CART Media Conference
March 23, 1999
T.E. McHALE: Thank you good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference, and thanks to all of you for being with us today. Our guest this afternoon is Max Papis of Team Rahal, who enjoyed a smashing debut with his new team by matching his career-best finish of 5th in Sunday's Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami, presented by Toyota, the season opener of the 1999 FedEx Championship Series. Max had previously finished 5th at Houston last year when he was driving for Arciero-Wells Racing. Good afternoon, Max, and thanks for being with us today.
MAX PAPIS: Good afternoon everybody.
T.E. McHALE: Max, the driver of the No. 7 Ford Reynard is in his fourth year of the FedEx Championship Series and his first with Team Rahal where he stepped into the seat vacated by three time FedEx Championship Series Champion, Bobby Rahal at the end of last season. Sunday's start was 40th in the series and his first scoring performance on an oval since finishing 12th in the 1997 season finale at California Speedway. He heads into the April 10th Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring, Motegi, Japan ranked 5th in the PPG Cup point race with ten points. At this point we'll open it up to questions for Max beginning.
Q. Obviously, you've been in two teams in CART racing: One with Arciero-Wells for a little better than two and a half -- two seasons, and now you're with Team Rahal. Both these situations were kind of pressure situations. At Arciero-Wells, you took over for Jeff Krosnoff who unfortunately was killed at Toronto, and that had to be really a pressure situation to come into that team and take over for a driver that was killed. And now you're coming into Team Rahal with an entirely different situation taking over for a guy who was basically a legend. Could you address the different situations between Arciero-Wells where you were in an ardent research and development program were you weren't expected to win, and now you're coming into Team Rahal where you are expected to win.
MAX PAPIS: You know, first of all, I was expecting to win in Arciero-Wells, too, you know what I mean? Everybody had high expectations over there and I wish them a lot of luck anyway, and, you know, like you cannot really compare the two things. You know, it's like the pressure on the -- when I came over and drive instead of Jeff, was something that it is -- goes beyond auto racing. It touch human feeling and it touch a lot of part of my personality; so, you know, it was like a very tough decision on that situation, but I know I had the support of Cal Wells and Mark Johnson on in PPI. And over here, you know it's a different deal. There was way more -- I wouldn't call it pressure. You know, when I had to take over from Jeff, it was more like feeling, not real pressure. And same thing is with Bobby. There is no pressure there, too, because we just made a deal and the deal came together, and I believe that if Bobby wanted me in the team, means he believes in me, he believes in my capabilities; and therefore, there should be no pressure. I just give what I can because he knows and he felt that my driving capabilities are going to be more than enough to fulfill things that we should fulfill. And therefore, it's like the pressure is only what you put on yourself, and the pressure was always been to try to do my best and, you know, always improve -- improve my performance and improve myself as a driver and as a person, mainly. So it's like honestly inside of me, I don't feel any pressure because I just feel that I just want to be successful and I want to do a good job. And the different things is last year, I had to really look inside of me to find the motivation because, you know, like we were starting to win -- we were starting with the dream of winning races, but we were developing so we haven't have the capabilities. This year I know I can fulfill my dream, and that's the difference.
Q. I was just wondering how it is to have someone like Bobby Rahal as a boss, whether he was like a slave driver or pretty relaxed in general. And Max, if you would describe your relationship with him?
