Papis: Cup drivers as good as they get

August, 10, 2009
Take it from someone who knows. Max Papis says Sprint Cup drivers are as good as any racers in the world.

That was his conclusion after finishing eighth Monday on the road course in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

"These guys are definitely the best of the best I've ever raced against in my life, point blank," Papis told reporters in the media center. "Better than F1, sports cars, Indy car, everything put together. Nationwide Series guys are pretty good, too, but that's the minors compared to these guys.

"When people say NASCAR drivers are not that good as road racers, I would definitely tell them to shut up, because these guys are pretty damn good."

Papis isn't just guessing. The Italian driver has competed in Formula One, Champ Car, the IRL and sports cars during his career before moving to NASCAR.

He turns 40 in October, but he's a rookie this season in Cup, racing a limited schedule. Papis earned his first top-10 Monday in the No. 13 Toyota.

"Today I feel we proved to everyone we deserve some respect as a team and as a driver," Papis said. "We'll take it from here.

"Eighth was the best I could do, and I never cruised for one lap. I went hard, hard, hard every lap. When your arms are burning with 10 laps to go, you dig deep because this is your chance."

Papis is one of those guys who's impossible not to like because of his obvious sincerity. Every time he opens his mouth, his words come from the heart.

"NASCAR is going to be the last thing I do in my career," he said. "You will not see me racing anything else, not seriously. I've put my family thought a lot to help me achieve my dreams."

He's driving for Germain Racing with Geico as the sponsor, but Papis hopes to race well enough to have full-time sponsorship next season and see what he can do against the Cup stars every week.

If it happens, great. If it doesn't, he has no regrets.

"Geico gave me and the team [the] opportunity of our lives," Papis said. "I'm proud that I paid them back today, because you need to capitalize in these moments. Today is a little special present that tells everybody sometimes David can get Goliath."

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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