICHAEL McDOWELL: You're exactly right. Literally when I entered turn three, six laps to go, we lost the draft. Caution came out. As soon as that caution came out, I knew we were going to make the 500. I don't know why. I just knew it. I just knew circumstances were working where we needed to.
We made an adjustment, and it just literally killed the drive of the car. It made it a handful. I was hanging on for that whole last stint. We were able to make the adjustments and put it back to where we originally started. I knew, I had that gut feeling, when you get it, that we were going to get it in the race.
Like I said, it's a team effort. I'm just really thankful our guys made good stops.
Toyota race teams are great race teams. I'll tell you why. We didn't have a pit crew team starting today. The Red Bull guys did it for us. Let us use their pit box and everything else. This is another competing team. I'm just thankful to still be a part of the Toyota program and thankful for MWR, their technical alliance, Phil Parsons and Randy Humphrey for giving me this opportunity.
Q: Max, lap 32, there was the little thing that happened in turn four, you were close racing with Bowyer. Do you recall any of that?
MAX PAPIS: Absolutely nothing. I didn't even see him (laughter).
Was it coming out of four?
Q: He was claiming it was coming out of four.
MAX PAPIS: The car that spun? I was on the outside. I think the 33 wanted to get right in front of me. There was not enough room. Got sideways, hit the wall. You know, it was a little hairy, but at the same time it's part of the sport.
Something else I want to say, as Michael said, we have things in common. Me, too, with our racing, we have association with MWR and Toyota. We just went to the Triad engine. Toyota has been doing a great job.
It's not just because of luck that two guys with the same team association, they made the 500. You know, I know that those guys at MWR have been putting a lot of effort. I'm really proud to be kind of in that team, if you want to say.
Q: Did either of you feel like you were underdogs today? Do you think this win gives you an edge over some teams not expected to run well during the 500?
MAX PAPIS: I feel I'm an underdog every day. I drive my car, I think every lap I do, this is the last time I'm going to drive a Cup car. I want to drive the best I can. For me, every lap I do, every race I do, is like it's a reason why I should be here, and I drive it like that. You know, I drive it like that.
I know it's an everyday audition. I feel that that's the best way to do it. That's the best way to drive it. You know, sometimes being the underdog, it's not a bad feeling (smiling).
MICHAEL McDOWELL: I mean, pretty much exactly word for word.
You know, I've experienced it. I came into the Cup Series with no experience, just straight out of ARCA, got thrown into the wolves with MWR driving the 00 with a new team. Ran 20th at New Hampshire, 19th at Richmond, got replaced the following week. I just know what this sport is like, the demands of it. It's race for race for me as well.
In the Nationwide Series, last year you saw it, I drove for four or five different teams. In the Cup Series, it's so difficult to be one of the guys. You know who the guys are. They're the same guys that have been here for the last four or five years and are going to be here for the next four or five.
That's what I'm trying to break into. I want to be one of the guys that can challenge for wins. I want to be able to be in those rides where you're not worrying about whether or not you're going to race or whether or not you're going to have to park the car because you don't have a sponsorship.
Every weekend I feel I have something to prove. That doesn't mean you drive over your limits, because at some point you're going to run out of talent. You have to be methodical about it. I sort of knew we were going to have some sort of caution at some point during that race. So the first 30 laps was 'feel what you have' and try to make good changes. We just got lucky we got that last cautions where we could take those changes out. I think I sent the guys in the wrong direction.
Q: Max, was Bootie radioing you, you were in, out? If you knew you were in or out, what did you do?
MAX PAPIS: He was telling me who I had to race to be in the show. He was always, like, You know, that's the car you need to keep your eye on, that's the car you need to keep your eye on. It was kind of strange. I was side-by-side with Jimmie in the restart. I got on the gas and got wheel spin. Man, how can you have wheel spin with a plate? So thanks to God the 16 was patient with me, pushed me. I still stayed with the draft. Bootie going into the last corner, he told me, The black car, the black car, the black car. When I saw the black car, I was like, What? I drove to the bottom, kept it wide open.
For you to understand, it was like a blower. Out of the last corner, I realized he was on the 55. Man, I pushed him as hard as I could. He's just a blower.
It was definitely a team effort. Bootie and the guys, they were as much part of me being in the 500 than anything else.
Q: What are the long-term plans for you as far as your Cup programs this year?
MAX PAPIS: My program is staying here until I get too old and you guys don't want to hear me anymore. That's what I'm working on (smiling).
I don't want to be called any more the "Road Course Racer." I want to be called "Mad Max, the NASCAR Racer." That's it (laughter).
I'm working on it. I have 20 races with the GEICO Toyota, and eight with the Toyota Tundra. I'm with great people, great Toyota power. I mean, where in the world a guy comes from an 800 people village in the north of Italy has a chance to do the 500? Can you believe that?
MICHAEL McDOWELL: I'm planning on running the 55 every weekend for Prism Motorsports. Depending on sponsorship, as you all know, it's not a secret. We need sponsorship to race the full races. I'm hoping that our run here in the Gatorade will hopefully get us something for the 500. We're going to race regardless, the 500, we have to. So for me it's the biggest race of the year for us knowing that we're going to run. We take it one week at a time.
Believe me, Phil Parsons and Randy Humphrey are seeking sponsorship every single week. But as you can see, with teams merging, things happening, it's not easy. If Roush and Petty and all those guys struggle to find sponsorship, it's really hard for us. So every weekend we are trying our best to make sure that we can race.
KERRY THARP: Max and Michael, congratulations and good luck on Sunday.