IRL: Phoenix: Mo Nunn Racing preview

Giaffone, Takagi set for Purex Dial Indy 200 at Phoenix. TEAM NOTES * This weekend's Purex Dial Indy 200 on the Phoenix International Raceway mile oval is the second event of Mo Nunn Racing's fourth season of existence, which in 2003 is taking...

Giaffone, Takagi set for Purex Dial Indy 200 at Phoenix.

TEAM NOTES

* This weekend's Purex Dial Indy 200 on the Phoenix International Raceway mile oval is the second event of Mo Nunn Racing's fourth season of existence, which in 2003 is taking place exclusively in the IRL IndyCar Series with a two-car, Toyota-powered effort featuring 2001 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone and new teammate Tora Takagi, a Formula 1 and CART series veteran from Japan.

* Three weekends ago, at the Toyota Indy 300 at South Florida's Homestead Miami Speedway, Giaffone drove his #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-Panoz G Force to a ninth-place finish despite clutch problems that developed early in the race. He qualified 15th. Takagi and the #12 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-Panoz G Force qualified 14th and finished 12th in his first-ever IRL IndyCar Series race. Both battled handling problems all weekend.

* In 2002, Mo Nunn Racing participated in both the IndyCar and CART series. Giaffone and the Hollywood-sponsored IndyCar entry won the team's first-ever race at Kentucky enroute to fourth place in the driver championship. On the CART side, the team's Pioneer-sponsored entry for third-year team driver Tony Kanaan netted two pole positions and a pair of podium finishes in 19 events.

* Morris Nunn founded the team just prior to the 2000 season after having spent the previous four years engineering Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi (twice) and Juan Pablo Montoya to consecutive CART series championships at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. Nunn also engineered Emerson Fittipaldi to a 1989 Indy 500 victory and that year's CART title at Patrick Racing.

* Mo Nunn Racing campaigned a one-car, Hollywood-sponsored CART effort for Kanaan during its inaugural 2000 season. In 2001, Kanaan and Hollywood were joined by two-time series champion Alex Zanardi and Pioneer sponsorship on the CART circuit.

* On Wednesday of this week, the team announced that two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk will join Giaffone and Takagi for a three-car team entry at this year's 87th running of the Indianapolis 500. A veteran of 17 previous Indy 500s, with victories in the 1990 and 1997 editions of the prestigious 500-mile event, the 49-year-old Luyendyk this year will pilot the #20 Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-powered Indy car with sponsorship from Meijer. Luyendyk's third-place Indy 500 finish in 1991 with Vince Granatelli Racing and runner-up finish in 1993 with Ganassi Racing both were engineered by fourth-year team owner Morris Nunn. Consequently, Mo Nunn Racing team manager Peter Parrott was also at Granatelli in 1991, when Luyendyk also scored CART race victories at Phoenix and Nazareth and finished sixth in the driver championship. Luyendyk contested his last six Indy 500s with Treadway Racing, a run that included the 1997 victory and his start from the pole position for the third time in his career in 1999. He has completed 2,957 laps in 17 Indy 500s, leading 188 laps in all. His 1996 qualifying speed of 236.986 mph still stands as the track record, as does his average speed of 185.981 mph for the race distance in his 1990 Indy 500 victory.

* At the 2002 Indianapolis 500, Mo Nunn Racing doubled its effort with fulltime series competitor Giaffone joined by Kanaan in a second Hollywood-sponsored entry. Giaffone and Kanaan qualified fourth and fifth, respectively, and both had their moments at the front of the pack on race day. Kanaan was the fastest "rookie" qualifier in the 33-car field and led 23 laps before an ill-fated accident while leading, caused by the oil of Bruno Junqueira, put him out of the race. Giaffone, meanwhile, led 11 laps himself and saw his late-race pass of Helio Castroneves for the lead get foiled by lapped traffic. Giaffone went on to finish third.

* Team manager Peter Parrott is back for his second season with most of the Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing team from last year's IndyCar series debut. Iain Watt, who engineered the team's CART entry in 2002 after working in recent years with Dario Franchitti, Cristiano da Matta and Max Papis, took over engineering duties for 2003 on the Giaffone car. Tom Vasi is crew chief. On the Pioneer side, David Cripps joined the team to engineer Takagi's car. Don Lambert is in his third year as Mo Nunn Racing crew chief on the Pioneer side.

FELIPE GIAFFONE 21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-Panoz G Force

* Felipe Giaffone, 28-year-old Brazilian open-wheel driving veteran, is in his third IRL IndyCar Series season in 2003 and his second with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing.

