Darlington, SC (May 8, 2010) – Mother’s Day weekend is always special to family man, Max Papis, and with his wife and children in tow they set their sights on Darlington Raceway this weekend. A year ago, Papis was taken out of the race by an anxious Scott Speed on Lap 3, so he hoped that 2010 would find him with favor as he made his second visit to the storied racetrack.
When the opening practice session ended there was cause for concern, as Papis rested 44th on the speed charts and was the slowest of the ‘go or go home’ cars. Not to worry however, the second session found Papis shooting the #13 GEICO Toyota Camry to the top of the practice charts. He sat as high as fourth before winding up 27th, and fourth fastest among the ‘go or go homers’.
When qualifying got underway, Papis wheeled the #13 GEICO Camry around the 1.366-mile oval with a veteran’s calm. When he completed his two qualifying laps, he was good enough to start 43rd in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Showtime Southern 500. Given the challenges that ‘The Track Too Tough To Tame’ presents, it is an accomplishment for someone with limited stock car experience, such as Papis, to simply qualify for the race. With that said, the 2004 Grand-Am Series champion headed into the race looking to rebound from a disappointing 2009 outing in Darlington and continue his progress as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.
Steamy temperatures greeted the GEICO Racing team when they arrived at Darlington Raceway on Saturday afternoon. By the time the green flag waved at 7:30 PM (EDT), the temperature had cooled, but only by a few degrees. The racing on the track would get even hotter, and Papis and the Gecko would do all they could to avoid sustaining the legendary ‘Darlington Stripe’ down the right side of the #13 GEICO Camry.
No sooner than the green flag was displayed, Papis picked up three spots by the close of the opening lap. He would continue to hustle the #13 GEICO Camry around the Track Too Tough To Tame, recording some of the fastest lap times on the track. Unfortunately, on Lap 71 Papis and the GEICO Camry would be forced down pit road under green flag conditions to replace a faltering front left tire. Despite the green flag stop, Papis would remain just two laps down when he returned to the racing surface.
Papis’ word of the day should have been ‘resilience’ because Lap 174 found him once again on pit road, this time repairing a hole in the nose of the GEICO Camry. Despite the setbacks, he settled in and continued tearing around Darlington Raceway focused on completing his first race at the historic racetrack. When the checkered flag was displayed after 367 laps of racing, Papis recorded a miraculous 29th place finish in the face of an evening of adversity.
“We had a tough night, but at the same time I also completed my first real race here in the GEICO Camry,” Papis said. “Last year, I was taken out on the second or third lap, so in reality this was my first race here and I’m proud that we finished it. I am also proud of this GEICO team for fighting and working hard to get the car fixed and keeping us out there in contention. All things considered, 29th is a good finish and now we will head to Dover next week and drive the #9 GEICO Toyota Tundra in the Truck Series race.”
Papis and the Gecko will next travel to Dover, DE, for the May 14th running of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Located just 90-miles from the GEICO corporate office in Washington, DC, the Gecko will feel right at home at the high-banked racetrack.
Papis and the #9 GEICO Toyota Tundra will attempt to conquer the ‘Monster Mile’ when they hit the 1-mile oval of Dover International Speedway for their opening practice session at 2:30 PM (EDT) on Thursday, May 13th. Qualifying will follow on Friday at 10:10 AM (EDT).
The Dover 200 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is on Friday, May 14th, and it will be televised tape-delayed on SPEED beginning at 8:00 PM (EDT), while the Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast beginning at 5:00 PM (EDT).
To learn more about the GEICO Racing program, please visit: www.geicogarage.com
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