MAX PAPIS: You know, Bobby -- I think we have a -- more than a team/owner driver relation. He is a -- when we are on the track, when I am here, he's like a big brother for me. I don't say that he's my dad -- if not -- he's going to be upset about it, but he's like a big brother, and I think this relation goes beyond auto racing. He has trust in me and I believe that Bobby see in me the same will to succeed and maybe he see that I want to achieve some of the same goal that he wanted to achieve when he was in a younger age as well; so he is so supportive of me and he is behind me that he really make me very proud. And you know, to tell you the truth, having someone of Bobby's caliber giving some advice and giving some good word when it's the right moment, you know, it's something that, you know, you can't buy. I mean, it's something that is unique and that's what I think -- it makes our team different from anybody else. You know, those moments during the race when Bobby called in and talked to me and said, this is Bobby: "Go and get it. Go and get it." These things they can't count from anybody else than the champion that he is and those moments are what made me really, really proud. They make me proud that I can work with someone like him that he achieved a lot of things in his life, but now he's in a new challenge. He's in a very -- it's even been in a tougher challenge than driving race cars. Because now he has to show he's as good driver -- he's as good team owner as he was good driver. So it's a situation that requires a lot of skills to put the -- yourself again into discussion, open a new page in your life, employ a young driver that, you know, the best ever scoring for myself was a 5th place before, you know, without the pressure from any people to maybe employ more people that had the -- maybe they won more in CART racing. But, you know, all the decision that Bobby did and all the support that is behind him, you know, really make me proud, and I think knowing that he's there and knowing who Bobby is give me a little bit extra motivation and make me push a little bit harder because I want him to be proud of me.
Q. I will admit that I did have to throw off my reporter hat of objectivity last Sunday and tried to cheer you on as best I could.
MAX PAPIS: Thank you.
Q. And I wonder, knowing the way that you do pressure yourself, what were your emotions after the race?
MAX PAPIS: You know, when we started the race, it was a bit difficult because, you know, we slipped a bit in qualifying. We had been very, very competitive all weekend, and just in qualifying we had a couple problems and we slipped down to 15 position and we really didn't deserve it. And when I started the race, you know, I push very hard and I always kept in my mind that we had to go -- that we had to be up there, we had to be up there with everybody else. And at the end of the race, when I saw that we were overtaking -- I overtook Jimmy Vasser in the beginning of the race, we were there fighting for the top four. At the end when I crossed the finish line was a fantastic feeling, because I -- we set a goal at the beginning of the weekend. We say, we need to finish in the top five, and that's what we accomplished. Okay. Now, when you know that you can finish in the Top 3, you know you have like a sweet, bitter feeling. But that doesn't matter. We show that I was the only one in the top five that started from P15. But, you know, like we showed that we have the potential to be successful and, you know, especially in an oval that it has been a learning curve for me, you know, coming from Europe. Really made me very proud and gave me a lot of encouragement because it means that we are right there. We are right there. And people on the front, they are beatable, and we just have to concentrate and make the best of what we have in our hand. And I think that what we have in our hand is more than enough for winning races.
Q. Was your dad there this weekend? Because I know the last couple of years, he's made it for the opening race.
MAX PAPIS: He was there. He was there with my brother and my best friend, my girlfriend, my trainer, and I can't tell you like when my dad came back in the pit, he almost had tears in his eyes and these things, you know, it's like you cannot describe because you know, for me this is a sport and this is my dream. This is my sport and seeing people that I really care about, they are proud of me and happy like Bobby, like my dad. It means more than everything. It means more than everything, and I'm sure Sunday's result is a good stepping stone. That's what we wanted to start. We made some mistakes. I made some mistakes. And we are going to make sure that we will not do those mistakes anymore in the next weekend and to improve, you know what I mean. We know what we didn't do right; we know what we did do right, and I believe that this is the strength that we have within our team. We are very, very down-to-earth people, and we do analyze without taking things personal. That's why I think that Team Rahal, Bobby and my engineer Tim Reiter, they are champions. We are champion, and we will show that we can do very good.
Q. Good afternoon, Max. Congratulations. We got an e-mail I guess from one of your fans when I got back on our comment line, and they thought that the race, it seemed short, and that you would have had a much better finish if the race had been a little longer. Can you comment on the -- some of these short races like there and the Homestead Nazareth, Homestead Milwaukee which are -- some people think they are a little short. Would you have a better chance and will you have a better chance to show your stuff if they were a little longer, and can you talk about the challenge of racing the short ovals and there are so many oval races at the beginning of the season?
