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.”
‘McLaren’ documentary to honor a true pioneer of the sport (VIDEO)
“To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one’s ability, for I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.”
The above quote came from racing driver and car designer Bruce McLaren, and if a life is measured in accomplishments and impact rather than length, very few have have ever done more than the man originally from New Zealand.
His driving statistics would be enough to stand on their own. He is one of only a few drivers to have won both the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans before achieving a string of victories in Can-Am during the 1960s.
However, perhaps his lasting legacy is as a designer. The founder of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing, now known as McLaren Racing Limited, he did more than hold his own while piloting his machinery in Formula 1, even winning the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix. But, his team’s stardom skyrocketing after entering Can-Am in the late 1960s. The group won five of their six races in 1967 and four of six races in 1968.
But those results pale in comparison to 1969, when his team won all 11 races in Can-Am with he, countryman Denny Hulme, Chris Amon and Dan Gurney as the drivers. They even finished an astounding 1-2-3 on three occasions that season, cementing McLaren’s status as one of the greatest drivers and designers who ever lived. In the decades since, the McLaren name has become synonymous with excellence, both in its racing cars and road cars.
Bruce McLaren’s life, sadly cut short at the age of 32 following a testing crash at Goodwood Circuit, is the focus of the upcoming documentary ‘McLaren.’ If the trailer is any indication, the film will serve as an epic tribute to a true pioneer, one who left an indelible mark on the entire racing community.
Team Penske and the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, which operates under Penske’s ownership, both revealed new partnerships earlier today.
The Penske team announced a multi-year agreement with 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions company Stratasys Ltd., which will provide equipment and support to assist the organization’s engineering and manufacturing efforts in both the NASCAR and IndyCar programs.
“Our strategic partnership with Stratasys should keep our manufacturing and engineering processes at the front of the pack,” Team Penske President Tim Cindric said of the new partnership. “Stratasys is on the cutting edge of additive manufacturing technology for automotive applications. Utilizing their equipment and technical support will provide us with another means to put our ideas on the race track first.”
For the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, scheduled for June 2-4, Lear Corporation will join as the presenting sponsor. The supplier of automotive seating and electrical systems maintains an active presence in the Detroit area. Quicken Loans had been the prior presenting sponsor.
“The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix is so proud to welcome Lear Corporation as our presenting sponsor in 2017,” said Bud Denker, chairman of the newly dubbed Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. “Lear and Matt Simoncini are great supporters of Detroit and our community. We could not ask for a better partner to team with Chevrolet and help us host world-class racing and a weekend full of fun and excitement in the Motor City.”
The event will continues its status the week following the Indianapolis 500 and remains the only double-header on the schedule.
F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales were on site for the launch of the challenger whose base is split between Enstone and Viry-Châtillon, and whose lineup features Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer.
Check in above for the first edition of Paddock Pass for the new year.
Stay tuned for more on NBCSports.com from the week of launches and leading into the first test next week at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona.
Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser will return to the cockpit this summer to compete in the SVRA’s “Indy Legends” Charity Pro-Am, scheduled for June 17 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Big Al” will join son Al Unser Jr., which will be their first competitive race together since 1993. It will also be the first time any member of Unser family has raced at the Speedway since 2008, when Al Unser III contested the Indy Lights Freedom 100 for the now defunct Playa Del Racing.
“I guess I got tired of watching the kids have all the fun,” quipped the elder Unser, who previously served as the grand marshal of the 2015 event. He later explained that expressed gratitude toward organizer Tony Parella, president and CEO of the SVRA (Sportscar Vintage Racing Association) for creating the event and extending an invitation to compete. “Seriously, Tony Parella and his SVRA team have created a first-class event and that’s why the entire Unser family has gotten behind it. We believe in what he is doing and I personally enjoy reconnecting with the great fans of the Indianapolis 500.”
Parella’s enthusiasm mirrored Unser’s.”There have been a lot of great legends in the history of auto racing, but in my book Big Al is right at the top of the mountain,” he asserted. “I am honored beyond words. This is such a validation of what all of us at the SVRA have been working so hard to build. To be able to say that this great champion believes in what we are doing enough to strap in and race with us means everything to me personally and professionally.”
The Unsers will join 31 other Indianapolis 500 veterans to compete in vintage Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs, with model years of 1963 to 1972, in the SVRA’s “Group 6” A and B Production. Each veteran will be paired an amateur driver to split time behind the wheel. Other events slated to highlight the weekend include a Motostalgia car auction, the Hagerty Insurance “shine and show” car corral, vintage motorcycle racing and displays, and hundreds of vintage racers celebrating a century’s worth of auto racing.