Monday, February 11, 2008

Rings all around a NASCAR Championship


Above:Max Papis with Ken Howes,Hendrick Motor Sports vice president of competition.

Daytona Beach,FL
This is an amazing little story, about Championship rings, for a quiet day at DIS.

Before heading out to the NASCAR Media tour at Lowe’s I was talking with Max Papis, the Italian-born driver, who is another former open wheeler attempting to make the transition to NASCAR. In addition to his driving skills ranging from Formula One to a Le Mans challenging Corvette, he’s married to Tatiana Fittipaldi, the daughter of two-time Formula One champ and Indy 500 winner, Emerson Fittipaldi.

Papis, who can be emotional at times, was excited to tell me that he had been given a championship ring by Hendrick Motorsports for his contribution in testing the COT on road courses.

That made me very curious. It turns out that everyone, that’s 550 people (actually more) got a ring honoring Jimmie Johnson’s Sprint Cup (then called Nextel) title in 2007 in the Lowe’s Chevrolet.

Ken Howes, Hendrick Motorsports vice president of competition, explained, “typically every full- time employee here gets a championship ring. That’s something Rick steps ups and does, then add on anyone who has contributed to the that effort. Max is one of them. He did a lot of work testing especially on the road course many laps at VIR (Virginia International Raceway) and Kentucky.” Howes added that David Green, who did yeoman-like work on the COT on ovals, was also given one of those priceless rings.

Papis said “it is an honor to be able to be part of the HMS family and give my contribution testing on the COT.I have been extremely impressed by the attention to details and by the great atmosphere that is in the team.

Before Christmas I went by the shop, sat down with Ken Howes, and while in converstion he passed me an envelope. I opened it and inside was a letter from Mr Hendrick. It said that thanks to the effort I put in in 2007 he was going to gift me with a Championship ring.”

He said tears welled up in his eyes.

Papis is scheduled to drive the #09 car for Phoenix Racing in the Sprint Cup series this year on the road courses and the #64 car for Rusty Wallace, Inc. on three road course races in the Nationwide Series.

As they say in Italian “saluti” to two class acts.

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