Long Pond, PA (June 6, 2010) – A prerequisite for being a champion is the ability to bounce back quickly when trouble strikes. Max Papis, the 2004 Grand-Am Series Champion, rolled into Pocono Raceway this weekend looking to rebound from a disappointing weekend in Charlotte that found him not qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600.
Papis must have the resilience gene because he wasted little time shooting to the top of the practice charts when the #13 GEICO Toyota Camry took to the track for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ opening practice session on Friday. The last couple of weeks, Papis must have felt like he was fighting mountains, but this week he found himself among them. As Papis wheeled around Pocono Raceway in the #13 GEICO Camry, he spoke to the mountains… and the mountains moved, as he was the fastest ‘go or go home car’ on the speed chart, where he rested in the 20th position.
His success in practice would lead to more of the same in qualifying, as Papis hustled the #13 GEICO Camry around the flat 2.5-mile tri-oval in just 53.674 seconds at a rate of speed of 167.679 miles per hour. His time would be good enough to start 20th in Sunday’s Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500. Papis’ qualifying performance turned heads, as he sat ten positions better than the next ‘go or go home’ car, Joe Nemechek, who qualified 30th. He also outpaced many NASCAR notables, such as Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, just to name a few.
Race day presented its own challenges, as impending bad weather hovered over the area causing concern for the NASCAR teams. The Sprint Cup Series field would even turn a series of yellow flag laps before the heavy rain set in and caused the driver and teams to abandon their cars and seek shelter from the storm.
In record time, however, the rain cleared, the blue skies came out and the track was dry and it was time to go racing. Papis and the #13 GEICO Camry started in the 20th position, flanked by Sam Hornish, Jr, and Elliott Sadler. Two hours after the advertised start time, the green flag was displayed in front of a full house in Long Pond, PA. Papis would battle a tight condition early and it seems the #13 GEICO Camry would work against him for most of the afternoon.
Due to the rain that blanketed the racetrack prior to the race, the racetrack was in green condition and presented multiple challenges to each of the drivers. The same would apply to the GEICO Racing team, as they would make numerous changes to the GEICO Camry and attempt to adapt to the conditions of the racetrack. Aside from the splitter hitting the ground at times, Papis, at one point, felt as though he was running low on brakes.
After a challenging afternoon in the #13 GEICO Camry, his final hurdle came on the last lap of a green/white/checkers finish, when he narrowly avoided a crash that caused heavy smoke to cover the racetrack. When the checkered flag was displayed, Papis and the #13 GEICO Camry would hustle to a 34th place finish in their debut appearance at Pocono Raceway.
“I’m proud of this GEICO team for coming here and rebounding well after a tough week in Charlotte last week,” Papis said. “We showed we’re resilient and that we never quit. To come here to a track where I have never been before and qualify 20th is a huge accomplishment and I can’t thank Bootie (Barker, crew chief) and the Germain team enough for all of their hard work. It was a tough day during the race, but we never quit and we kept making changes and working as hard as we could to compete.”
GEICO’s next race as primary sponsor of Max Papis’ #13 Germain Racing entry will come at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA, on Sunday, June 20th. During his 2009 visit to wine country, Papis started the race in the 33rd position before charging to the front and nearly scoring a Top 5 finish. On the final lap of the race, Jeff Gordon got into Papis, causing a tire to go down on his #13 GEICO Camry. Despite the damage, Papis drove the final lap with a flat tire and still managed to record a 12th place finish.
Papis and the #13 GEICO Toyota Camry will make their way around the 1.99-mile road course in Sonoma when their first practice session kicks off at 3:00 PM (EDT) on Friday, June 18th. Qualifying will follow at 6:35 PM (EDT).
The Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is on Sunday, June 20th, and it will be televised live on TNT beginning at 3:00 PM (ET), while the Performance Racing Network (PRN) 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