CHAMPCAR/CART: Kanaan, Mears Fontana pre-race notes and quotes

Mo Nunn Racing The 500 - Nov. 2-4, 2001 California Speedway - Fontana, Calif. - 2-Mile Tri-Oval Round 21 of 21 on the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series TONY KANAAN - ...

Mo Nunn Racing
The 500 - Nov. 2-4, 2001
California Speedway - Fontana, Calif. - 2-Mile Tri-Oval
Round 21 of 21 on the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series


**This weekend marks Kanaan's 74th career Champ Car start and his 35th with Mo Nunn Racing. In his Champ Car career, he has one win (1999 U.S. 500), two poles (1999 at Long Beach, 2001 at Chicago), four podium finishes, 10 top-fives, and 37 top-10s.

**Kanaan stands 10th in the CART FedEx Championship Series driver championship with 83 points after finishing 17th in Australia last weekend. His streak of consecutive points-scoring finishes ended at eight races with that 17th place in Australia. Kanaan has scored in nine of the last 11 events and 13 of this season's 19 events contested thus far.

**Last year here at Fontana, Kanaan qualified 12th but saw his race day end on Lap 88 of the 250-lap event with a mechanical failure while moving into second place in the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes-Benz Reynard. He was 19th here during his Rookie of the Year season of 1998 with Tasman Motorsports (later Forsythe Championship Racing). He qualified 11th and finished eighth with the Forsythe team in 1999.

**In 33 career starts on oval circuits, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500 at Michigan), three top-fives, and 14 top-10s. He started from the pole in July's Target Grand Prix on the 1-mile oval in Chicago. He went on to finish eighth in that event. Kanaan also was fastest in every practice session at September oval races in Germany and England, but both events were gridded according to championship points due to rainy conditions. Earlier this year, Kanaan qualified fourth at Japan's Twin Ring Motegi in May, where he finished third for the team's first-ever podium, and he qualified fifth at Michigan in July, where he retired with an alternator failure.

"Well, it all comes down to this weekend for our second season together as a team. I all but promised (injured teammate) Alex (Zanardi) I would win for him in Australia last weekend and that didn't happen. Now we're back on the oval for one last shot at our first win. We've been strong on the ovals all year long. For sure, we were the best team on the track at Germany and England, and we were on the pole in Chicago, and in the top five at Michigan. In a 500-mile race, nothing is for certain. But I have to like our chances. Hopefully the (alternator) problem we had at Michigan is behind us. The hot weather in Michigan had a lot to do with that, and that shouldn't be a factor this weekend. Otherwise, it'll be the same story as always ... stay out of trouble and on the lead lap for the first 400 miles, and then go racing to the finish with a big million-dollar prize waiting at the end, and then send our trophy to Alex."


**Mears, the 23-year-old Mears, from Bakersfield, Calif., made his Champ Car debut here at Fontana one year ago and drove a third Team Rahal entry, sponsored by WorldCom, to a fourth-place finish.

**This weekend marks Mears' fifth career Champ Car start and his fourth with Mo Nunn Racing.

**Mears made his debut with Mo Nunn Racing and only his second career Champ Car start at the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston the first weekend in October. He qualified 25th in the #66 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard and brought it home in 17th, two laps down. One week later, at Laguna Seca, Mears qualified 18th and finished 12th to score his first championship points for the team.

**Last weekend, on the streets of Surfers Paradise, Australia, Mears qualified 24th but was forced to retire on Lap 1 when he made contact with the Turn 1 wall. He injured the index finger on his right hand in the accident, but x-rays were negative.

**Mears stepped into the cockpit of the #66 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard after this season's regular driver, Alex Zanardi, was involved in a racing accident during the latter stages of the American Memorial 500 in Lausitz, Germany, on Sept. 15.

**For every lap that Mears completes during these final four races of the season, his uncle, three-time CART champion Rick Mears, is donating $100 to the Alex Zanardi Foundation. He has completed 177 of 263 possible laps thus far at Houston, Laguna Seca and Surfers Paradise. This weekend's season finale is 250 laps.

**On Oct. 20, Mears qualified 15th and finished ninth driving the TropArtic Pontiac in an ARCA series event at Talladega, Ala. He also is set to participate in next weekend's NASCAR Busch Series finale at Homestead, Fla.

"I've been looking forward to this race since I got out of the car here last year. I had no idea if I would even have a ride, but I sure wanted another chance to do it again. It was a great day. We just hung in there and managed to not get caught up in all the incidents that were happening around us, and it paid off with a fourth-place finish. It sure would be nice to go one better and land on the podium, but there are never any guarantees in these long races. Even for the veteran drivers. I feel awful for making a rookie mistake at Australia last weekend. We were doing so well, staying out of trouble in all of our practice sessions and our first two races. And then I go into the first corner just a little too hot. I guarantee I won't make that mistake again. The good thing is, we are all working better and better as we go along. And I've been feeling more and more comfortable in the Pioneer-WorldCom car. Five hundred miles is a long time to get comfortable. Once again, it'll be a matter of being there at the end and making sure you have a shot at the front of the pack."


**Last year here at Fontana, Nunn saw his team team conclude its first season with Tony Kanaan behind the wheel of the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard. Kanaan qualified 12th but retired on Lap 88 with mechanical problems.

**As technical director at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing during four consecutive CART championship seasons by Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997-98) and Juan Montoya (1999), Nunn won here with Vasser in 1998 and was second with Vasser in 1997.

**Nunn was reunited with Zanardi this season as the venerable Italian driver came on board to pilot the #66 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard before suffering serious injuries during the latter stages of the American Memorial 500 on Sept. 15 in Lausitz, Germany. Zanardi lost both of his legs in the accident, but has progressed well while recovering in a Berlin Hospital, from where he was released on Tuesday of this week.

"Here we are at the last race of the season. It's a long way to this point in the season, but with all the travel, and all that has happened this year, for some reason it seems like not too long ago we were (opening the season) in Monterrey, Mexico. I think the last race of the season carries a little extra excitement with it, partly because it is just that ... the last race of the season. It's usually a good race, and it pays a million dollars to the winner. So everyone's hopeful when they arrive, including us. Ovals have been our strong suit all year long and I don't see why that should be any different for us this weekend. Tony definitely has been overdue for his first victory, and Casey almost came away from here with a podium finish last year. So, confidence-wise, we're in good shape. I'm looking forward to it."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Rick Mears , Chip Ganassi , Mo Nunn
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing