Felipe Giaffone ...
#21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force
Belterra Casino Indy 300 - August 10-11, 2002 - Pre-Race Notes/Quotes
Kentucky Speedway - Sparta, Ken. - 1.5-Mile Tri-Oval
Round 12 of 15 on the 2002 Indy Racing League
** Felipe Giaffone is making his 25th career Indy Racing League start and his 12th with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing with Sunday's Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
** The 27-year-old Brazilian open-wheel driving veteran finished third at the Michigan Indy 400 two weekends ago. He started 12th but got off to a great start and found himself in sixth after just the first tour around the 2-mile high-banked tri-oval and ran with the leaders the rest of the way. Giaffone was fourth by Lap 7, and took the lead for the first time by Lap 70. He led five times for a total of 24 laps, including Laps 190-193 of the 200-lap, 400-mile event. But Tomas Scheckter passed him on Lap 194 and pulled away for an easy victory. Scheckter's teammate Buddy Rice, making his first-ever IRL start, passed Giaffone for second place on the very last lap. It was Giaffone's third third-place finish of the season.
** Prior to a seventh-place finish at Nashville on July 20, Giaffone rode a streak of seven consecutive top-six finishes that included sixth place at California Speedway in March, second at Nazareth in April, third at the Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend, fifth at Texas, fourth at Pikes Peak and third at Richmond in June, and fourth at Kansas last month.
** Giaffone was seventh in the season opener and his Mo Nunn Racing debut at Homestead in early March before recording his only DNF of the season at Phoenix.
** The third-place finish at Michigan moved Giaffone a few points closer to the top three in the current driver points standings. He is fourth with 330 points and trails leaders Gil de Ferran (377), Helio Castroneves (365) and Sam Hornish, Jr. (359).
** After the first 11 events of the season, Giaffone has surpassed the million-dollar mark in earnings at more than $1.05 million. He stands third in that category behind Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves ($2.23 million) and points leader Gil de Ferran ($1.07 million).
** Among other statistical categories, Giaffone is tied for the lead in top-10 finishes with de Ferran and Castroneves at 10 apiece. Giaffone's seven top-five finishes is third only to deFerran's nine and Castroneves' eight. Giaffone's 2,185 laps completed, out of a possible 2,300, is second only to de Ferran's 2,261 laps completed.
** 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. He started 12th and finished eighth here at Kentucky Speedway last August.
** 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 here 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 and the CART FedEx Championship Series are racing up the road at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend. Kanaan was third at Vancouver two weekends ago.
** 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.
** 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.
"Kentucky should be a good race for us. I haven't been there since last year, and it's a new track for the team, as well. But I hear the track is a lot smoother than last year, when I struggled all weekend with my old team. This year, I think our mile-and-a-half oval setup is working pretty well. We had a handle on things at Kansas, even though the race result wasn't our best this season, and we were okay at Texas. We'll just show up and build upon the good things we learned at the other mile-and-a-half tracks and go from there. It's going to be hard to get the right adjustments because we hadn't had time to test there. A lot of teams got a chance to do that. But, sometimes when you don't test, it's a good thing because you may not get as lost with the setup because you're reacting to conditions the way they actually are on race weekend and not the conditions you had when you tested. It might be a stretch to say that, but I'm just looking for something good about showing up with a clean slate on race weekend. Hopefully, conditions will be close to what they were at Kansas and Texas. It's still going to be very hard to run with the Infinitis, as it has been all year. We had a lead on them at the end of the race at Michigan, but they finished very strong. At least we beat the guys we're racing for in the points, and gained some ground there. Hopefully we'll have some good results in the last few races and we'll be in position for the championship."