CHAMPCAR/CART: Elkhart Lake: Mo Nunn Racing preview

Tony Kanaan is in his fifth CART FedEx Championship Series season and his third with Mo Nunn Racing. The Grand Prix of Road America this weekend will be his 86th career Champ Car start. To date, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500), two poles...

Tony Kanaan is in his fifth CART FedEx Championship Series season and his third with Mo Nunn Racing. The Grand Prix of Road America this weekend will be his 86th career Champ Car start. To date, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500), two poles (1999 at Long Beach, 2001 at Chicago), five podium finishes, 12 top-fives, and 41 top-10s.

Kanaan took over Mo Nunn Racing's #10 Pioneer- and WorldCom-sponsored CART entry this season after driving the third-year team's Hollywood-sponsored car in 2000 (Mercedes-Benz Reynard) and 2001 (Honda-powered Reynard).

At last weekend's CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, Kanaan qualified fifth, moved up to fourth at the start, and stayed there until moving into the top three in the latter stages of the race. He was running third when he pitted with mechanical problems that forced his retirement with just 14 laps to go in the 92-lap race.

The team and Kanaan's latest podium finish came three weekends ago at the Molson Indy Vancouver, where the 27-year-old Brazilian started sixth, grabbed one spot by the very first turn of the race, and ran with the leaders the rest of the way. It was the team's second Champ Car podium and the fifth of Kanaan's career.

The third-place finish at Vancouver on July 28 was the team's top finish of the 2002 season. After a disappointing string of DNFs at the first four events (Monterrey, Long Beach, Twin Ring Motegi and Milwaukee), Kanaan scored his first points of the season with a 12th-place finish at Laguna Seca. He followed that with eighth-place finishes at three of the next four races (Portland, Chicago and Cleveland) before the podium result at Vancouver.

At the Milwaukee event the first weekend of June, Kanaan debuted a Lola chassis as the team made the switch from Reynard for the first time in its two-plus years of existence. He qualified eighth after running as high as third following Saturday-morning practice. In Sunday's race, Kanaan moved from eighth to fourth on the very first lap, and was running third when, on Lap 92, he was forced to retire from the 250-lap event with an oil leak.

Kanaan's most promising performance this season came at Japan's Twin Ring Motegi, where he qualified second, led a race-high 72 laps, and recorded the fastest lap of the race before retiring with a mechanical failure on Lap 121of a scheduled 201 laps.

On Memorial Day weekend, Kanaan competed in his first-ever Indianapolis 500, joining Mo Nunn Racing's full-time Indy Racing League driver Felipe Giaffone in a second Hollywood-sponsored team car. Kanaan qualified fifth in the #17 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force entry - the fastest rookie qualifier in the 33-car field - and dominated the early stages of the race, leading 23 laps in all before an ill-fated accident while running first on Lap 89. Kanaan spun in the oil of fellow CART regular Bruno Junqueira, who suffered a mechanical failure in Turn 3, and made heavy contact with the outside wall. Kanaan was unhurt, but saw a promising day come to an end. He clocked the third-fastest race lap. Giaffone, meanwhile, went on to finish third in the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force.

Last August here at Road America, Kanaan qualified 17th and finished 12th. He ran in the top 10 all afternoon, but had to make a late-race stop for fuel that dropped him back to the final points-paying position.

Kanaan's previous best result at Road America was fourth place during his CART Rookie of the Year season of 1998 while with Tasman Motorsports (later to be called Forsythe Championship Racing). He finished sixth with Forsythe in 1999, and eighth in his Mo Nunn Racing debut in 2000 driving the #55 Hollywood-sponsored Mercedes-Benz Reynard.

In 2001, Kanaan piloted the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard to ninth place in the driver points standings. He scored points in 14 of his 19 starts last season, including eight consecutive events from Toronto through Laguna Seca, and nine of the final 10 events of the year. Season highlights included a third-place finish at Twin Ring Motegi for the team's first and his fourth career podium, and the pole qualifying effort on the mile oval at Chicago. He added top-five finishes at Vancouver (fourth), Mid-Ohio (fifth) and the 500-mile season finale at Fontana (fifth). Kanaan had six top-five qualifying efforts on the year (the pole at Chicago, third at Long Beach, fourth at Motegi and Toronto, and fifth at Cleveland and Michigan). The Cleveland (fifth), Toronto (fourth), Michigan (fifth) and Chicago (pole) qualifying efforts came during consecutive events.

In 18 career Champ Car starts on permanent road courses, Kanaan has one podium, three top-fives, and eight top-10s.

Veteran race engineer Iain Watt joined Mo Nunn Racing this season after working with Max Papis (1997-98), Cristiano da Matta (1999-2000) and Dario Franchitti (2001) while at Cal Wells' Precision Preparation team (1997-2000) and Team Green (2001) the previous five seasons. Thus, Kanaan is working with a new engineer for the first time since he first came to the U.S. to race in the Indy Lights series after the 1995 season. He worked with Eric Cowdin enroute to Indy Lights Rookie of the Year (1996) and the series championship (1997) honors while at Tasman Motorsports, moved up with Cowdin and Tasman to the Champ Car ranks and was CART Rookie of the Year in 1998, then moved to Mo Nunn Racing with Cowdin after the 1999 season. Cowdin is engineering the team's IRL entry this season. Don Lambert, who joined Mo Nunn Racing last season as chief mechanic with the Pioneer-WorldCom Honda-Reynard program, is Kanaan's chief mechanic this season and is joined by a majority of the Pioneer-WorldCom crew from last season.

Longtime race engineer Morris Nunn is in his third season as CART FedEx Championship Series team owner and his first in the Indy Racing League. He founded Mo Nunn Racing just prior to the 2000 CART season after leaving Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, where he was technical director during consecutive series championships by Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997-98) and Juan Pablo Montoya (1999). Nunn also engineered Emerson Fittipaldi's 1989 Indianapolis 500 victory and CART championship while the two were with Patrick Racing.

This year, Nunn's team is splitting its time between single-car entries in both CART (Tony Kanaan driving the #10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Lola) and the Indy Racing League (Felipe Giaffone driving the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force). Giaffone is currently fourth in the IRL points standings behind Sam Hornish, Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran. Giaffone scored Mo Nunn Racing's first victory last weekend at the IRL event at Kentucky Speedway. He's just 17 points out of the championship lead with three IRL events to go.

TONY KANAAN QUOTES

"It's another week and another chance to get the job done. We had a good car at Mid-Ohio last weekend and I thought we were going to have our second podium finish in a row. The Pioneer-WorldCom car was good from the very beginning of practice, and that always makes you feel like this could be the weekend. We were top-five in qualifying, which made us feel confident for the race. Unfortunately, something let go with 14 laps to go. Like I said after that happened, you can feel disappointed, but you have to get over it and turn the page and go to the next one. I think we are getting a better and better handle on our new Lola. It's a tough thing to do, but Road America should be a pretty good track for us because it's pretty similar to Mid-Ohio. It's much longer and there are some high-speed places where the cars with better horsepower should have an advantage. But there are definitely some places where handling is very important. So I think we have as good of a shot as anybody. As you saw at Mid-Ohio, you just have to have a perfect weekend from beginning to end to win in this series. It's so competitive that any little mistake, or any little problem, will send you home feeling disappointed."

-mnr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , ART Grand Prix