Papis to focus solely on Watkins Glen as Stewart fill-in

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Max Papis has started 35 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and ran the gamut of other racing series in his career (Formula One, CART/IndyCar and sports cars). But he’s never quite had an opportunity like this.

The 43-year-old Italian steps into one of NASCAR’s highest profile rides as the guy that fills in for Tony Stewart after a 521-race long consecutive start streak. For Papis, the chance is a blessing and one he intends to take full advantage of.

“I look at this as a great opportunity in terrible circumstances,” he said Wednesday in a media conference call. “The fact that I’m even considered is amazing; hundreds can drive this car but I always say, it’s not about the money, it’s about the story you write.”

Papis would have been able to remain committed to his GRAND-AM Rolex Series obligations at Elkhart Lake’s Road America this weekend if he wanted, but his GRAND-AM team boss Remo Ferri of the R.Ferri/AIM Motorsport Racing with Ferrari team told him to focus solely on his NASCAR opportunity.

“I need to say thanks to Remo, he’s a longtime friend and we spoke about how we would do this,” Papis said. “I was ready to do both; we had everything in place to run the GRAND-AM race. I told him I’d be at the track for Thursday testing, back to Watkins Glen on Friday and Saturday, and fly back with Boris (Said) or someone for the race. They told me it was better to stay focused in the Watkins Glen in these difficult circumstances.”

Papis won the last GRAND-AM race in the GT class co-driving with Jeff Segal in the No. 61 F458 Italia at Indianapolis last month. An announcement on his replacement driver is expected later Wednesday or Thursday, and will be a familiar name to sports car racing observers.

 

Supercross: Talon Hawkins to debut in Houston in relief of Jalek Swoll

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Talon Hawkins, 19, will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut on a 250 this week in Houston, Texas as a fill-in rider for Jalek Swoll.

During the Anaheim 2 weekend, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team announced Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken arm suffered in a practice crash.

That same weekend, Hawkins made some noise. He took the lead from teammate Casey Cohran on Lap 2 of the 250 SX Futures Main and led for three laps before he was overtaken by eventual winner Daxton Bennick. Cochran also got around him to push Hawkins to third.

This will not be Hawkins SuperMotocross professional debut, however; he made three Lucas Oil Pro Motocross starts last year with results of 19th at Spring Creek in Millville, Minnesota, 27th at Ironman in Crawfordsville, Indiana and a best finish of 17th in the season finale at Fox Raceway in Pala, California.

Hawkins also has a top-10 finish in the 125 All-Star division at Pala in 2019 riding a Husqvarna.

Speaking with RacerXOnline.com before the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals, Hawkins predicted his future with Husqvarna would come down to how he performed in that race.

“It all just comes down to how I perform at Loretta’s,” Hawkins said. “Say I do really well, I get a top three in both classes and do a pretty solid job, I would like to go pro and just kind of finish out the rest of the series. But there’s also the option of waiting a little bit longer, going back out to [Aldon] Baker’s [Factory] or going anywhere and training, and just being prepared. I’m also open to that too. Honestly, it’s whatever the team wants. Whatever we think is the best option is what we’re going to go with. So, I don’t really have a plan right now, just looking into the future.”

Hawkins finished third overall in the 125 B/C and Schoolboy divisions at the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals.