HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 24, 2000) - Tony Kanaan, making a fresh start with a new team, made an immediate impact on the FedEx Championship Series Friday by posting the fastest speed of the initial day of practice for Sunday's season-opening...
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 24, 2000) - Tony Kanaan, making a fresh start with a new team, made an immediate impact on the FedEx Championship Series Friday by posting the fastest speed of the initial day of practice for Sunday's season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota at Homestead-Miami Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET, same-day tape delay, ESPN).
Kanaan (Hollywood Mercedes Reynard), in his first season with newly formed Mo Nunn Racing, posted a top lap of 204.532 miles per hour (26.437 seconds) on the 1.502-mile oval. He came from 25th-fastest in the morning practice at 195.934 mph (27.597 seconds) to gain nearly 10 mph during the afternoon session. Kanaan's morning session was abbreviated by a switch in cars as well as a pit accident in which rookie Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) slid through the team's pit and caused damage to Kanaan's car.
Mo Nunn Racing was formed as a partnership in December by Morris Nunn, race engineer for the past three FedEx Championship Series champions, PacWest Racing Group team owner Bruce McCaw and marketing executive Rod Campbell. Kanaan joined the team following two seasons with Forsythe Championship Racing, for whom he claimed his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Michigan last year.
Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) was second fastest at 203.753 mph (26.538 seconds). Like Kanaan, he collected his first career FedEx Championship Series victory last season, at Road America.
Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) was third fastest at 203.355 mph (26.590 seconds). He and the Player's Forsythe Racing Team are campaigning Ford power this season, switching from Mercedes.
Helio Castro-Neves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) was fourth at 203.171 mph and followed by Fittipaldi's Newman/Haas Racing teammate, Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), at 203.118 mph (26.621 seconds). Castro-Neves is competing in his first event as a member of Marlboro Team Penske while Andretti is a two-time winner at Homestead (1997, '98).
Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola), campaigning a new engine-chassis package, was ninth fastest at 202.002 mph (26.768 seconds). Montoya's Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Team, winners of an unprecedented four consecutive FedEx Championship Series championships, has switched from Honda power and Reynard chassis this season.
Practice continues Saturday morning at 9:45 a.m. ET, with qualifying beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
TONY KANAAN, Hollywood Mercedes Reynard: "The morning was hard. I only did 12 laps before we got the little incident with Tag [rookie Alexandre Tagliani, who spun in pit lane during the morning practice and made contact with two crew members and a photographer, none of whom sustained serious injuries]. I don't blame him, it's pretty hard with the carbon brakes. It wasn't a nice way for Tag to start the season. He's pretty scared and he came over to apologize. Kenny [Ferris, a Mo Nunn Racing mechanic who was involved in the incident] is going to be okay. In the afternoon, Morris said, 'Why not try a qualifying run?' and it was a good one. I'm so proud because the team is only three months old and we're making a lot of progress. I only did Spring Training and two more days [of testing] on the oval [at Homestead], but I'm not too worried because I've got a guy with silver hair [team owner Mo Nunn, race engineer for the past three FedEx Championship Series champions] that's pretty smart."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola: "Definitely, the wind was bad for all of us out there this afternoon. I had a big push in Turn 1 and 2, but the car was more neutral in [Turns] 3 and 4. But if the forecast is true, it will be less windy tomorrow and Sunday, but it will be less windy for everybody. Generally, I'm pretty happy. We made huge gains since the last time we were here. The whole team was a little worried with the car on full tanks, but the car was good this afternoon, so we'll all sleep a lot better tonight."
PATRICK CARPENTIER, Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard: "The morning session was good. We ran the qualifying setup and I was pretty happy this morning. The car was really good. We just ran full tanks in the afternoon session, and need some improvement. The car is pretty loose right now. It was pretty difficult with the wind, but it was pretty good for one or two laps."
* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), runner-up in the 1999 FedEx Championship Series, returned for the first time to the track where he sustained a fractured pelvis and brain contusions during CART Spring Training at Homestead last month. He posted Friday's 24th-fastest speed, at 197.350 mph (27.399 seconds). Franchitti returned to the cockpit Sunday and Monday at Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway for a test session that determined he was fit to compete this weekend.
* Two-time FedEx Championship Series champion Alex Zanardi is among the attendees at this weekend's season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota. Zanardi, who won the series crown in 1997 and '98, competed for the Williams team in Formula One last year. "It's just really good when you walk into a paddock to see so many people happy to see you back. It's a really good feeling," Zanardi said. "I just wanted to see some action, but it really hard. I've been talking to so many people, I haven't seen too many cars on the track yet. I don't have a deal. (Chip Ganassi walks into room) Talk about the devil, huh? If I was really looking, I'm sure there would be people to talk about it with. (Jokingly) Morris (Nunn) raised the offer to $1 million per race, so if Chip can beat that...This is not a game. I had fun when I was doing it for Chip and Target. It was fantastic, a great opportunity. It wasn't a job, it was really like a hobby for me. That's why I was able to deliver so much. Right now, I don't have the motivation to do all that." Also on hand Friday was Sylvester Stallone, who is scheduled to create a movie, "Champs," that utilizes the FedEx Championship Series as its setting.
* Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal earned the top speed among the six rookies who posted practice laps Friday, at 203.095 mph (26.624 seconds). He was sixth fastest overall.
* Ticket sales for the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota are running ahead of last year's pace, thanks to a comprehensive effort to reach out to the Miami area's Latin American community. "Our ticket sales have shown considerable improvement over the past few years," said Homestead-Miami Speedway president Curtis Gray. "There seems to be a lot of excitement surrounding the Grand Prix this year and a lot of excitement about the direction that CART is heading."
* The "CART Insider" television program - a half-hour program produced by CART Productions - will receive its first airing on WAMI-TV in Miami on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. ET. The show includes several behind-the-scenes features on CART racing and the FedEx Championship Series.
* The show has been produced to air in every North American race market in the two-week window prior to its FedEx Championship Series event.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota will air 2 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2.