CHAMPCAR/CART: Kanaan-Zanardi Nazareth preview



-- This weekend marks Kanaan's 58th career Champ Car start and his 19th with Mo Nunn Racing. In his Champ Car career, he has one win (1999 U.S. 500), one pole (1999 Long Beach Grand Prix), three podium finishes, seven top-fives, and 28 top-10s.

-- Kanaan started eighth and finished eighth here at Nazareth Speedway last year in the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes-Benz Reynard, his then-best career start and finish on a mile oval.

-- In 26 career starts on oval circuits, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500 at Michigan), two top-fives, and nine top-10s.

-- Last year on the 1-mile ovals (Nazareth, Milwaukee and Chicago), his first season with Mo Nunn Racing, Kanaan's average starting grid position was 7.3. In his first two Champ Car seasons, it was 19.4. His best 1-mile oval qualifying effort last season was third at Chicago, equaling his career best start on all oval circuits.

-- Kanaan finished seventh in the season's first two events at Monterrey, Mexico, and Long Beach, Calif. He started 12th at Monterrey and third at Long Beach.

"The best thing about going to Nazareth, at this point, is to be able to say that for sure we will race this weekend ... unless, of course, there's snow on the ground when we wake up on Sunday morning! (Note: Last year's originally scheduled race in early April was postponed until Memorial Day weekend due to snow.) I'm glad we got out of Texas in one piece. Everybody in the CART community got together and agreed to do something that was very sensible. It will be a bit of an uncertainty at Nazareth for us because we never tested on a mile oval with our current package. But we've been competitive everywhere we've gone this year. I've been in the top four in every practice session so far this year, so I'm very confident we'll be in good shape at Nazareth. It's a cliche, but we're taking life one race at a time. Let's see what we can do to really make the team more successful. And, finally, Alex got back with his luck in practice and qualifying at Texas, and I think he's going to be strong at Nazareth, too.

"I guess, people in the beginning of the '98 and '99 season said I wasn't capable of racing on a mile oval, that it wasn't my kind of track. I proved them wrong last year when I had the car to do it last year. At Nazareth and Chicago and Milwaukee, I had never finished a race in the points on a mile oval. But last year, we did well at all three small ovals. This weekend, we have to keep our heads straight. It's not rocket science to find a setup, but you have to work together as a team."


-- This weekend marks Zanardi's 54th career Champ Car start and his third 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, 34 top-fives, and 37 top-10s.

-- In 23 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 12 top-10s. His qualifying record on ovals includes poles at Homestead in 1997 and Rio de Janeiro in 1996.

-- Zanardi's best qualifying effort on a 1-mile oval was seventh at Milwaukee during his CART Rookie of the Year season of 1996. His best finish was second here at Nazareth to then-Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jimmy Vasser during his second of two consecutive championship seasons in 1998.

-- At the Long Beach Grand Prix April 8, his second start for the Mo Nunn team, Zanardi qualified 20th and placed 26th after retiring just over one-third into the race with overheating problems resulting from earlier contact with the car of Bruno Junqueira.

-- In his Mo Nunn Racing debut March 11 at Monterrey, Mexico (his first Champ Car start in 29months, Zanardi qualified 22nd and placed 24th. Contact with lapped traffic while working his way into the top 10 led to broken suspension pieces that put him out of the race on Lap 40 of 78 laps completed that day.

"There are obviously concerns in the sense that we know that the cars at Nazareth are not going to work as well as we want because we are going to run a lot less downforce than what we really need due to the rules that CART is imposing concerning wings. So it's left to be seen how different cars will react to these changes. Other than that, I am excited about going to Nazareth and trying to have a good race, and most of all to try to see the checkered flag, which has been something of an elusive target in our first two races. In reality, it was nice to have a decent qualifying in Texas (sixth), but unfortunately, we couldn't have a race. The scenario is going to be different at Nazareth on the small oval, of course.

"We didn't race at Texas. On one hand, you can say I did my winter oval testing. Certainly I thought before the start of the season if I was going to have problems this season it would be from Texas onward because I didn't do any testing on ovals over the winter. But, I went to Texas and my fifth lap out I could stay flat all the way around the track. It proved once again that on the oval it's a question of letting the car do the job and making the car perform well. This is what we'll try to do at Nazareth, and if we're good enough to achieve a good setup, and we have the car running good, then you're likely to see me smiling at the end."


-- Team owner Morris Nunn, technical director during four CART FedEx Championship Series champions while at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing (Jimmy Vasser in 1998, Alex Zanardi in 1997-98, and Juan Montoya in 1999), won here at Nazareth from the pole with Montoya in 1999, and also oversaw a 1-2 finish here the previous year with Vasser and Zanardi.

-- Last year, Nunn guided Tony Kanaan to his then-best career qualifying effort of eighth on a 1-mile oval. Kanaan went on to finish eighth here for Nunn's first-year team in 2000.

"I'm looking forward to going back to Nazareth. We managed to get Tony quite comfortable in a 1-mile oval setup there last year. And the last time I was there with Alex, he and (then-teammate Jimmy) Vasser brought us a 1-2 finish. It doesn't get any better than that. It would be nice if we could pull that kind of magic with Tony and Alex this year! Tony's been solid all year and it's just a matter of time before we get to his breakthrough race. Alex did a great job getting acclimated to oval racing again at Texas (after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus). Overall, the team's working together better all the time. We didn't have a chance to get in any live pit stops at Texas, but the guys have been practicing a lot. It's all starting to blend well together.

"The Lolas will be very, very competitive at Nazareth. I'll be very surprised if they're not quicker than the Reynards. But, obviously, we'll have to wait and see. People keep asking me what we might have gained at Texas, even though we didn't race. Well, it's such a unique track with the high banking that nothing really will translate to any of the tracks we'll be going to the rest of this season. That banking works so well, you could probably go around there without any wings on your car at all. That would be an interesting exercise, wouldn't it? But that's behind us. It's time to go racing at a good, old familar track."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Morris Nunn , Chip Ganassi , Mo Nunn
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing