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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE


January 16, 2014


Jerome Galpin

Kevin Gilardoni

Max Papis


JOHN TEJADA:¬† Thank you for joining us.¬† I'd like to introduce our guests today.¬† First is a driver very familiar to race fans in the United States and Europe, Italy's Max Papis.¬† Max has nearly 100 starts across NASCAR's three national series and is a two‑time winner of IMSA's Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Max, you had the opportunity to compete in the NASCAR Whelan Euro Series as a driver this year, and this year you're fielding a full‑time team in the series.¬† Just what excites you about the opportunities the NASCAR Whelan Euro Series presents?
MAX PAPIS:  First of all, welcome to everyone on the teleconference.  It's a great step in my personal career to be a NASCAR team owner.  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.
I would like to create this bridge in order to give opportunities to people that have the same dream I had, and at the same time obviously doing it with NASCAR, it's a great opportunity.  I would have not done it with any other series because obviously I know what's behind the vision of Mr.Jim France and everyone in the NASCAR series, so I feel that it's a great adventure and it's a way for me and my family and my wife Tatiana to take on the position of car owner to give back to the sport.
JOHN TEJADA:¬† Our next guest day is NASCAR Whelan Euro Series general manager Jerome Galpin.¬† NASCAR Whelan Euro Series is entering its third season under the NASCAR banner and last summer signed a long‑term entitlement sponsor with U.S.‑based Whelan Engineering.¬† The series has brought the fan‑friendly close competition of NASCAR stock car racing to Europe.
Jerome, what does it mean for the series to have a driver with Max's résumé invest in the competition by fielding a team for a rising young driver?
JEROME GALPIN:  Welcome, everyone, to the conference.  Definitely I think Max joining the NASCAR Whelan Euro Series is a huge step for our organization.  The series has started to grow since it was created in 2009, and our common goal with NASCAR and Whelan Engineering and this team is to bring it to the top level of Motorsports in Europe.
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.
JOHN TEJADA:¬† Our last guest is 21‑year‑old Italian driver Kevin Gilardoni.¬† Kevin has competed and won in many series in Europe and has experience competing in the Euro Cup M√©gane Trophy and Formula Renault 2.0 Series.¬† This year he will drive the No.99 for Max Papis Racing in the NASCAR Whelan Euro Series Elite Division.
Kevin, this is an exciting opportunity for a driver, not only competing in the series but driving for a car owner with the international success Max Papis has had.  Can you talk about what you're looking forward to the most as you make this move?
KEVIN HARVICK:  Welcome to everyone.  First of all, it's an honor for me to be in this situation now and to be part of this fantastic project.  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 Whelan 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.
This season will be very important for me.  I'm confident about my abilities and working hard with the team.  We can only control our qualities that we resolve from the track.  Max Papis Racing driving the car No.99 in the Whelan Euro Series is a big motivation to do even better.  It's something special that was an effort made by me, my family, my sponsor and my fans, and I can't wait to start to work with my team and Max and be there in February to start our professional test, really, really.
Certainly I start now to know NASCAR, the fantastic world and the family.  But simply from what is happening along now in the short time, I understand it is fantastic and is a pleasure working with these people.  It's exciting.  I'm really, really happy.
My dream now is becoming true, so my target is always to do my best, and over time step by step with Max's advice, I hope to be NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
I'm here to reach our (indiscernible), not only because I like the race car, to introduce to the world Max Papis' chance and everyone working for me on this project.

Q.¬† Congratulations to everyone.¬† This is for Max and Kevin:¬† Is there a long‑term plan, Max, with Kevin to have him do this for a year and then bring him stateside, or is this just a one year deal to see how things go?
MAX PAPIS:¬† First of all, yeah.¬† What we decided to do with Kevin is we decided to make ‑‑ it is an important step in his career to come over and race in America, and come over and race with a similar car to American cars.¬† What I'm planning to do is obviously create some experience for‑‑ getting some good experience for Kevin, for Kevin in the NASCAR Euro Series but as well the series going to run a few late model races, and I'm trying to get him into some dirt races and create what he needs in order for him to achieve his dream to be a full‑time NASCAR driver in the future.
He is a very determined person, and I'm going to mentor him as much as I can.

Q.  Kevin, can you speak about your background a little bit?  When you hear about getting these opportunities, I imagine this is very unfamiliar ground for you.  If you could just talk about how exciting that is.
KEVIN GILARDONI:  Yes, thank you very much for your question.  For sure is very exciting for me, this opportunity.  I never stop to say thanks to Max.  Yeah, for me I would love to learn as much as possible in the shortest time, and NASCAR will be a good opportunity for me to understand I'm working well with Max, and for sure I would love an advantage.  I mean, to go from Europe to U.S., not with nothing but with a background like NASCAR because I will learn what it means to race with NASCAR, and when I will go to Europe maybe I knew the place, the track, and people will change, but the concept of the car will remain the same.
As I said, I can't wait to start to work with Max on this team, our team, because I am really determined to make good results.
Normally I don't spend a lot of work because otherwise I think about (indiscernible), and I say again, I can't wait to be on the track to show what me and Max and the team are able to do.
MAX PAPIS:  To be a little bit more in detail, let me give you a little brief on what we're going to do.  We're going to build the NASCAR Euro Series over here in America, in Mooresville.  Kevin is going to come over here in the middle of February to get familiarized with the team, his teammates, his crew chief and everyone.  He's going to spend about a month and a half over here working on the car, doing everything it takes for him to understand what the NASCAR work is.  Then we're going to go back to Europe, race in Europe, and during the downtime period, he is going to come over and race late model here.
To answer the first question, this is a long‑term project for Max Papis Racing.¬† We are not there to be just one year and go.¬† We have a commitment on the long‑term to stay in the NASCAR Euro Series and develop from there.
We are definitely looking at this at a minimum as a five‑year project.
KEVIN GILARDONI:  And also for me, to completely answer your question, it's naturally one year also for me, but we start from this season with Max, and I was targeted to continue our partnership, and I hope to have a good chance with that to continue my career in NASCAR because it's my target to start from Europe and go to U.S. and stay there and work for the rest of my career.

Q.  Max, how will you be dividing your time this year?  And the second question, may I assume the 99 is a tribute to your late friend Greg Moore?
MAX PAPIS:  Yeah, great question.  Obviously this year will be pretty busy because I have a commitment.  I have a very important commitment with Richard Childress Racing.  I will serve as racing and business advisor for Austin Dillon in the No.3 Sprint Cup car, so that itself is a great task 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.
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 Whelan car, and the Whelan car is actually the sponsor of the series.¬† It's a strange situation, but I'm really, really excited about that.
Obviously my dedication is to make this organization grow, but at the same time doing it within the means of what we are doing.  You don't go racing late model showing up with a Cup trailer, and you don't show up in a Cup race with an open trailer in the same way.  What I'm saying is we're going to be humble.  We're going to work using with the experience that I have, but obviously we're going to approach this for what it is, and we're going to do it in the most professional way we can.
The second question, yes, absolutely.  The No.99, I mean, I've got to tell you guys this.  When the announcer said Max Papis Racing is going to field the No.99, I mean, I had to stop for a second because my eyes got pretty full of tears because it is definitely a tribute for my special friend Greg Moore.  The 99, that's his number.  I asked permission to Rick Moore, his father, to continue the legacy of my friend, and it is a way to keep him alive in my heart and in the heart of all the people that might not know.
The car No.99 is absolutely only for Greg Moore.

Q.  Max, when you look at the fans in Europe and how much they love racing, where does this version of racing rank in their feelings?
MAX PAPIS:  Great question.  The reason why I decided with my family to get involved in the Whelan Euro Series is exactly because of the enthusiasm that I've seen being given by all the European people towards the series.  Let's put it like this:  In a situation where in Europe the sport of racing now is a sport only for rich people, where if you don't have money, you don't race, and when you go and look at most of the series that they race over in Europe, they're struggling to get a car count that is actually decent.  I showed up at Tours in France for the oval race.  We had 25 cars.  We had 40,000 showing up for the event, and Monza was the same.
The welcoming that everyone in Europe gave for the V8 car and the NASCAR concept has been amazing.  We planted the seed about three years ago.  I was able to, thanks to Joe Gibbs Racing, to bring a Cup car to Monza to do a demonstration, and thanks to NASCAR, as well, they really helped us a lot.  We planted the seed, and I really felt that that created a lot of enthusiasm because people are not used to hearing the sound of a V8 engine.
And the way that the NASCAR Euro Series is approaching the business, it is very fan friendly.  The garage is open.  We are basically bringing to Europe all the enthusiasm that has been missing there for a lot of years and the way of doing things in America that are basically fan friendly.
So the excitement has been really big, and that's the reason why I decided to join them right now, because I really feel that the potential of growth is incredible, and I want to be part of it.

Q.  K.J., at what time in your life did you become interested in racing, and what happened in your life where you looked at the stock car and said, that's the direction I want to go?
KEVIN GILARDONI:  It's a good question, and also maybe you need a long answer.  I started with cars when I was two years old and at the minimum age of 15 with single seaters, and at that stage during my career in Europe is no money, no (indiscernible), the same.  If you don't pay a lot of money, you don't have a chance to have your future in motorsports.
So from the age of 17, now I am 21, I start with my father to say, okay, my dream will be racing in the U.S.  I have a big fantastic chance thanks to Max and NASCAR.
Yeah, for the first time I have a unique and fantastic opportunity, and for sure I will do my best for it.

Q.  How long has it been an interest or desire on your part to be a team owner, and knowing racing like you know it and knowing the expenses, why would you want to be a team owner?
MAX PAPIS:¬† (Laughing) I like that.¬† The main reason that drove me to have the team is not actually the desire to be a Hendrick or a Richard Childress.¬† I don't think that you will see me doing that kind of route.¬† But it's been more to be able to give back to the sport and do it in a way, in a series that is affordable, in a series where I can make a difference, and being able to‑‑ I look back when I was back in Europe at 15, 16, 17.¬† I had a dream to come and race in America.¬† I didn't know how.
I want to be the person that a kid like Kevin or a technician or a graphic designer that has a dream of coming and working in America, I get a call and I create a small, humble platform where they can start their dream, and I can use my connection to do that.
Obviously with my wife Tatiana and Liza, the team coordinator, we've been very careful on looking at the budget and everything because obviously you can get hurt really easily.  So what I'm telling you is it's more a way of contributing to the sport, giving back to what NASCAR has done for me, and as I told you, I would have never done it with any other series because the relationship and the mentality that Mr.Jim France and all the France family has is very much like my mentality:  If you deserve, you get it; if you don't deserve, you don't get anything.  And I just love this.  I just felt that I could make a difference, so that what you're going to see me; trying to create this platform.  To be a little bit more technical.  As I say, for example, Kevin Gilardoni, how did I find him?  He comes from the same village, from the same region of Italy where I come from.  He's a good kid.  He's a humble kid.  He just had a dream, and he called me and said, Max, what do I need to do to try to do like you did.  I talked to Jerome, I talked to everyone in NASCAR, and I put the two things together, and here we are.
We're going to work on it in a very humble way.

Q.¬† Max, talk about your ability to‑‑ your great ability to adapt.¬† You're versatility in various cars and sanctions, talk about how that will help you with this move.
MAX PAPIS:¬† I've always liked to be‑‑ to be seen and to be remembered like a guy that was never afraid to drive anything, to jump in an IndyCar one day, go and drive a Daytona 24‑hour with Boris Said next week, and race for Tony Stewart in the 14 car.¬† You know, this weekend I'm going to go and I'm going to be in Florida to race the national championship with go‑kart.
And I think that race car drivers need to be like this.  A race car driver is a guy that is able to go and be competitive in any situation that you are put in.  It's exactly what I've been building through the last 20 years of my career that gave me the idea to go out there and try the NASCAR Euro Series in Tours, in France, and I was very pleasantly surprised.
I think if I would have not been so eclectic and so fearless, if you want to put it like that, about trying new stuff, I don't believe that I would have ever done this.  It's just because the love for the sport is so big in my heart that it's bigger than anything else that I've done.
The love for the sport and the love for my family are the two biggest things that fill my dream and fill my life every day.

Q.  K.J., what do you think you learned most from Max?
KEVIN GILARDONI:¬† Yeah, for sure‑‑ thank you very much for your question.¬† As Max said, also for me during my last career I jumped from different cars like (indiscernible) and GT cars, so very important for a driver to be able to jump from category to category.¬† For sure Max for me is an example.¬† We are born in the same place, and maybe we have the same DNA.¬† But I think he's one of the biggest drivers of NASCAR and one of the biggest persons in this world.
I think from him I can learn everything to be at the top, but everyone like me and other drivers we have in our lives to be really excited and really upbeat as a coach and a teacher and everything I can do like Max because for me it's very important, and I will do my best to be like him.  And why not be in NASCAR in USA?
MAX PAPIS:  My goal is to be able to have Kevin hopefully within the next three years sitting in a truck and race the full season in the Truck Series.  If that will ever happen, it will definitely bring a great smile on my face.
JOHN TEJADA:  Thank you, all.  Thank you very much for joining us.  Thank you, Max, Jerome and Kevin.  All the best to you, and thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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