NAZARETH, Pa. (April 3) -- Having passed his first test down in Homestead, Fla., two weeks ago -- albeit with a couple of technical glitches -- Tony Kanaan continues his higher education on the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series with this...
NAZARETH, Pa. (April 3) -- Having passed his first test down in Homestead, Fla., two weeks ago -- albeit with a couple of technical glitches -- Tony Kanaan continues his higher education on the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series with this weekend's Lesson 2, entitled Mastering the 1-Mile Tri-Oval, at Nazareth Speedway.
"Call me a freshman at the University of Mo (a.k.a. Mo Nunn University)," said the ever-colorful 25-year-old Brazilian, who drove the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes-Benz Reynard to an inspiring 10th-place finish at the Homestead Miami Speedway as one of CART's newest entries made its debut.
It was the highest finish by a first-year CART team since Bobby Rahal was third in the 1992 opener for Rahal-Hogan Racing, and it left owner Morris Nunn and his troops wondering what might have been were it not for a pair of late-race pit lane violations that ended Kanaan's bid for a seemingly surefire podium finish.
"That's all behind us, now, and the pressures that come with a first race are finally over," Kanaan continued. "Nazareth is a place where I haven't had too much success in the past, so the only thing I care about now is finding out the secret way around this place from Morris. He has been successful here, and it's up to me to study hard, once again."
Kanaan, the 1998 series Rookie of the Year and last year's U.S. 500 champion, was 9th and 23rd here the last two seasons. But he knows this year's attempt to master the tricky 1-mile tri-oval will be under the direction of the man who engineered the last four CART titles.
"Tony says he hasn't been particularly successful on the mile ovals, but based on what I've seen so far, including his relentless push to the front at Homestead, I don't see why he shouldn't contend for a victory here," said Nunn, who won here last year with Juan Montoya and the previous year with Jimmy Vasser. "If Tony has a good car under him, like he had at Homestead, and the crew does its job, as it did at Homestead, he has what it takes to win anywhere we go."
Kanaan knows that key to staying in front from beginning to end here is finding a setup that works well in traffic, because there is plenty of it.
"This one's typically a really busy race on the racetrack," Kanaan said. "You always find yourself lapping people ... or being lapped. Not only do you need to have a race car that works well when it's running alone, the best car seems to be the one that works best in traffic. Your car has to be good in traffic because that's where you can make up the most time, here. It's important to stay in front, as it is anywhere else, but before too long, you'll be catching other cars."
Practice for the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix, Round 2 of 20 on the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series, begins Friday (April 7), with qualifying set for Saturday (April 8). Race time Sunday (April 9) is 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage set for ABC-TV.