CHAMPCAR/CART: Tony Kanaan, Tasman Season Review

Kanaan Paces Banner Year for Tasman (November 10, 1998) - One of CART's top teams is the Tasman Motorsports Group, based in suburban Columbus, Ohio and they wrapped up their best season to date when the FedEx Championship Series...

Kanaan Paces Banner Year for Tasman

(November 10, 1998) - One of CART's top teams is the Tasman Motorsports Group, based in suburban Columbus, Ohio and they wrapped up their best season to date when the FedEx Championship Series and PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship concluded their seasons at California Speedway November 1.

Tony Kanaan gathered a pair of podium visits and 11 points-paying finishes to end the season ninth in the race for the PPG Cup, giving Tasman its first career top-10 points finish in four years of Champ Car competition.

Kanaan's impressive performance in his debut season was rewarded as he became the 20th recipient of the prestigious Jim Trueman Rookie of Year award, wrapping up the title by finishing third at the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston.

"We had some clearly defined objectives at the beginning of the season -- to win Rookie of the Year, finish in the top 10, get a podium finish and be one of the top-four Honda drivers," said Steve Horne. "We achieved those objectives, and I am very pleased with the collective efforts of the team. Tony has clearly marked himself as a star of the future.

Tony Kanaan talks with team owner Horne and a crew member at Road America.

"On a lighter note, I would like to congratulate everyone at Tasman Motorsports for beating Team Rahal in the prestigious Hilliard Cup Challenge, which was organized by the Mayor of Hilliard -- Mr. Roger Reynolds." (Both Team Rahal and Tasman Motorsports are located in the same suburb of Columbus. The Hilliard Cup was based on an average of the total points scored by each team and awards were presented for performance in both the FedEx and Indy Lights series.)

Cristiano da Matta captured the 1998 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship, earning Tasman its fourth championship title in five years of Indy Lights competition. Da Matta's impressive season included eight podium finishes and four victories in 14 events.

Teammate Airton Dare ended his second season of Indy Lights competition sixth in the championship standings. His eight points-paying finishes included a career first win at the ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix.

Tasman will be contesting the 1999 FedEx Championship Series with a one-car effort led by Tony Kanaan. The team has committed to continuing with the Honda/Reynard/Firestone combination -- the dominant package of the 1998 season. Tasman will take delivery of its first chassis at the end of this month, with shakedown tests scheduled at Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex in Homestead, Florida in mid-December. A 1999 sponsorship announcement is expected to be made in the next few weeks.

On the Lights front, Airton Dare will return to Tasman to pilot his Banestado-sponsored Lola in the 1999 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship.

The team is planning a two-day outing in December at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix, Arizona to test several potential replacements for Cristiano da Matta, who will graduate to the Champ Car ranks with Arciero-Wells Racing next year.

"We had a good combination this year with the entire team," said Indy Lights team manager Steve Dickson. "We are looking forward to defending our championship title with Airton and the new driver we partner him with next season.

"I hope Cristiano carries a little bit of Tasman with him in his Champ Car career, and wish him the best of luck next year."

In other Tasman news, Kanaan has been invited to participate in the Elf Masters '98 karting challenge on November 28 and 29 in Paris, France. Kanaan will join a line-up of current and former CART and Formula One drivers at Paris Bercy Stadium as they compete in 100cc karts at the annual indoor event.

"This will be my first time in the Elf Masters and I am very happy to participate," said Kanaan. "A lot of my friends are going to be there -- Jimmy (Vasser), Dario (Franchitti) and Max (Papis). I had a lot of fun during my karting days and I hope to do well."

The sixth running of the Elf Masters pits current CART drivers against Formula One drivers in the "Masters" group, former CART and Formula One drivers in the "All Stars" group and motorbikers in the "Wild Card" group. Sessions include a semi-final and final for each group, and a super final featuring a race between the six top finishers in each final group.

The five lucky winners of the LCI/Tasman UltimateRide.com sweepstakes took to the track this weekend at Honda's test facility in Marysville, Ohio, and added a few miles to Tony Kanaan's 1998 Champ Car and Eric Lang's Toyota Atlantic car. The successful outing also enabled a few of Tony Kanaan's pit crew to get a new perspective as they took a few hot laps. For the record, they are still grinning!

Source: CART Online

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Series INDYCAR