* Last year here at PIR, Giaffone qualified fourth but did not finish due to an accident on Lap 87 of the 200-lap race. It still remains his only accident in two-plus season on the IndyCar circuit. During his 2001 IndyCar Rookie of the Year season of 2001, Giaffone finished sixth at PIR after qualifying ninth in his Treadway-Hubbard Racing Hollywood-sponsored entry.

* The 2001 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year had an impressive inaugural season with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing in 2002, scoring his first career IndyCar win and the team's first-ever race win last August at Kentucky Speedway.

* He went on to finish fourth in the 2002 drivers championship with a solid run of 12 top-seven finishes in 15 events, including third at the Indianapolis 500, a runner-up finish at Nazareth, and two other third-place finishes at Richmond and Michigan.

* Giaffone's 2001 Rookie of the Year campaign at Treadway/Hubbard Racing included top-10 finishes in nine of his first 10 events. His best finishes included second at Texas in June and fourth-place runs at Homestead and Kansas.

* In 29 career IndyCar starts, Giaffone has 23 top-10 finishes, 11 top-fives, and the race win at Kentucky last season.

* At last season's Indianapolis 500, Giaffone qualified fourth and led 11 laps before seeing his late-race bid for the victory get ruined by lapped traffic. He went on to finish third.

* At February's IRL IndyCar Series Test in the West sessions here at PIR, Giaffone was second in both Friday sessions at Phoenix, and was third and fourth in the Saturday morning and afternoon sessions. Earlier in the week, he was fastest in both morning and afternoon sessions at California Speedway in Fontana.

* During this past offseason, Giaffone and his wife Alice moved from Indianapolis to Orlando, Fla.

FELIPE GIAFFONE
"It will be good to get back into the Hollywood car again at Phoenix. I'm feeling pretty confident that we won't have such a hard time at Phoenix like we did at Homestead. We never tested that well there, and we struggled there a little bit last year, too. So we're definitely glad to get that weekend behind us. We did pretty well in the race after all we went through trying to get the car to be comfortable during practice and qualifying. Phoenix should be a whole different story. We tested there right after Homestead and I think we got the car right where we want it to be. It ran well in the heat of the day, and I have a feeling it's going to be pretty hot on race weekend."

TORA TAKAGI 12 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-Panoz G Force

* Formula 1 and CART series veteran Toranosuke (Tora) Takagi of Japan is in his inaugural IRL IndyCar Series season in 2003 and his first with the Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing team.

* This weekend marks Takagi's first career race at PIR.

* The 29-year-old Takagi, who earned the nickname "Tiger" during his early days of open-wheel racing in his native Japan, spent the last two seasons driving the Pioneer-sponsored entry of Walker Racing on the CART circuit after spending three of the previous four seasons in Formula 1. Takagi recorded 11 top-10 CART finishes the past two seasons with season bests of fourth at Houston in 2001 and Chicago in 2002.

* After rising through the Formula Nippon Series and Japanese Formula 3 ranks, Takagi became a test driver for the Tyrrell F1 team in 1997, assumed one of its driving positions in 1998, then joined the Arrows F1 team in 1999. He drove to top-10 finishes four times in those two F1 seasons.

* Takagi switched to the Formula Nippon Series in 2000, winning eight of 10 races on his way to the series title before joining Walker Racing's CART effort in 2001.

* Takagi made 13 oval starts in all during the past two seasons on the CART circuit. His best qualifying effort was third at Michigan in 2001, and his best finishes were fourth at Chicago in 2002, sixth at Rockingham, England in 2002 and Lausitz, Germany in 2001, and eighth at Japan's Twin Ring Motegi in 2002.

* At February's IRL IndyCar Series Test in the West sessions here at PIR, Takagi was 13th- and eighth-fastest in the Friday morning and afternoon sessions, and seventh- and eighth-fastest Saturday morning and afternoon. Earlier that week, he was fourth- and seventh-fastest in the Tuesday morning and afternoon sessions at California Speedway in Fontana.

TORA TAKAGI
"Phoenix is a very fun track and I am very interested to see how the race will go for us. We had a good test there right after Homestead. We learned a lot about what the car likes and doesn't like and we should be in good shape when we start practice on Friday. At Homestead, I think we learned mostly what the car doesn't like. But we came out of the race in pretty good shape. Now we are ready for the small oval. I have never raced at Phoenix, but I like the track a lot after testing there two times. It is a very interesting track and a very nice place to visit."

-mnr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing