When NASCAR went to Monza… With Max Papis and Alex Zanardi
The Monza circuit in Italy already has so much atmosphere, but Max Papis wrote a new chapter last week, lapping the old banking in a Toyota NASCAR Sprint Cup car – with his old F1 and CART pal Alex Zanardi.
Anyone who has been to Monza feels the history just walking through the gates. The banking is the first visit for everyone. The steepness of it is unreal, and to think in 1957 and 1958 the “Race of Two Worlds” had Formula 1 cars racing against the best of USAC’s Indycars. Just thinking of it now almost 50 years on is insane – but they did it.
Max, as you have read in “Superheroes wear red gloves” (and if you haven’t read it, why not?!) is a passionate man for life and racing, and for him to take a NASCAR Toyota Camry to the Rally Monza was a special moment. Being a sedan, there was a passenger seat for Max to give rides around what is effectively his home track when he grew up.
Among his passengers were his mother, his wife Tati, and one of racing’s most inspirational men, Alex Zanardi. The Italian, a former two-time CART IndyCar champion, who lost both of his legs in a crash in 2001, was fresh from winning the Handcycle class of the New York Marathon as he prepares for the 2012 Paralympics in London. His determination is undiminished.
To say Zanardi was impressed with his trip around Monza with Max is an understatement. “Hat’s off to all the NASCAR drivers,” Alex said. “And I have to admit, after today’s experience, I’m a little envious… Again, wow, what a beautiful car! I thought I’d had been driving a racecar recently. Bullsh…! That’s a car!”
Max, who wore a Marco Simoncelli #58 helmet in respect to his MotoGP countryman, enjoyed it too. “This was one of the best moments of the day, taking Alex around. He is one special friend.”