CHAMPCAR/CART: Chicago: Tony Kanaan preview

Tony Kanaan is in his fifth CART FedEx Championship Series season and his third with Mo Nunn Racing. This weekend's CART Grand Prix of Chicago will be his 81st career Champ Car start. To date, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500), two poles (1999...

Tony Kanaan is in his fifth CART FedEx Championship Series season and his third with Mo Nunn Racing. This weekend's CART Grand Prix of Chicago will be his 81st career Champ Car start. To date, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500), two poles (1999 at Long Beach, 2001 here at Chicago), four podium finishes, 11 top-fives, and 39 top-10s.

Kanaan took over Mo Nunn Racing's #10 Pioneer- and WorldCom-sponsored CART entry this season after driving the third-year team's Hollywood-sponsored car in 2000 (Mercedes-Benz Reynard) and 2001 (Honda-powered Reynard).

Last July here at Chicago Motor Speedway, Kanaan qualified on the pole for the second time in his career and the first-ever pole position for then-second-year Mo Nunn Racing. He led the first 48 laps before being passed by Helio Castroneves and was shuffled back to sixth on the first round of scheduled pit stops. He led again before the second round of stops, when he was shuffled back to ninth. He passed teammate Alex Zanardi in the latter stages of the race for an eighth-place finish.

At the G.I. Joe's 200 two weekends ago at Portland, Ore, Kanaan started 14th and finished eighth after running as high as sixth in the latter stages of the race.

Three weekends ago, in the Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway, Kanaan qualified fourth and was running fourth when, on Lap 17, he was penalized for a pit lane infraction. He ran over the air hose of the right-front tire-changer of Tora Takagi, who was pitted directly behind the Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda team. Kanaan was sent to the back of the field and ended up with a 12th-place finish.

Earlier this month, at the Miller Lite 250 near Milwaukee, Kanaan debuted a Lola chassis as the team made the switch from Reynard for the first time in its two-plus years of existence. He qualified eighth after running as high as third following Saturday-morning practice. In Sunday's race, Kanaan moved from eighth to fourth on the very first lap, and was running third when, on Lap 92, he was forced to retire from the 250-lap event with an oil leak.

In the season's first three events, Kanaan also recorded DNFs at Monterrey, Mexico (March 10, late-race accident after an early-race pit stop for a new electronic control unit cost two laps), Long Beach, Calif. (April 14, mechanical failure on Lap 17 of 90) and Japan's Twin Ring Motegi (April 27, mid-race mechanical failure). He qualified sixth and was running fifth at Long Beach when forced to retire. He qualified second and was leading his 72nd lap when forced to retire on Lap 121 at Motegi. The Monterrey DNF was his first in 11 races dating back to the Michigan 500 in July, 2000.

On Memorial Day weekend, Kanaan competed in his first-ever Indianapolis 500, joining Mo Nunn Racing's full-time Indy Racing League driver Felipe Giaffone in a second Hollywood-sponsored team car. Kanaan qualified fifth in the #17 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force entry - the fastest rookie qualifier in the 33-car field - and dominated the early stages of the race, leading 23 laps in all before an ill-fated accident while running first on Lap 89. Kanaan spun in the oil of fellow CART regular Bruno Junqueira, who suffered a mechanical failure in Turn 3, and made heavy contact with the outside wall. Kanaan was unhurt, but saw a promising day come to an end. He clocked the third-fastest race lap. Giaffone, meanwhile, went on to finish third in the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force.

In his first visit here with Mo Nunn Racing in 2000, Kanaan qualified third, the Mercedes Benz-powered team's best qualifying effort of the season. He went on to finish 16th.

Kanaan qualified 15th and finished 11th in the inaugural CART event here in 1999 with Forsythe Championship Racing, the team with which he drove to 1998 CART Rookie of the Year honors when it was known as Tasman Motorsports.

