CHAMPCAR/CART: Miami: Mo Nunn Racing preview

Tony Kanaan-- ...

Tony Kanaan-- #10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Lola

* Tony Kanaan is in his fifth CART FedEx Championship Series season and his third with Mo Nunn Racing. This weekend's inaugural Grand Prix Americas-- the series' third inaugural race in the last four tour stops this season-- will be his 90th career Champ Car start. To date, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500), two poles (1999 at Long Beach, 2001 at Chicago), six podium finishes, 14 top-fives, and 44 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).

* A South Florida resident since joining the Champ Car ranks in his 1998 CART Rookie of the Year season, Kanaan started his three-year run with Mo Nunn Racing just down the road in the last Champ Car race to be held at Homestead Miami Speedway in the 2000 CART season opener. Kanaan qualified 14th in the brand new #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes-Benz Reynard, was leading the race in the latter stages of the event when he was black-flagged for entering a closed pit lane and ended up finishing 10th.

* Three weekends ago at Corby, England, Kanaan qualified eighth and retired on Lap 168 of a scheduled 211 laps of the Rockingham 500 with a mechanical problem that caused him to crash into the Turn 2 wall.

* Kanaan is currently 13th in the CART driver points standings with 65, 17 points out of the top 10.

* In his last race in North America, the inaugural Shell Grand Prix of Denver on Labor Day weekend, Kanaan qualified ninth and finished sixth for his fourth top-six finish in five events, a streak that included two podiums. Kanaan did not get to the podium in Denver, but he left town still having etched his name into the record books. His practice lap on Saturday morning in Denver of 1 minute, 1.601 seconds (96.252 mph) was the fastest tour of the 1.65-mile temporary street circuit all weekend, which earned him the distinction of holding the first-ever track record at the facility.

* The previous weekend, at the inaugural Molson Indy Montreal, Kanaan scored his second podium finish in four events, coming from the 13th starting position to a third-place finish that earned the team a second Motorola Call of the Race Award in as many events. It was the sixth podium of Kanaan's career and his third with Mo Nunn Racing. He also finished third at the Molson Indy Vancouver on July 28.

* Kanaan made another dramatic drive from the back of the pack at The Grand Prix of Road America on Aug. 18 at Elkhart Lake, Wis. He made a remarkable charge to a fourth-place finish from the 18th and final spot on the starting grid. He failed to record a qualifying time as a practice accident on Friday and mechanical trouble with the back-up car on both Friday and Saturday set the team back. The effort on Sunday earned the team's first Motorola Call of the Race Award this season.

* In that streak of three top-four finishes in four events from Vancouver to Montreal, Kanaan conceivably could have had three podiums and four top-four finishes in four events had it not been for a mechanical failure with just 14 laps to go while running a solid third at Mid-Ohio.

* The recent streak of top finishes contrasts to a disappointing string of DNFs at the first four events this season (Monterrey, Long Beach, Japan's Twin Ring Motegi and Milwaukee). Kanaan scored only his second championship point of the season with a 12th-place finish at Laguna Seca. (He did earn one point for clocking the fastest lap of the race at Motegi.) 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.

* 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 29 career Champ Car starts on temporary street circuits, Kanaan has one pole (Long Beach 1999), two podium finishes (third at Houston in 1998, third at Vancouver in 2002) and 13 top-10s, including sixth at Denver last month.

* 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 has split its time between single-car entries in both CART (Tony Kanaan in the #10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Lola) and the Indy Racing League (Felipe Giaffone in the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force). Giaffone closed the 15-race IRL season last month by finishing fourth in the driver points standings, a run that included the team's first-ever victory in August at Kentucky Speedway.

TONY KANAAN QUOTES

"Well, what can I say about racing in the city that I have chosen to make my permanent home in America? This is going to be a real treat. It was nice racing down at Homestead when we had a race there. But this is going to be really special. My house is just across the bridge from the track, and my office is just a few blocks away. Naturally, all of my friends in town have been asking me to get tickets for them, which has been keeping my manager very busy. It's going to be nice to sleep in my own bed all weekend long. It's going to be another big event for my sponsor Pioneer ... a big concert on Saturday night and everything involved with that. I hope this will finally be the weekend we can put it all together and win one for Morris and for Pioneer and all of our sponsors. They've been so good to us that we really need to be able to give them something back. It's going to be a challenge, just like Denver was. A first-time street race is always a big uncertainty. One thing for sure, the fans are going to love it. I wasn't around when CART raced in downtown Miami in' 95. But I keep hearing the stories about when there was a sports car race here every year. It was the best thing going outside of the Long Beach CART race. I hope we can bring back that kind of excitement to downtown Miami. It's my home and I know the local people really have a passion for road racing. Let's hope we can put on a good show."

-mnr-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing