Interview: Max Papis

It is with great happiness that I bring to you an interview with one of the drivers from my favorite eras of racing: CART 1996-2001. That driver is Max Papis! Papis made his debut in America in 1996 with Team Arciero-Wells. After a couple years of uncompetitive equipment, Papis moved to Team Rahal, where he had much more success. The talent he showed during his years at Team Rahal were awesome. I enjoyed watching him fight it out with the big names of the sport. He was also a very likable guy off the track, and I miss the personality and the skills that Max showed.

I've now done 20 interviews on my website. The usual protocal is for me to get in contact with the driver, email the questions, and get their answers and format it to the website. For the first time in my website's history, I was submitted the answers through audio! I'm not sure why this was so cool, but it almost felt like I was listening to Max tell his story about CART. It was a pleasent surprise and I really enjoyed listening to all of the things he had to share. So, here's the transcribed interview that I did with Max Papis! Enjoy:

1) When I think back to an era of racing I like the most, CART 1996-2001 immediately comes to mind. So many great drivers, teams, cars, tracks, and fans. What is your favorite memory from the times you drove in CART? 

MP: When I think back to an era of racing that I like the most, CART 1996-2001 immediately comes to mind. So many great drivers, teams, tracks, cars, and fans.

There are so many great memories that I have from CART. One of the main things is the comradery. I am really proud of the fact that I was a part of an era that was maybe considered the best era of the sport and to drive amazing cars. One of the things I remember with a lot of pleasure were the trips to Australia where me, Dario (Franchitti), and Greg Moore would always hang out together before and after the race. It was an amazing opportunity to get to know each other and to enjoy the free life spirit of being young guys.

2) You've driven in CART, IRL, Formula 1, Le Mans, NASCAR, V8 Supercars, and many more types of cars. Is there one car that you consider your favorite to drive (and why)? 

MP: Absolutely. If you talk about pure driving, I would definitely say the Miller Lite car with a Ford Cosworth engine that I drove in CART was the most satisfying car to drive. It had the best power-to-weight ratio. It stuck to the track but not too much to take away from the driving; you still had to drive the car a lot, even on an oval. You were basically never wide-open except for the one lap in qualifying at Michigan and Fontana. There, you really had to hold your breath! Defintiely that car was the best product of the sport that I've ever been involved in.

2000 CART FedEx Championship Series - #7 Miller Lite Ford Cosworth-Reynard - Team Rahal
Max Papis is the Team Rahal Reynard Ford Cosworth sponsored by Miller Lite (Photo from Max's website)

3) From my point of view, you stood out to me because you seemed to show great passion for racing as well as for your fellow drivers. As documented, you've raced in so many different racing series. Is there any one driver (or drivers) you loved racing against? 

MP: You really don't love to race against anyone in particular! Obviously, despite the fact that I love my sport and I've always been a very passionate guy, when I'm out there I'm a very determined person. I actually have no friends when I'm out there.

The people I was most satisfied and most honored to race with were for sure guys like Michael Andretti, because he was a legend of the sport, and my friend Dario Franchitti, my friend Greg Moore because he was one of the bravest guys I've ever raced against, and Alex Zanardi. I was really proud to compete with all of these guys finally with my Miller Lite car at par with them because throughout my career, they were in better equipment, or I was younger, or I was not at the same level of experience. The greatest satisfaction was the I was really able to show my hand and compete with them head-to-head, and that's a great satisfaction for me. Obviously, that's in CART. If you want to talk about NASCAR or Sports Cars, the names would be infinite. But I would definitely say that regarding, that was my number one pick.

4) Do you continue to watch Indycar? (If yes, what do you think about the series today?) (If not, why do you not watch it?) 

MP: Yes, I still watch Indycar races on-and-off. Obviously since my friend Dario Franchitti is not involved in them anymore, I lost a little bit of interest. The races are still quite competitive, but when you know how special things could be, sometimes you want to turn the TV off.

Max in 2000 (Photo from Max's website)

5) The staple question of these interviews on my site is have you ever done anything weird while driving a race car, like sneeze, cough, throw up, hum a song, or anything else that could be considered weird?

MP: It's difficult to answer this question! I mean, when I'm in the car I'm so focused that I might have done it all but I don't even remember. The most weird things I definitely say would be this: in our first 24 Hour of Daytona for (Chip) Ganassi in 2004, there was so much moisture inside the car that I ended up driving with a squeegee attached to a post and driving down the straight at 200 MPH in Daytona while cleaning the inside of the window to be able to see outside. I would definitely say that's one of the most uncharacteristic things I've ever done.

Thanks to Max for taking the time to be interviewed! Thoroughly enjoyed sitting in class and listening to what he had to say. Definitely one of my more enjoyable and satisfying interviews. Let us both know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey