CHAMPCAR/CART: Kanaan/Zanardi Michigan preview

This weekend marks Kanaan's 64th career Champ Car start and his 25th with Mo Nunn Racing. In his Champ Car career, he has one win (1999 U.S. 500), one pole (1999 Long Beach Grand Prix), four podium finishes, eight top-fives, and 31 ...

This weekend marks Kanaan's 64th career Champ Car start and his 25th with Mo Nunn Racing. In his Champ Car career, he has one win (1999 U.S. 500), one pole (1999 Long Beach Grand Prix), four podium finishes, eight top-fives, and 31 top-10s.

Kanaan held onto 13th in the CART FedEx Championship Series driver point standings with 37 with last weekend's 10th-place finish at Toronto. He started fourth and worked his way into the lead with 30 laps remaining when fuel-filler problems forced an unscheduled pit stop down the stretch, and led him to run out of fuel on the last lap of the race, costing him another two spots in the order.

His two laps led at Toronto brought Kanaan's total to 114 on the year. He led laps during a three-race stretch from Nazareth to Twin Ring Motegi to Milwaukee, a span in which he earned his first podium finish of the season and for Mo Nunn Racing (at Motegi) with a third-place finish.

Michigan Speedway is the scene of Kanaan's first Champ Car victory in the 1999 U.S. 500, the season after he captured Rookie of the Year honors while driving for Forsythe Championship Racing. During the 1998 season, Kanaan started 20th here and finished 11th.

Last year here at Michigan, Kanaan returned to action after missing four events with a broken left forearm and four broken ribs sustained in a qualifying accident at Detroit. He qualified 18th but was forced to retire early on race day with mechanical problems in the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes-Benz Reynard.

In 29 career starts on oval circuits, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500 at Michigan), three top-fives, and 11 top-10s.


"Well, it looked so good for so long at Toronto that I just couldn't wait to get back into the race car again. I'll get my wish at Michigan, that's for sure - 500 miles' worth! That's a lot of racing. The 500 is always a very special race. It's especially nice for me since that was where I won my first Champ Car race. I will never forget that day. I'm back in a Honda again, and I'm expecting to have a very competitive car once again. We had some problems with our fueling at Toronto, but the team has been working very hard to find a solution to the problem. With seven or eight pit stops, we'll definitely have to be on top of our game in the pits because over the course of the race, the difference between a good finish and a not-so-good finish depends on your pit stop performance. My engineers gave me a great car all weekend at Toronto, so I'm very much looking forward to getting out on the track at Michigan. This race is always a dogfight, and I'm ready."


This weekend marks Zanardi's 61st career Champ Car start and his 10th with Mo Nunn Racing, which he joined this past offseason after a two-year hiatus from the series. He has 15 career wins, 28 podium finishes, 35 top-fives, and 39 top-10s.

Last weekend at Toronto, Zanardi charged from 24th on the starting grid to a fourth-place finish, staying out of trouble in a race marred by 11 caution periods and moving up from 10th in the closing laps.

Prior to Toronto, Zanardi scored championship points in consecutive races at Japan's Twin Ring Motegi, where he was seventh, and at Milwaukee, where he was 11th.

Zanardi won here at Michigan Speedway in his first of back-to-back championship seasons in 1997, and followed that up with a third-place finish in 1998. He qualified seventh both times. In two appearances during his Rookie of the Year season of 1996, Zanardi qualfied fifth but did not finish in the U.S. 500, then qualified fourth but finished 17th in the Michigan 500.

In 25 starts on oval circuits, Zanardi has two career wins (1997 U.S. 500 at Michigan, 1998 at Gateway), seven podium finishes, 10 top-fives, and 13 top-10s. His qualifying record on ovals includes poles at Homestead in 1997 and Rio de Janeiro in 1996.


"I think Michigan, from a performance standpoint, requires a lot of the things from our car that were required at Texas and Japan. Fortunately, at both of those places, we had an excellent car. So I am looking forward to getting to Michigan and seeing if we can build take that to the next level. We have the motor, we have the chassis, and hopefully it's a race in which we'll do well. Michigan is a tough race, but I have great memories there. The pop-off valve spacer is back, so that presents a question mark that we' ll get answers to the moment we get on the track. The good thing is, I don' t think the pole there is as important as it is for other races. But, on the other hand, you want the performance in the race to get the right answer when you press the throttle to the floor. There are going to be times in the race where you'll actually be coasting and just trying to look after your equipment. But there definitely comes a time when you have to put the power down. I don't know where power is more important than at Michigan. We'll have to wait and see what happens when we get out onto the track. Honda's always been on top of its game, so there is no point in my concern. I'll just go there and do the best job I can. I'm expecting Honda to give me a very reliable and competitive engine. I'm sure, as we speak, they are working very hard to get the best performance out of this configuration."


This season, Nunn is reunited with the driver (Zanardi) with whom he collaborated on back-to-back series titles in 1997 and 1998 for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. They won here at Michigan in 1997 and finished third in 1998. in Toronto in 1998 after finishing second in 1996 and 1997. Nunn also was technical director at Ganassi during the championship seasons of Jimmy Vasser (1996) and Juan Montoya (1999). Nunn finished second here with Montoya in 1999.

Nunn scored his first podium finish as team owner in May when Tony Kanaan brought home the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard in third place at Japan's Twin Ring Motegi.


"Well, here we are at Michigan. This is our annual mid-season reality check where we get to see what everyone's made of from all aspects. We showed some promise on the high-speed ovals at Texas and Motegi earlier in the year. So if you go by that, then we can be hopeful this weekend at Michigan. We'll get to see what the (pop-off valve) spacer really means to our performance. I suspect we'll be in pretty good shape from a performance standpoint. We're coming off of one of those good news, bad news kind of weekends. Both Tony and Alex had race cars that could have brought us podium finishes, or even a race win the way things were shaping up. But we had some problems with our pit stops that kind of surprised us. We've been doing a solid job in the pits during this latest stretch in the season. Those things happen from time to time. Problem is, it all happened on the same day. Hopefully those problems are behind us, or else we're in for a long day. It will be good to get out on the fast track and stretch our racing legs."


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