On Monday, August 5th, Tony Stewart broke his leg while racing in a Sprint Car race hosted at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Although Smoke underwent two successful surgeries to fix his damaged leg, he will be out for a minimum of six weeks, including this week’s race, the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen. The driver replacing him? Well that would be Max Papis.
Max Papis is a 43-year old native of Como Italy, who has driven in every series from the Sprint Cup to Formula One to American Le Mans. The son-in-law of F1 great Emerson Fittipaldi, Papis has spent most of his life competing in American racing series. From the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s, Papis raced in the now-defunct CART open-wheel series, while also dabbling in the Indy Racing League.
Papis’s first Nascar start came in 2006, in a Nationwide Series Race for McGill Motorsports. He would continue to drive part-time in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series for the next three years, until landing a full-time ride at Nascar’s highest level. In 2010, Papis took over the #13 GEICO Toyota for Germain Racing. In his first full Sprint Cup season Papis showed flashes of potential, running in the top 10 at Talladega, qualifying 15th at Fontana, and finishing 8th at Watkins Glen until accidents took him out of contention. However, at the end of 2010, Papis was released from his Sprint Cup ride. He hasn’t been back since.
Neither age nor lack of a full-time ride has slowed Mad Max. He has driven partial schedules in the Camping World Truck Series for Germain Racing as well as in the Nationwide Series for Richard Childress. He has put together decent results on the ovals of the Truck Series, and is always a threat to win on Nascar’s road courses. Papis currently works for RCR, coaching and mentoring the organization’s developmental drivers, while occasionally driving in various Sports Car series.
As we wrap up this profile of Max Papis, it is important to discuss how he got his nickname, Mad Max. In the 1996 24 Hours of Daytona, Papis pulled out onto the track near the end of the race in second-place. His Ferrari had been battered throughout the race. Its body panels were dented, and some of its bodywork was held together by tape. Most drivers would have been content to finish second in such a beaten-up car, but not Max. In one of the most inspiring performances of his racing career, Papis refused to quit. He pushed his car to the limit, flying past the race’s leader to put himself back on the lead lap. Papis was flying, and it looked like he might just complete the improbable and win the 24 Hours of Daytona. Although a pit stop for fuel eventually cost Max Papis the win, that race and his go-for-broke, never give up style of racing earned him the respect of drivers and fans alike.
Papis has driven hard during his entire career. He has shown that when driving in quality equipment, he will stop at nothing to secure a great finish or even a win. His driving style is comparable to Tony Stewart. Both men love racing, and go hard regardless of where they’re racing, whether it is the Sprint Cup Series, the 24 Hours of Daytona, or a dirt-track race at a small speedway in Iowa. Maybe that’s why Stewart-Haas Racing tabbed Mad Max Papis to take over Tony Stewart’s ride at the Glen.