Heavy Heart Propels Max Papis To Top 10 Finish In Talladega

By Max Papis Racing | October 24, 2011 at 8:52 am

HEAVY HEART PROPELS MAX PAPIS TO TOP 10 FINISH IN TALLADEGA

Talladega, AL (October 22, 2011) – Max Papis traveled to Talladega this weekend with a heavy heart and mind.  A week removed from watching his friend Dan Wheldon lose his life in a 15-car crash in the Las Vegas IndyCar race, he spent the bulk of his week reflecting on the driver for whom he had such great respect.  Talladega offered Papis the opportunity to honor his friend by turning in a performance worthy of Wheldon’s approval.

Papis and his #9 GEICO Toyota Tundra took to the high banks of Talladega on Friday morning and quickly shot to the top of the speed charts, landing 12th on the board by the close of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ sole practice session.  He would later take to the legendary superspeedway for qualifying, pacing the 2.66-mile tri-oval in just 55.240 seconds, at a rate of speed of 173.353 miles per hour.  His effort would be good enough for a 23rd starting position for Saturday’s Coca-Cola 250 powered by fred’s.

Talladega Superspeedway welcomed the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with blue skies, perfect temperatures and a large crowd.  Papis’ #9 GEICO Tundra carried a special decal to honor Dan Wheldon, Wheldon’s wife Susie and their two sons Sebastian and Oliver.  Papis gracefully strolled down pit road and seemed at peace as he thought of his IndyCar friends who were in attendance at Wheldon’s funeral in St. Petersburg on Saturday morning.  Papis’ heart undoubtedly was with his friends at the funeral, but he knew that if Wheldon were with us today, he would demand that Papis strap into his #9 Tundra and go racing.

With Wheldon on his heart and on his truck, Papis took the green flag and settled in for what would be one of the most exciting races of the 2011 Truck Series season.  Starting 23rd, Papis would initially drop two spots to 25th on the opening lap.  But just two laps later, he recovered three positions and moved the #9 GEICO Tundra into the 22nd position.

Papis would move as high as 11th on lap five before the event’s first caution flag of the day was displayed on lap 12.  Papis took the opportunity to visit pit road for four fresh Goodyear tires and a full tank of Sunoco racing fuel.

The green flag once again turned the field loose on lap 17.  After coming down pit road in the 14th position, the Germain Racing pit crew produced a quick stop and allowed Papis to restart the race from the 10th spot, netting four positions on pit road.  Once Papis arrived in the Top 10, it seemed as though he drove a stake in the ground and refused to leave.

Aside from dropping to 11th for a single lap on lap 33, Papis and the #9 GEICO Tundra ran solidly in the Top 10 for the entire afternoon.  Lap 54 saw him enter the Top 5 when he moved into the 5th position.  After a caution on lap 59, Papis restarted in the 6th position, but before a single lap was logged, he moved the GEICO Tundra into 3rd.

Throughout the afternoon, crew chief Randy Goss would exchange thoughts on strategy with Papis and the pair collectively devised a plan that would keep the #9 GEICO Tundra at the front of the field.  Papis never wavered from the plan and sounded calm and collected on the team’s radio frequency.

As the race began to wind down, Papis was riding in the 7th position when the #84 truck of Chris Fontaine found the wall on the backstretch with just ten laps remaining in the race.  With just six laps left in the advertised distance, Papis restarted the race from the 6th position before another caution flag immediately slowed the field.  He managed his time wisely, notching two positions and moving up to fourth before the yellow came out.

Only three laps remained when the Truck Series field took the final green flag of the afternoon.  Although Papis restarted in the 4th position, he was left without a dance partner and the #9 GEICO Tundra would be hung out to dry.  Despite having to survive the final three laps on his own, Papis battled hard and managed a 10th place finish, recording his second Top 10 finish of the 2011 season.

“That was a lot of fun today and the GEICO team did a great job of keeping me up front,” Papis said with his trademark smile.  “And today we earned it because we did it without a lot of help.  Randy (Goss, crew chief) and I decided to stick to our plan and it worked.  I’m very happy I was able to keep the #9 GEICO Tundra up front all day.  Thanks also to my Germain Racing pit crew who did a great job of getting me out of the pits quickly.  On that last restart we were riding fourth and I thought we might have a shot at the win.”

He continued, “It was hard to be here today knowing that many of my friends were in St. Petersburg for the funeral of Dan Wheldon.  But, I know if Dan could talk to me he would tell me to get my butt in the truck and go race.  I hope I made him proud today.”

Next week, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will return to Martinsville Speedway, the site of Papis’ first Top 10 finish of the 2011 season.

Papis and the #9 GEICO Toyota Tundra will hit the 1/2-mile paperclip-shaped oval for the opening practice session on Friday, October 28th, at 11:00 AM (ET).  Qualifying will follow on Saturday, October 29th, at 10:40 AM (ET).

The Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race is on Saturday, October 29th, and it will be televised live on SPEED beginning at 2:00 PM (ET).  The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast.

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