World Racing star Max Papis announced earlier this week that he would field a race team in NASCAR’s Whelen Euro Series. He added that Kevin Gilardoni will drive the No. 99 car for Papis Racing.
“It’s a great step in my personal career to be a NASCAR team owner,” Papis said. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, and since I joined as a race car driver the NASCAR Euro Series for a couple of events last year, and talking to Joe Balash and everyone within the NASCAR family, I felt that it was a great opportunity to engage myself into the series and create a bridge between what I learned in Europe and what I learned in America and be that bridge for driver, technician, people that they have a dream like the one I had when I was 19 years old back in Italy, buying every single kind of European magazine trying to find the phone numbers and stuff to come over and race in America.”
Papis said he welcomed the opportunity as he wants to give opportunities to young stars to help them follow their dream.
Gilardoni, a 21-year-old from Italy, has won in many divisions across Europe, including winning races in the Euro Cup Mégane Trophy and Formula Renault 2.0 Series.
“It’s an honor for me to be in this situation now and to be part of this fantastic project,” Gilardoni said. “It came after a lot of advancing in Europe. I was looking for a way to get to the USA. Thanks to Max Papis’s efforts (indiscernible) of me and NASCAR Whelen Euro Series moving from Europe to USA and Jerome Galpin, I found it.
“Everything will be new to me, but I’m here to learn and understand as much as possible in the shortest time, which will force some sacrifices for sure. Max, in addition to being the boss of the team, is my reference, my coach, and I (indiscernible) to him. I think is a fantastic person.”
Gilardoni feels confident going into the season and feels this is an exciting oportunity. He added that one day, he wants to be racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In working towards that, Papis said that he would like to get Gilardoni to run some late model and dirt races in the United States.
“He is a very determined person, and I’m going to mentor him as much as I can,” Papis continued. He added that in trying to bridge the Euro Series with the American NASCAR racing, he will have Gilardoni spend a month and a half with the guys in Mooresville, North Carolina working on the cars and teaching him about NASCAR. They will then go back to Europe when the season draws closer.
For Papis, this is a long-term project in his eyes, taking a minimum five years, though also adds to his commitments in racing. Beyond his team, Papis will serve as racing and business advisor for Austin Dillon in the Sprint Cup Series this year.
“We are working with Richard Childress for me to run road courses both in Nationwide and if there are opportunities in Cup, and obviously I’m going to dedicate time when I’m not going to be on the NASCAR track looking after Austin, that means I’m going to be in Europe looking after what we are doing with Max Papis Racing and with Kevin,” Papis added. “You will see me racing next week in the Daytona 24-hour. I will be sharing the car with Boris Said, and it is by chance, but it’s a great thing, I’m going to drive the Whelen car, and the Whelen car is actually the sponsor of the series. It’s a strange situation, but I’m really, really excited about that.”
NASCAR Whelen Euro Series General Manager Jerome Galpin says Papis’ involved is a huge step for the series.
“The series has started to grow since it was created in 2009, and our common goal with NASCAR and Whelen Engineering and this team is to bring it to the top level of Motorsports in Europe,” Galpin continued. “We also would like, as Max said, to develop the bridge to bring the best European drivers racing NASCAR to the U.S. so definitely I think Max’s part of it will be his experience. His knowledge of racing both in Europe and the U.S. will be a huge step forward for us, and especially we’re going to build a path for younger drivers.”