MAX PAPIS NETS 12TH ON SEASON'S FIRST ROAD COURSE Sonoma, CA (June 21, 2009) -- A week removed from racing in the beautiful Irish Hills of Michigan, Max Papis and the GEICO Racing team were met with more majestic landscape this weekend. They ...
MAX PAPIS NETS 12TH ON SEASON'S FIRST ROAD COURSE
Sonoma, CA (June 21, 2009) -- A week removed from racing in the beautiful Irish Hills of Michigan, Max Papis and the GEICO Racing team were met with more majestic landscape this weekend. They arrived in Sonoma, CA, looking to make continued progress with their 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series program. This weekend, however, they would abandon the ovals and do some road course racing.
Nestled almost perfectly among the hills of Wine Country, Infineon Raceway provided the perfect backdrop for racing. Under clear skies and perfect temperatures, the weekend would start off quickly for Max Papis and the #13 GEICO Racing team. The conclusion of the opening practice session found Papis sitting 28th on the speed charts, as he focused on keeping the #13 GEICO Camry in one piece heading into qualifying.
Because Papis and the GEICO team are only running twenty races, they are not afforded the luxury of being locked in the race by residing in the Top 35 in the point standings. Instead, they must qualify on time for each event and wrecking a racecar would immediately eliminate their chances of making the race. Consequently, Papis must carefully maneuver the GEICO Camry around the racetrack each week in order to keep it in one piece for qualifying.
With 47 cars on the entry list, Papis would need to out-hustle four of them around the 1.99-mile road course. And hustle he did. Papis comfortably placed the #13 GEICO Camry in the show by turning a lap of 78.059 seconds, which was good enough for the 33rd starting position, just ahead of Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Papis' passion and charisma were on display Saturday when he lit up the practice charts by resting the #13 GEICO Camry 10th and 12th in the final two practice sessions. Excited to be able to relax and prepare to race, Papis said, "Today I'll be aggressive and we'll show these guys what we're made of and how good we are. We are in the show now, so let's go have some fun today."
Once final practice concluded on Saturday, most competitors departed the racetrack, while Papis remained on-hand to sign countless autographs for adoring race fans. Armed with his million-dollar smile, Papis stood outside of the GEICO hauler and took photos and talked at great length with fans. Many of the people on-hand met Papis during his appearance in Sacramento on June 6th to celebrate NASCAR Day.
Sunday once again featured picturesque weather and scenery at Infineon Raceway. When the green flag was displayed, Papis and the #13 GEICO Camry were quick out of the gate, picking up six positions on the opening lap. He would battle door-to-door with Clint Bowyer before making a green flag pit stop on Lap 14; a strategy that would pay off later in the afternoon.
Going a lap down due to his green flag pit stop, Papis would benefit from a Lap 20 caution that awarded him a free trip around the track to rejoin the lead lap cars. Restarting 39th on Lap 24, 'Mad' Max kicked into gear and he would go on an unprecedented tear through the field, gaining twenty-eight positions in just ten laps. Papis would run solidly at the front of the field avoiding any dangerous situations that would have been a setback to the GEICO team.
Papis and the Gecko would escape peril by the narrowest of margins on Lap 82 when David Gilliland and Sam Hornish, Jr., collected each other in Turn 11. All one could see was an extremely large cloud of thick smoke, but then the Gecko appeared unscathed.
Papis' #13 GEICO Camry was strong, allowing him to reach 7th position by the close of Lap 71. Papis would then visit pit road for a green flag pit stop on Lap 72, taking on four tires and a can of Sunoco Racing fuel. The Germain Racing pit crew would turn out fast stops all afternoon in an effort to keep their guy at the front of the field.
After a caution flag was displayed on Lap 96, Papis restarted the race on Lap 99 in the 16th position. He quickly moved into the Top 10 by Lap 103.
Papis' spotter, Roman Pemberton, did a masterful job all afternoon coaching Papis through the restarts, as well as keeping him clean around the 1.99-mile road course. When a late-race caution forced a green/white/checkers finish, Pemberton would get the opportunity to coach Papis through the most critical of restarts.
Papis would restart the race 10th, but immediately picked up two spots and move into the 8th position. Unfortunately, on the final lap in Turn 1 a fellow competitor clipped the rear of Papis' #13 GEICO Camry and punctured his tire. While the flat tire would cause him to lose positions, Papis would fight relentlessly to keep his car on-track for a Top 10 finish. In the event's final turn, Turn 11, Papis would withstand the beating and banging of NASCAR's best and brightest to record a 12th place finish for the GEICO Racing team.
"We had a such a great day today and I'm so happy for GEICO and the guys on this Germain Racing team because we're all like a family, so it's awesome when we have success like this," Papis said. "We had the Top 10 locked up, but that last caution hurt us and then I got bumped on the final lap going into Turn 1 and it hurt my tire, but I fight hard and I don't quit and it paid off today. A Top 15! That's great for us and we'll work hard to keep building on it."
It is said that road course racing sets apart the men from the boys and shows you the true racecar drivers. Today, Max Papis did not prove that he is a great racecar driver because that is a foregone conclusion. Instead, he proved that he is a Top 10 driver who belongs in NASCAR.
Papis and the #13 GEICO team will enjoy a break in action until they hit the track at Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400 on July 4th. Daytona will be the ninth of twenty NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races slated for GEICO and the Germain Racing team for the 2009 season.