“Pap slap” enters the vernacular after Nationwide race (VIDEO)

2 Comments

Max Papis made his debut in North America in the 1996 24 Hours of Daytona with a drive in a Ferrari 333 SP prototype that went gone down in endurance racing lore. It gave birth to the nickname “Mad Max.”

On Saturday, Papis gave birth to another nickname – the “Pap slap” – after he slapped fellow NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Billy Johnson (pictured) following the Johnsonville Sausage 200 at Elkhart Lake’s Road America.

Johnson had contacted Papis earlier in the race and on pit lane afterwards, the Italian expressed his displeasure. But he walked off with a grin that made it seem like it was more lighthearted than originally intended.

I had the chance to speak to Johnson after the race – with the handslap unbeknownst to me – because he’d driven a sterling race regardless.

Johnson’s race for Roush Fenway Racing included leading early, a pit speeding penalty that dropped him to the mid-30s, and a comeback to the lead before the two late-race incidents with Papis and later Regan Smith.

“We had a car that could have contended for the win,” Johnson said. I made a mistake, fell to dead, dead last. We were like 36th or something, then drove straight through the field in less than 10 laps, it showed what the Ford Ecoboost 16 team. My car got into the 7, took us out, he was along for the ride. Earlier in the race, it happens.

“It’s a road course. There’s three-wide stacking up. A lot of contact happens. I got into the back of Max Papis, he was a  little over reactive, and he had some words and fists with me. It was a bit unfortunate; a crazy race. We showed a lot of speed and showed we had what it took to win.”

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.