Talladega, AL (October 30, 2010) – After announcing in August that he would be embarking on a full-time schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2011, Papis arrived in Talladega poised to pick up where he left off in Daytona in February.
Daytona found ‘Mad’ Max leading his first ever NASCAR laps before Nelson Piquet, Jr., ended the hopes of the #9 GEICO Toyota Tundra in a late race crash. Undaunted, Papis emerged from the truck with a smile on his face almost as if he was announcing that he had arrived.
The last time Papis saw racing action was August 18th in Bristol when he piloted the #9 GEICO Tundra in the O’Reilly 200.
A well-rested Papis took to Talladega Superspeedway for the opening practice on Friday appearing as though he had not missed a beat. He immediately shot to the top of the charts, finding the #9 GEICO Tundra first fastest for a large portion of the two-hour session. He ultimately ended up 10th on the chart and headed into qualifying with great hopes.
While practice had proved fruitful for Papis and the GEICO team, qualifying provided a slight setback, as Papis’ lap time of 54.030 seconds was only good enough for the 20th starting position. When he climbed from the #9 GEICO Tundra after his qualifying run, Papis showed little emotion and instead immediately shifted his attention to Saturday’s race.
Saturday found the feisty Italian approaching the Mountain Dew 250 fueled by Fred’s with a businessman’s demeanor. Prior to climbing into the GEICO Tundra during pre-race, Papis said to the Germain Racing team members, “We are here for just one reason.” He must have believed his own words because after starting 20th, Papis had jumped to 10th in just the opening lap. By Lap 8, he was running 7th and settling comfortably into the front pack of cars.
The event’s first caution flag of the day was displayed on Lap 23 when Justin Lofton and Jeffery Earnhardt found themselves tangled up in a crash. Papis brought the #9 GEICO Tundra to the attention of the Germain Racing pit crew on Lap 26 and they provided him with four fresh Goodyear tires and a full tank of Sunoco racing fuel. Although Papis came down pit road in the 11th position, the Germain Racing pit crew sent the GEICO Tundra back out onto the racing surface in the 8th position, gaining three spots during the yellow flag visit.
After restarting 8th on Lap 33, Papis quickly jumped to 7th and looked to make calculated moves to reach the front of the field. Lap 37 found Papis getting a bit sideways thanks to the efforts of a fellow competitor. He did a masterful job of keeping the truck straight and continued his Top 10 run.
Few things are spookier than racing at Talladega on Halloween weekend, but what would happen next could very well raise the bar.
On Lap 59, Papis was ordered to prepare for a scheduled green flag pit stop, as there had not been a caution flag since Lap 23. Little did anyone know that a lap later Papis would be the reason for the event’s next caution. On Lap 60, Craig Goess, Jr., the driver of the #46 truck, made a left hand turn into Papis’ #9 GEICO Toyota Tundra, sending him into the inside retaining wall. Goess failed to look to his left prior to diving onto pit road, which ultimately caused significant damage to Papis’ truck and relegated him to a 27th place finish.
A frustrated Papis emerged unscathed from his GEICO Tundra, but he measured his words before speaking to anyone within earshot.
“It’s so frustrating and I just don’t understand it because I was looking right at him, he was right next to me,” Papis said while visibly guarding his tongue. “We had a shot at winning this thing, we had the #9 GEICO Tundra running up front all day, so to have something like this happen is certainly disappointing. But, we had a great day and everyone knew the GEICO team was here and they know that Max is back.”
Papis and the GEICO team will next travel to the Lone Star state for next week’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
Papis and the #9 GEICO Toyota Tundra will hit the 1.5-mile quad-oval of Texas Motor Speedway for the opening practice session at 1:30 PM (EDT) on Thursday, November 4th. Qualifying will follow at 8:10 PM (EDT).
The WinStar World Casino 350K NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race is on Friday, November 5th. The race will be televised live on SPEED beginning at 8:30 PM (EDT), while the Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast.
To learn more about the GEICO Racing program, please visit: www.geicogarage.com
You can also follow GEICO Racing on Twitter: www.twitter.com/geicoracing
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Contact: Doug Barnette, Player Management International