MAX PAPIS: Honestly, I didn't feel that the race was too short. The race was very intense; so maybe that's why it looked a little bit short in some period. It's really, in those ovals, in the short oval it's really important to be aggressive and be aggressive in the right moment. And I was very pleased for how I did my start and restart. I really got by quite a lot of people in those moments. For sure, you know, like in the last 30 laps, we were low on fuel and I had to be very conservative. I run sixth gear for the last 40 laps coasting down the straight a lot of times just to make it to the end. And, you know, I tell you, it was really painful because I knew we had the potential to go by Jimmy Vasser at the restart, but we couldn't because we had to save fuel. For me, it was really, really exciting and like Nazareth is going to be an exciting race there, too, because there is a lot of action. Short oval provides a lot of -- a lot of changes in the race. That means the driver need to be aggressive; and at the same time, you need to be smart, not to mistake. But if you're too conservative you know, you get lax; so, it's a tricky game. But I feel that with the support of Bobby and Tim Reiter, Tim Cindric, you know, we have a good package and they led me to the right decision in the race. And that proved, for what we did, we came back in the pit, we played it smart with the fuel, and we ended up 5th. That's a very, very, good for us for the first race.
Q. Thank you, and good luck on the season.
MAX PAPIS: Thank you.
Q. Max, I have to say I met you face-to-face last year at Gateway International and did an interview with you, and when I finished that interview, I said to the person that was with me, "That fellow is going to go places." You have the greatest personality of almost any driver I've met in a long time.
MAX PAPIS: Thank you very much.
Q. Your father has a lot to be proud of because you're a very fine young man.
MAX PAPIS: Thank you.
Q. You're with a fellow there, with Bobby there, that I'm sure will guide you, turn you in the right direction. But how are things out in Irvine and Newport Beach today?
MAX PAPIS: At the moment, I am still down here in Miami, and I'm going to go back in California for the -- after Japan for the Long Beach Grand Prix. I'm not going to be back there until the Long Beach Grand Prix.
Q. Max, how does it feel to be in a car that's a little bit different than a Toyota? I'm not going to say anything against Toyota. You're with a team that is really top-notch now. This has to make you feel good.
MAX PAPIS: It's a different game. Last year we were happy when we were finishing 14th, 15th, because we were developing. We knew we were catching up to the field with Tim Reiter, with a Ford engine, we have a winning package. We are working to stay ahead of the field. That's a different game. And still the same intensity, maybe even more intensity. But, you know, like things are the same. Still in another race car, the difference is that, you know, I'm dealing with whole different objective. Same objective that I have in my brain, you know, trying to be the best. Trying to win races and being consistent, and that's the only difference, you know, that when we go down to the track, we have the potential to be winners. And, you know, while in the previous time we were developing; and therefore, you know when you are in a developing program, it's always questionable. In some races you can be really, really fast, and some races you are not so fast because maybe the engine doesn't suit that particular track. So I learn a great deal in the past, you know, being patient, and that is not an easy thing for an Italian, I tell you. But besides that, I really felt that those two and a half years with Arciero-Wells made we become a better driver, but mainly a better person. I was able to deal with people like Gordon Coppuck that is -- I have tremendous respect for him, and for me, he is one of the greatest genius in modern racing. And I learn a great deal out of this person and a lot of people in Arciero-Wells. And I feel that -- the 5th place and what you saw on Sunday is the results of -- is the result of what we did with Arciero-Wells of those hard days, of those pushing very hard of the teaching of Mark Johnson, the general manager. And on Sunday, you know, what you saw is, as well, the support of a great person, that not because it's my boss, but Bobby is more than my boss for me. He is my family in U.S. and I will do everything to make him proud of me. And I know that when I'm there and I have to push that little extra bit, those motivation and those -- knowing that he is there, he is there behind me, these are the things that make me push harder. So all these things, you know, you see them back in my driving style. You see them back in my will to succeed. Knowing that Bobby, his family, his kids, all those people are behind me, those things give me the motivation and give me the will to succeed.
Q. Max, if you look at Target/Ganassi Racing, the relationship between Alex and Jimmy, with Alex being gone, their marketing side of racing really portrayed a relationship in the advertising and just the Bobsy twins if you will, and nothing derogatory about that. Look at the relationship between and you Bryan Herta. From the marketing side of what you two are doing in Team Rahal, do you have plans or intentions or hopes to launch any sort of identity for a product with the new team that you're in? And also maybe briefly you can slide into this a description of the relationship that you've been able to establish with Bryan Herta.
MAX PAPIS: First of all, like between me and Bryan, you know, we are a very different personality, you know little bit different personality. Jimmy and Alex I think were closer personality than I think me and Bryan. But he's a very nice guy and, you know, sometimes people can say, oh, yeah but he doesn't talk, blah, blah, blah, all these things. But I've been able to spend time with him in these two or three months, and I tell you, he's a very motivated guy that will make me sweat in many races. And the main thing is that he's an honest person and being honest is what counts. This is a sport and you can win or lose, but I appreciate when after the race he came over to me and he said, "Congratulations" and "Good job." I'm pleased that you achieved what you achieved and I'm sorry was not there. This is something that means a lot to me because it means that he's someone who has a heart. Definitely, you know, we are like water and fire on personalities, but that doesn't mean anything. You know, like people are different and people have different things and values in life as well. But what I know with Bryan -- that I will have a very honest teammate and he will keep his way of being, his being a straight and -- straightforward person. I'm sure that it's going to be very good. And the competition that is between us, of course, you know he want to beat me and I want to beat him, but I want to beat everybody else as well. I'm sure this competition makes Team Rahal a better team because we push each other. We know that we don't want to lose from each other; so we have some competition that is bringing us forward, but honest and clear competition. And I believe that a team job is essential. And, of course, when I'm on the track I want to be -- I'm trying to be the best. I'm trying to win and I have no mercy from anybody -- for anybody. But the most important thing is being close between teammate during practice, during debriefing, and we are. And these things really make me pleased and I know make Bobby very pleased about it as well; so that means that we have a strong team, even if we are different personality in it. And I think this is the key for success because I can't win and Team Rahal can't win without a good armory in the team and we have got one that's excellent and without really having to work too hard on it. It's just there. It's just there because we are both, I think, people that work hard to achieve their goals; therefore, you know, I feel that both me and Bryan we share very similar values -- very similar feeling for what we want to achieve, and that's why I think, you know, we have a -- we are going to -- we are going to have a good team. Hopefully, I can beat him, but, you know, it's difficult. For sure, he was the same hope that he can beat me as many times. But the most important thing is that we are going to be up there in front, and I think that the collaboration that is between me and Bryan, and Bobby especially, will make us successful because it will make the team a better team.
Q. I have a question that's a little different. I'm wondering if you win the championship if you're going to be just like Roberto and walk just across the seats like he did during the Academy Awards.
MAX PAPIS: I tell you, you point out something that make me very, very proud on Sunday night. We were having dinner and -- we were having dinner and we were really cheering up for Bennini because we Italians, we are very proud of our country and of our people. And what you saw on the guy is a little bit me, too, you know what I mean. I am that little bit of a crazy, nasty, rebel that he is, you know what I mean. I never think what I'm going to do, if I'm going to -- how I'm going to celebrate because first, I have to get it. I have to get to the position that I have to celebrate. But what he did on Sunday is something that I would probably do in the same time, if it would be something that were to happen to me, too. And that moment on Sunday night I know made me and a lot of Italian people very proud, and I hope I will be able to give to some of my countrymen and to all the American people that come over and watch us during the races similar feeling that that little man gave to millions of people with his movie and with his personality. Because seeing it -- watching what he did on Sunday, it -- watching how many -- how much passion he put into the job, it's something that, you know, it's special. You cannot describe it and it's very special and I wish one day I can walk on the head of many people during some of -- during apprise giving ceremony.
Q. I hope I see you do that. Ciao.
MAX PAPIS: Ciao.
T.E. McHALE: All right. Max. We'll let you go. Thanks for being with us this afternoon. Best of luck in the upcoming Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring Motegi and throughout the remainder of the FedEx Championship Series.
MAX PAPIS: Thank you so much, and talk to you some other time during some other teleconference.
T.E. McHALE: Thanks Max. Thanks to you all for being with us today. We wish you a good afternoon. We'll talk to you next week.
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