MAX PAPIS SPENDS WEEKEND UP FRONT IN TALLADEGA Talladega, AL (November 1, 2009) -- While many racing critics would refer to Max Papis as a road course ace, he is slowly but surely proving his worthiness on oval tracks. He arrived in Talladega...
MAX PAPIS SPENDS WEEKEND UP FRONT IN TALLADEGA
Talladega, AL (November 1, 2009) -- While many racing critics would refer to Max Papis as a road course ace, he is slowly but surely proving his worthiness on oval tracks. He arrived in Talladega in hopes of showing his development in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday.
The weekend would kick off with Papis piloting the #9 GEICO Toyota Tundra in the Mountain Dew 250. He would come straight off the hauler and after just a single practice session, he qualified the #9 GEICO Tundra 3rd for the Halloween race on Saturday afternoon. Papis's qualifying effort netted his best ever NASCAR starting position, surpassing his previous mark of 7th at Martinsville Speedway in March.
Rain set in on Saturday and affected both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying and would later delay the Camping World Truck Series race for nearly an hour. The former would prove fruitful, as the #13 GEICO Toyota Camry was locked in the field when qualifying was cancelled due to rain.
When Papis took to the track for his last Truck Series race of the season, he made his presence known, as he ran at the front of the field for the entire afternoon. Papis kept the #9 GEICO Tundra in the Top 5 and Top 10 through 91 laps of competition before he was collected in a multi-truck crash with just three laps remaining in the race. Despite running one of his best races of the season, Papis and the GEICO Tundra would be relegated to a 22nd place finish.
Sunday afternoon found bright sun and cool temperatures consuming Talladega Superspeedway. A picture-perfect day for racing, Papis and the #13 GEICO Camry made instant progress when the green flag was displayed. Papis had moved the GEICO Camry from his 42nd starting position into 34th, netting eight positions by the close of the opening lap. The next time around saw him jump one more spot to 33rd before crew chief Bootie Barker ordered Papis to the rear of the field. Their strategy would be to run at the rear of the field with other NASCAR stars in order to avoid the 'big one', a big crash that regularly occurs at NASCAR's restrictor plate tracks.
Papis ran at the rear of the field before Lap 138 saw him begin to move the #13 GEICO Camry forward with the help of good friend Jimmy Johnson. The pair would draft together for nearly 20 laps before Papis reached the Top 10, running as high as 6th before settling into the 11th position. He ran the high line of the racetrack and Barker radioed to Papis, "Don't leave that high line for all the tea in China. It's going to be tempting, but don't do it!" Barker proved to be prophetic, as Papis would slide back to 20th position, but quickly thereafter find himself back in the Top 10. The high line moved and so did the #13 GEICO Camry. Papis ran solidly in the 11th position in a single-file draft that would bring the field down to the end of the race.
As the race began to wind down, the caution flag flew with just four laps remaining when Ryan Newman went airborne and flipped on top of Kevin Harvick's #29 car in a hard crash involving several other drivers. The race was red-flagged and the NASCAR safety team would need to cut off the entire roof of the #39 car in order to extract Newman. He appeared to be okay and subsequently visited the infield care center where he was treated and released.
When engines were re-fired, fuel came into play, as most of the cars, including the #13 GEICO Camry, were short on fuel to finish the race. As the field made its way down the front stretch 2.66-mile tri-oval, Papis and the GEICO Camry ran out of gas and would later be joined by Jeff Gordon and several others. Both Papis and Gordon were fortunate enough to receive a push from the safety crew, allowing them to make it to pit road and take on enough Sunoco racing fuel to finish the race.
Green/white/checkers was the theme when the field went back under green. No sooner than Papis returned to the racing surface, Mark Martin went airborne and also landed on the roof of his racecar, bringing out the event's final caution flag of the afternoon and ending the race under yellow. After running at the front of the field and being in the hunt for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win, Papis instead saw his name in the 29th position on the final race chart. When the sun set on Talladega, he was 13 positions better than where he started earlier in the day.
While he has been known for his road racing exploits, Papis has clearly carved a niche for himself on NASCAR's superspeedways. As the season comes to a close, Papis and the GEICO Racing team have shown marked improvement over the last few weeks. Notably, Papis has been on-track racing in one NASCAR series or another since Montreal on August 30th, giving him experience that has revealed itself as the season winds down.
"We had such a great weekend for GEICO and I'm so happy to have run up front yesterday and today; it was very exciting for the whole GEICO team," Papis said as he smiled ear to ear. "Yesterday we're running 6th in the GEICO truck and get caught up in a crash with three laps to go in the race. Today, we're just outside the Top 10 and then run out of gas with two laps remaining. The key thing is that we were up front all weekend. This is progress. You're seeing great progress here and I'm proud of all my guys on this Germain Racing team. I will continue to gain the experience I need and you will see it all pay off. I'm so proud of what we accomplished here this weekend. They knew we were here."
Next weekend, Max Papis and the GEICO Racing team will travel to the Lone Star state for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.