IRL: Kansas: Felipe Giaffone preview

Felipe Giaffone is making his 22nd career Indy Racing League start and his ninth with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing with Sunday's Ameristar Casino Indy 200 at Kansas Speedway. The 27-year-old Brazilian open-wheel driving veteran is on a streak...

Felipe Giaffone is making his 22nd career Indy Racing League start and his ninth with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing with Sunday's Ameristar Casino Indy 200 at Kansas Speedway.

The 27-year-old Brazilian open-wheel driving veteran is on a streak of five consecutive top-five finishes after last weekend's third-place showing in the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway. He was second at Nazareth back in April, third at the Indy 500 on Memorial Day Weekend, fifth at Texas, and fourth at Pikes Peak.

Giaffone opened the season with a seventh-place finish at Homestead, Fla., and was sixth at California Speedway in Fontana two races later. He remained fourth in the current driver points standings with 237. Last week' s race-winner, Sam Hornish, Jr., is third in the standings and widened his margin over Giaffone with the victory, which put him at 256 points. Teammates Helio Castroneves (280) and Gil de Ferran (277) are first and second in the standings.

After the first seven events of the season, Giaffone is third on the 2002 IRL earnings list with $879,315. Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves leads with more than $2.07 million while de Ferran is second at $880,465.

Giaffone, the 2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year, had 10 top-10 finishes and three top-fives with Treadway/Hubbard Racing last season, including a season-best finish of second at Texas Motor Speedway in June. Last year here at Kansas Speedway, Giaffone started sixth, led two laps, and went on to finish fourth

At the 86th Indy 500 on May 26, Giaffone made a valiant bid for his first career IRL victory. He started fourth, led for 11 laps in all, and was running second when he made a late-race bid to overtake then-leader and eventual race-winner Castroneves, only to be held up by a slower car and dropped back to third.

For the first and only time this season, Giaffone ran with a teammate at Indy. CART series regular Tony Kanaan drove a second team car, the #17 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force, and appeared headed to a victory himself. Kanaan started fifth (the fastest rookie qualifier in the 33-car field), alongside Giaffone on the second row, and led 23 laps before crashing while leading after spinning in the oil of fellow CART regular Bruno Junqueira.

During his Indy Lights career, prior to joining the IRL in 2001, Giaffone enjoyed a four-season run in the Indy Lights championship, a run that included a 2000 victory from the pole at Michigan. He was fourth in Indy Lights driver points in 1998 and 2000, and sixth in 1999 driving for Conquest racing.

This is Mo Nunn Racing's inaugural Indy Racing League season after spending the first two years of its existence exclusively in CART with Kanaan (2000-2001) and Alex Zanardi (2001). In addition to Giaffone and the Hollywood car in the IRL, Mo Nunn Racing in 2002 is also campaigning Kanaan' s #10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Lola in the CART series, Kanaan' s fifth Champ Car season and third with Mo Nunn Racing. Kanaan is participating this weekend in the Molson Indy Toronto event.

Giaffone's driving coach in 1999 was Brazilian three-time Formula 1 champion Nelson Piquet.

Giaffone began racing go-karts in Brazil at age 12. His father, Jose, was a longtime Brazilian stock car racer. Giaffone's brother, Jose, and cousin Affonso, also raced in Indy Lights.

Also new for Giaffone this season: the 2002 season is his first as a married man. He married his longtime girlfriend "Alice" on Jan. 15 in Brazil. As the story goes, Giaffone won the favor of his new bride back in 1994 singing karaoke.

Engineering Giaffone's #21 Hollywood Chevrolet this season is Eric Cowdin, who moved to Mo Nunn Racing's IRL program after engineering Kanaan in the CART series during the team's first two seasons. Cowdin, in fact, engineered Kanaan's entries dating back to the 1996 and 1997 Dayton Indy Lights Rookie of the Year and series championship seasons, respectively, at Tasman Motorsports, as well as Kanaan's inaugural Champ Car season with Tasman (later Forsythe Championship Racing) in 1999. Kanaan won that year's U.S. 500 and sat on the pole at Long Beach.

Peter Parrott, longtime Penske Motorsports and International Speedway Corp., executive, joined Mo Nunn Racing this past offseason to take on the role of team manager of the IRL program. Parrott was team manager at Vince Granatelli Racing in the early 1990s when Mo Nunn Racing team owner Morris Nunn was then engineer for Granatelli's entry for driver Arie Luyendyk.

Prior to starting his own team in 2000, Morris Nunn was technical director at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing during four consecutive CART championships won by the team for drivers Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997-98) and Juan Montoya (1999). Nunn also engineered Emerson Fittipaldi's 1989 Indy 500 victory and CART series title. The former driver and Formula 1 team owner came to the U.S. in the early 1980s and over the years engineered such notable CART drivers as Eddie Cheever, Arie Luyendyk and Michael Andretti. Nunn's list of Formula 1 drivers includes Clay Regazzoni, Roberto Guerrero, Chris Amon, Jackie Ickx, Patrick Tambay, Nelson Piquet, Johnny Cecotto, and Derek Daly.

FELIPE GIAFFONE

"I've been waiting for my chance to get back to Kansas ever since last year' s race. It was one of my best tracks last year. We qualified sixth and finished fourth, and even led a couple of laps. We had some good moments there, that's for sure. It's kind of like that golf round where you hit that one or two shots that makes you want to come back and do it again. It' s a wide-open track but a little bit tricky. We tested there with my new team after Pikes Peak and I was two-tenths quicker than I was there last year. So I was very confident after that test session. We got a lot of work done. I won't say I can smell that first victory coming, but I kind of felt a little bit that way after the Kansas test. I hope it comes true, but we'll just have to do our best and see what happens. It should be a good race no matter what happens."

-mnr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Arie Luyendyk , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Guerrero , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Chris Amon , Patrick Tambay , Nelson Piquet , Johnny Cecotto , Emerson Fittipaldi , Morris Nunn , Derek Daly , Chip Ganassi , Clay Regazzoni , Mo Nunn , Sam Hornis
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing