Max Papis |

February 11, 2010 by Post Team 

Speedweeks 2010Max Papis | drivers whose cars are built by Michael Waltrip Racing raced their way into the Daytona 500 field Thursday, while Waltrip himself was left wondering if he would make the big event at Daytona International Speedway.

Germain Racing’s Max Papis and Prism Motorsports’ Michael McDowell snatched the two transfer spots in the first Gatorade Duel. Each of the two 150-mile races generates two automatic qualifiers for the Daytona 500 from drivers whose teams didn’t finish in the top 35 in 2009 owner points. Both Germain and Prism have technical alliances with MWR.

“Where in the world a guy comes from an 800-people village in the north of Italy has a chance to do the 500?” Papis said. “Can you believe that?”

Waltrip, who is not driving a full season, crashed and will have to wait until after the second qualifier to find out whether he will make the field based on qualifying speed from last Saturday. Should Scott Speed or Bobby Labonte – both of whom are already in the Daytona 500 field – capture a transfer spot in the second Duel, Waltrip would get into the 500.

“I had my shot in Cup with Michael Waltrip in 2008 and I didn’t know if I’d ever get back here,” said McDowell, whose biggest highlight was his flips during qualifying at Texas in 2008. “It’s awesome to be back here starting the Daytona 500. I’m looking forward to this season driving the 55 for Prism.

“Those cars are from Michael Waltrip Racing. So thanks to them and their technical alliance. [They] gave us a great car here. It was a car that Michael raced last year.”

Papis is driving a partial schedule this year, while McDowell is hoping to run the full season in both the Nationwide and Cup series.

“I’m speechless because … those guys out there, they are the best of the best in the world,” Papis said. “When you can compete with them, when you have someone like Mark Martin coming to you and saying, ‘I’m really happy that you made the show, it means the world for me.’

“So I’m real happy.”

Both Papis and McDowell had to make comebacks to get into the race as there was a four-lap dash to the finish after a caution that followed the Waltrip accident. McDowell, getting a push from Papis, finished 14th overall in the race while Papis finished 15th.

“When I entered Turn 3 with six laps to go, [I] lost the draft,” McDowell said. “As soon as that caution came out, I knew we were going to make the 500. I don’t know why, I just knew it. I just knew circumstances were working where we needed.

“We made an adjustment [earlier] and it literally killed the drive of the car. It made it a handful and I was hanging on. We were able to make an adjustment to put it back to originally how we started.”

Not making the Daytona 500 out of the first Gatorade Duel were Braun Racing’s Reed Sorenson, Nemco Motorsports’ Jeff Fuller, Whitney Motorsports’ Terry Cook and Kirk Shelmerdine Racing’s Todd Bodine.


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