DESPITE SETBACK PAPIS NETS 28TH IN BRISTOL DEBUT Bristol, TN (August 19, 2009) -- When Max Papis arrived at Bristol Motor Speedway to make his debut at the high-banked half-mile racetrack, he assumed that his stiffest competition would be fellow...
DESPITE SETBACK PAPIS NETS 28TH IN BRISTOL DEBUT
Bristol, TN (August 19, 2009) -- When Max Papis arrived at Bristol Motor Speedway to make his debut at the high-banked half-mile racetrack, he assumed that his stiffest competition would be fellow drivers. Turns out the 2004 Grand-Am champion would first battle Mother Nature.
Papis planned on piloting the #9 GEICO Toyota Tundra in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Wednesday night in order to gain valuable experience. Any lessons gained would benefit him when he attempts to qualify the #13 GEICO Sprint Cup Series car this Friday evening for Saturday night's Sharpie 500.
Fortunately, the rain would clear long enough for the opening practice session to be completed. Unfortunately, the rain would set in and cause the final practice to be called off just 55-minutes into the session. Regardless of the inclement weather, Papis and the GEICO Tundra were able to log 98 valuable laps before having to turn their attention to qualifying.
Qualifying would find Papis and the #9 GEICO Tundra touring the World's Fastest Half-Mile in just 16.271 seconds, at a rate of speed of 117.928 miles per hour; good enough for the 29th starting position in his debut race at the historic racetrack.
If Papis was nervous, he did not show it. When the green flag was displayed, he immediately advanced the GEICO Tundra four positions to 25th. Spotter Roman Pemberton played the role of the teacher and exercised candor in directing Papis' first tour of the speedy racetrack.
When Pemberton apologized to Papis early in the race for being so direct at times, Papis responded, "You are the teacher, Roman. Whatever you tell me to do I will do." Not words you would typically hear escape the mouth of a champion. But Papis' will to improve out-sizes his ego. So, the lesson continued.
After going a lap down to the leader, Papis would hang tough and score the Lucky Dog award when the caution flag was displayed on Lap 65. Back on the lead lap, Papis radioed in to the Germain crew with great enthusiasm, "We're back in the game!" And he was right, at least for the moment.
Papis would move up to the 23rd position before smoke came bellowing out of his GEICO Tundra and sent him down pit road under green on Lap 85. Lap 87 saw Papis pull his GEICO truck behind the wall to diagnose the problem. It would turn out to be a power steering failure, which the Germain pit crew would promptly repair.
Many laps down, Papis would return to the racing surface and continue his education of racetracks that are a half-mile in length and shaped like a cereal bowl. His persistence would pay off and Papis would quickly be turning lap times comparable with those of the leaders.
With 25 laps remaining in the race, spotter Roman Pemberton once again commented on Papis' progress. "Now, that's how you do it right there. You look real smooth. A night and day difference from where you were at the beginning of the race."
And so it was that Papis played the role of the student and came out of his Bristol debut with many lessons learned. Despite the power steering setback, he recorded a 28th place finish, which would set him one spot ahead of where he started. Progress.
"Bristol is definitely the most intense racing I've ever been a part of," Papis said after the race. "I'm so glad that we scheduled this race for the #9 GEICO Tundra because it gave me great experience that I can use when I go to qualify the #13 GEICO Cup car on Friday. I can't thank this Germain team enough for their hard work tonight. And also Roman (Pemberton) for teaching me so well and telling me exactly what I needed to be doing. We'll go out Friday and do our best. I will drive my heart out for sure."
Papis is a world-class driver who has raced in the world's most prized venues. However, Bristol has provided the champion with the opportunity to improve his skills in an intense, unforgiving manner.