CHAMPCAR/CART: Kanaan/Mears Laguna Seca preview



**This weekend marks Kanaan's 72nd career Champ Car start and his 33rd 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 36 top-10s.

**Kanaan remained ninth in the CART FedEx Championship Series driver championship with 78 points after last weekend's 12th-place finish on the downtown streets of Houston. He has now scored points in the last seven events, at eight of the last nine events, and at 12 of this season's 17 events contested thus far.

**Last year here at Laguna Seca, Kanaan started 14th and placed 22nd in the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes-Benz Reynard, retiring on Lap 69 of the 83-lap race with brake problems. He scored his first podium finish here in his Rookie of the Year season of 1998, taking third place after starting 14th while driving for Tasman Motorsports. In 1999, Kanaan qualified on the outside of the front row but was forced to retire midway through the race with transmission problems.

**In his two seasons of Dayton Indy Lights competition in 1996 and 1997, Kanaan qualified on the pole here both times, winning the first year and finishing second the following year enroute to the series championship.

**In 14 career starts on permanent road courses, Kanaan has one podium (third here at Laguna Seca in 1998), three top-fives, and seven top-10s.

**CART announced Wednesday that Kanaan joins fellow Champ Car drivers Patrick Carpentier and Dario Franchitti, Dan Wheldon of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship, and David Rutledge of the Toyota Atlantic Championship, as a nominee for the second annual Greg Moore Legacy Award. The award, which honors the Canadian star and fan favorite who lost his life in the 1999 season finale, reflects the driver who best typifies Moore's legacy of outstanding talent on track as well as displaying a dynamic personality with fans, media and within the CART community. The winner will be announced at the CART FedEx Championship Series Awards Banquet on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske captured the inaugural award last season.

TONY KANAAN "The timing is just right to race at Laguna Seca for our team. We didn't have the greatest weekend in the world at Houston. Far from it. We just never got the car quite right. It's difficult on street circuits. You usually see a big difference between the cars that got the set-up right and the ones who are still searching. I love Laguna Seca. It's one of my favorite tracks. It's a fast track and it will be a good feeling to get out and run some fast corners. After last weekend, I've had enough of slow, 90-degree corners for a while. We keep scoring points, but not enough to put a dent in the upper half of the top-10. We keep knocking on the door. We just have to bust our way through this weekend.


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

**The 23-year-old Mears, from Bakersfield, Calif., made his debut with Mo Nunn Racing and only his second career Champ Car start at the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston. He qualified 25th in the #66 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard and brought it home in 17th, two laps down.

**In his first Champ Car start, Mears drove a third Team Rahal entry, sponsored by WorldCom, at last year's season finale in Fontana, Calif. He finished fourth.

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

**Last year here at Laguna Seca, Mears drove a Dorricott Racing Dayton Indy Lights Series entry, earning the pole and his finishing second to eventual 2000 champion Scott Dixon.

**Mears' uncle Rick last weekend announced his plans to raise up to $100,000.00 for the Twin Towers Fund and the Alex Zanardi Foundation. Rick Mears, the Team Penske Advisor, will make his donations based upon laps completed by the Penske drivers Gil deFerran and Helio Castroneves, and Casey Mears. He will donate $100 for every lap completed by his nephew, a campaign that began with last weekend's Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston. Casey Mears completed 98 laps thus far.

"Houston is behind us and we're ready to turn it up a notch this weekend at Laguna Seca. This is my home track, for the most part. At least it's my home Champ Car racing road course, and I love it. I've turned a lot of laps here. We were hooked up pretty well all through the Indy Lights weekend last year and we almost won the race. So after what I would consider a successful start to this run last weekend in Houston, I can hardly think of a better place to run. We developed a solid working relationship with Morris and the team at Houston, and we'll definitely keep building on that this weekend. I'm not expecting any miracles, but I do know my way around this track, and I did gain a lot of confidence driving the Pioneer-WorldCom car my first time out. I'm hopeful for a good result, which, for starters, would be somewhere in the top 10."


**Last year here at Laguna Seca, Nunn saw his first-year team, with Tony Kanaan behind the wheel of the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard, qualify 14th and retire with brake problems some 20 laps from the finish.

**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 from the pole with Zanardi in 1996 and from the outside of the front row in 1998.

**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 last month at Lausitz, Germany. Zanardi lost both of his legs in the accident, but is progressing well in a Berlin Hospital and is expected to return home to Italy to begin rehabilitation within the next week.

"We're hoping for good things this weekend on one of the world's classic road circuits. We struggled a bit with Tony's car in Houston and he left there quite frustrated. Laguna Seca is the perfect medicine. It's a true driver's course and he'll be happy to be able to let it all hang out. As for Casey, we're pleased with all the things he showed us in Houston. He's a bright, young driver and he did all the things we asked of him. Admittedly, we played it very conservative because it was his very first time in a Champ Car on a temporary street track and he had no testing with us before the weekend. (Note: CART rules prohibit in-season testing.) He got better every session. In the race, he was turning lap times faster than his best qualifying laps. I think he'll come here with his confidence in just the right place. He knows the track and he's done well here in the past. I think we have the potential for a positive weekend."


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Casey Mears , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , David Rutledge , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , Greg Moore , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing