MAX PAPIS ACHIEVES GOALS IN TEXAS; TALLADEGA AWAITS Fort Worth, TX (April 5, 2009) -- After a favorable result in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in the ...
MAX PAPIS ACHIEVES GOALS IN TEXAS; TALLADEGA AWAITS
Fort Worth, TX (April 5, 2009) -- After a favorable result in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in the #9 GEICO Toyota Tundra on Monday in Martinsville, Virginia, 'Mad' Max Papis turned around just three days later and flew to Dallas, Texas. He arrived in Texas to attempt his second of a scheduled twenty NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races of the 2009 season in the #13 GEICO Toyota Camry.
Forbes magazine proved to be prophetic when in February they named Max Papis one of the top drivers to watch in 2009. After out-qualifying half of the field in the Las Vegas Sprint Cup Series race, Papis and Germain Racing aimed to continue to improve on their performance. If the opening practice session on Friday was any indication, they were right on target. Papis spent the majority of the session in the Top 10, even running solidly in the Top 5 before ending up 18th on the chart heading into qualifying.
Entering the weekend, the GEICO Racing team had three goals: Qualify for the race, run every lap and finish the race.
Their first goal was realized late Friday afternoon when Papis would comfortably place the #13 GEICO Camry in the field for the Samsung 500. Forty-eight cars showed up in Texas and Papis would send five of them home when he toured the 1.5-mile facility in 28.955 seconds at a rate of speed of 186.496 miles per hour. He would find himself on the starting grid in the 39th position, just behind Reed Sorenson and NASCAR legend Bill Elliott.
Papis has gotten the attention of NASCAR and he's proving his worthiness. He was featured in a NASCAR.com article on Saturday and there is chatter among NASCAR's elite drivers that Papis is skillfully doing something special; something even deemed impossible by some. Papis' friend, Jimmy Johnson, is quick to praise him, and when Papis put the GEICO car in the show on Friday, Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, was among the first to run over to the hauler and congratulate him.
On Sunday, during the parade laps, Papis would move the #13 GEICO Camry to the rear of the field in order to stay clear and prepare to continue his learning experience. Amid weather that was more suited for an October college football game, the green flag waved and Papis went to work.
The race would not offer any caution flags before the field would need to make scheduled green flag pit stops. Lap 51 found Papis bringing the #13 GEICO Camry down pit road to take on four new Goodyear tires, Sunoco racing fuel and receive adjustments. The first caution flag of the day was not displayed until Lap 96, which offered the GEICO Racing team another opportunity to work on their racecar.
Papis narrowly avoided Robby Gordon after his #7 car went up in smoke on Lap 250 and nearly ended the day for the #13 GEICO Camry. Papis' quick reflexes allowed him to slip to the inside of Gordon and keep the GEICO car clean.
When the checkered flag was displayed after 334 laps of racing, Papis and the #13 GEICO Camry rested in the 35th position.
"We learned so much out there today and I'm glad we were able to accomplish our goals of running every lap and finishing the race," Papis said. "It's important for me to learn and to be out on the racetrack, but it also says a lot about our team that the GEICO car lasted 500 miles without any mechanical failures. These things are all part of what we're doing. I can do what I do, but I need the team to give me a car that can finish the race and they did that for me here today." He continued, "I believe we really learned how to make our GEICO car go faster in the race and I learned a lot by following the lines of some of the other drivers out there. It was a good day and we'll continue improving as we head to Talladega in a couple of weeks to try to put the #13 GEICO Camry in the show again."
While Papis is going to have to pay the price and gain valuable experience, he is most certainly earning the respect of his fellow NASCAR competitors, as well as the bulk of NASCAR's fan base. It will be awhile before he wins on Sundays, but right now Papis is winning the qualifying battle on Fridays, which is, at the present time, most important for the GEICO Racing program.
Papis will make his next NASCAR Sprint Cup Series appearance when he hops in the #13 GEICO Toyota Camry at Talladega Superspeedway for the third of twenty NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races slated for 2009 with the Germain Racing team.