"A Champion Is As A Champion Does"

Roberta CowanContributor ISeptember 3, 2010

MONTREAL, QC - AUGUST 29:  Boris Said, driver of the #09 Zaxby's Fordcelebrates with team members after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Napa Auto Parts 200 on August 29, 2010 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

Sunday gave no indication that this race on a road course was going to be anything more than another road course race. As a rule, they are an opportunity to take a nap. But Montreal was different. The NASCAR Nationwide Series raced it as hard as they race any short track and the cars looked it at the end.

This was the last road course race for these cars, as next year the Nationwide Car of Tomorrow will compete in all the events. One would imagine by the way they raced that the crew chiefs told them to bring back the steering wheels because the cars were obsolete. Not even the winner had a clean car.

The racing was not the only surprise the fans were in for. The winner would not be a NASCAR regular. Instead he would be a “ringer”. A favorite ringer, but a ringer none the less.

Boris Said proved why he is the go to man and teacher for road course racing. He was just aggressive enough to get the job done. Smooth and fast with the brakes. His performance, with the exception of a few wrinkles in his fenders and rear bumper cover was flawless.

But his victory was not a given thing. As a matter of fact, the dominant car on the day belonged to Marcos Ambrose who was again snake bitten at Montreal. Losing an alternator and then blowing the engine of his Little Debbie ride. He was followed to the garage very shortly by Carl Edwards. Robby Gordon’s gas mileage play didn’t work out leaving him sitting in a run off watching the last 3 laps of the race. They weren’t the only ones with problems though. Broken trailing arms, multi car wrecks and spins, failed brakes and blown engines. Would all take their toll on the Series Regulars.

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This left Said and Max Papis, a ringer turned regular from Italy that has been embraced and accepted as one of our own, to settle the race. What was about to unfold was a thing of beauty. It made it clear to this writer why there are fans of road course racing. These two guys were absolutely wide open and poetry in motion. They encompassed all the short track action and all the road course finesse that is more than likely the reason that NASCAR insists on keeping these normal snooze fests on the schedule. This was a race that was decided in the last 5 feet. Boris Said won the drag race to the checkered flag, literally by a bumper.

When it was all over, race fans got a taste of what it truly means to be a champion. Boris Said complimented Max Papis. He gave him credit. He admitted he wasn’t sure he could hold him off. The drag race down the final stretch wasn’t a sure thing in his book. But “Max raced me clean. He raced me hard. But he raced me clean.”

Max Papis thanked his owners for the opportunity and told the world how proud he had been to drive their car. How proud he was that he could do so well for his sponsor and how happy he was for Boris Said.

How refreshing. No name calling. No finger pointing. No disrespect to owners, sponsors, fans or other drivers. There was just excitement over the victory, and the thrill of the race and coming so close to victory. Maybe there is more to be learned on these road courses after all.

Best known as the teacher to the pro’s, Said has taught some of NASCAR’s elite how to handle a road course. Joking recently that he may have taught them too well, his students include, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart to name a few.

Two years ago at Watkins Glen, Max Papis made his Sprint Cup debut as a ringer for DEI. He was near tears in his post race interview after being taken out in a wreck that blocked the track on a blind corner. He wanted to do well so badly he told reporters that day. He wanted to show that he was a capable racer. What he did was more than that. He showed the world what kind of champion he is. He cares about winning and losing. He cares about doing well for his sponsors and his fans. He cares about his job performance.

There is never a race that Max Papis drives in that afterwards he does not thank his fans on Twitter and give them a little of what he feels about how the race went. How refreshing is that. A driver that actually thanks his fans for standing with him and behind him, and tells them so and tells them “we go on to the next one.”

Max Papis sets the example, as did Boris Said that we would like to see our children follow. He does so because he has children that he sets the example for. Does he have a temper, he is human and he is a native of Como, Italy, so of course he does. But he has learned through his experiences in Formula 1 and Indy Racing League (IRL) to control those emotions and pursue the goal, Victory.  

Max says, “My dream is to compete and win in NASCAR and to be the first European to be there among so many great American racing icons.” He came very close on Sunday. But his chances are not over. Max will be taking over the number 9 Germain Racing Truck full time in 2011.

Max, sei un campione, siamo orgogliosi di averti. grazie per farci meglio i fan. I pray you will forgive my poor Italian but understand that it is with the greatest respect that I attempted to tell you that you are a champion and we are proud to have you. Thank you for making us better fans with your example.


Congratulations to Kyle Busch on his Camping World Truck Victory and to Boris Said on his well deserved Nationwide Series Victory.  Also Congratulations to Patrick Sheltra on his Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) win at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday as well.

That said to all the competitors in all the series thanks for giving us everything you have to give. You are our heroes. Most importantly though thanks to all the families who share their loved ones with us each and every week so that we can cheer our favorite driver and favorite teams. You are the true heroes of the sport and we are forever in your debt.


You can learn more about Max Papis and his career at www.MaxPapis.com. You can find Max’s Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/maxpapis .

You can find Boris Said on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1534514283&ref=ts .