In 2001, Kanaan piloted the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard to ninth place in the driver points standings. He scored points in 14 of his 19 starts last season, including eight consecutive events from Toronto through Laguna Seca, and nine of the final 10 events of the year. Season highlights included a third-place finish at Twin Ring Motegi for the team's first and his fourth career podium, and the pole qualifying effort on the 1-mile oval here at Chicago. He added top-five finishes at Vancouver (fourth), Mid-Ohio (fifth) and the 500-mile season finale at Fontana (fifth). Kanaan had six top-five qualifying efforts on the year (the pole at Chicago, third at Long Beach, fourth at Motegi and Toronto, and fifth at Cleveland and Michigan). The Cleveland (fifth), Toronto (fourth), Michigan (fifth) and Chicago (pole) qualifying efforts came during consecutive events.

In 36 career starts on oval circuits, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500 at Michigan), four top-fives, and 14 top-10s.

Veteran race engineer Iain Watt joined Mo Nunn Racing this season after working with Max Papis (1999), Cristiano da Matta (2000) and Dario Franchitti (2001) while at Cal Wells' Precision Preparation team (1999-2000) and Team Green (2001) the past three seasons. Thus, Kanaan is working with a new engineer for the first time since he first came to the U.S. to race in the Indy Lights series after the 1995 season. He worked with Eric Cowdin enroute to Indy Lights Rookie of the Year (1996) and the series championship (1997) honors while at Tasman Motorsports, moved up with Cowdin and Tasman to the Champ Car ranks and was CART Rookie of the Year in 1998, then moved to Mo Nunn Racing with Cowdin after the 1999 season. Cowdin is engineering the team's IRL entry this season. Don Lambert, who joined Mo Nunn Racing last season as chief mechanic with the Pioneer-WorldCom Honda-Reynard program, is Kanaan's new chief mechanic and is joined by a majority of the Pioneer-WorldCom crew from last season.

Longtime race engineer Morris Nunn is in his third season as CART FedEx Championship Series team owner and his first in the Indy Racing League. He founded Mo Nunn Racing just prior to the 2000 CART season after leaving Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, where he was technical director during consecutive series championships by Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997-98) and Juan Pablo Montoya (1999). Nunn also engineered Emerson Fittipaldi's 1989 Indianapolis 500 victory and CART championship while the two were with Patrick Racing. This year, Nunn's team is splitting its time between single-car entries in both CART (Tony Kanaan driving the #10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Lola) and the IRL (Felipe Giaffone driving the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force).

Nunn won the inaugural event here at Chicago in 1999 with Montoya, who started from the 10th spot on the grid.

In addition to this weekend's CART Grand Prix of Chicago, Mo Nunn Racing is also at Richmond International Raceway campaigning Felipe Giaffone's #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force in the eighth of 15 Indy Racing League events scheduled for 2002. Giaffone finished fifth (Texas) and fourth (Pikes Peak) in the last two IRL events after his third-place run at this year's Indy 500.

TONY KANAAN QUOTES

"There are all kinds of reasons I'm looking forward to the Chicago race. I was on the pole there last year, for one thing. It was one of our best tracks of the year. It came at a time when we were struggling. This year, it's a whole different story. We've been fast everywhere we've gone, except for maybe Portland, and we've had a rash of bad luck on race day. I feel like I'm driving better than I have in my whole career. Now, we just need to get some breaks. We've finished two races in a row, which is more than we could say the first four races of the season, plus the Indy 500. I'm not last in the points anymore, so I can bear to open the sports page again and not get all discouraged! We're coming to Chicago after a weekend off, which was a long time coming. We've been flat out since Japan and I hadn't been home for a month and a half. It was nice to take it easy for a little while and to get away from racing a little bit. We'll be fresh coming back to Chicago. I'm interested to see how our new Lola will do on the small oval. We did well at Milwaukee, all things considered. So we know what we're capable of doing. It's time to score some serious points from this point on."

-mnr-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , ART Grand Prix