CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Tony Kanaan preview

Tony Kanaan ...

Tony Kanaan
#10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard

Grand Prix of Long Beach - April 12-14, 2002 - Pre-Race Notes/Quotes The Streets of Long Beach, Calif. - 1.968-Mile Temporary Street Course Round 2 of 20 on the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series

** Tony Kanaan is in his fifth CART FedEx Championship Series season and his third with Mo Nunn Racing. This weekend's Grand Prix of Long Beach is his 76th career Champ Car start. To date, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500), two poles (1999 at Long Beach, 2001 at Chicago), four podium finishes, 11 top-fives, and 38 top-10s.

** Kanaan took over Mo Nunn Racing's #10 Pioneer- and WorldCom-sponsored Honda-powered Reynard at this year's season opener at Monterrey, Mexico, on March 10. Last season, two-time series champion Alex Zanardi piloted the team's Pioneer-WorldCom entry, then #66, until he suffered devastating leg injuries in a racing accident in Germany last September.

** The 27-year-old Brazilian qualified 13th and was running ninth just eight laps into the race at Monterrey last month when he was forced to pit with electrical problems and lost two laps while the team replaced the electronic control unit ("black box"), taking him out of contention. He then was forced to quit on Lap 77 of the 85-lap event after contact on track with the car of Tora Takagi. It was Kanaan's first DNF in 11 race starts dating back to the Michigan 500 last July.

** Last year here at Long Beach, Kanaan qualified third and was hopeful of a race day performance that would make up for his crashing while leading here two years prior, on a day he started on the pole and led 44 laps. But, last year, an oil leak on the opening lap of Sunday-morning warmup kept him off the track the rest of the session, severely hurting his and the team's ability to properly set up the car for the race. Kanaan managed a seventh-place finish, nonetheless.

** That pole and 44 laps led in 1999 here at Long Beach came with Forsythe Championship Racing (originally Tasman Motorsports Group), just one year after he finished fifth here with Tasman in his best finish to date enroute to the 1998 CART Rookie of the Year title.

** In two Indy Lights series starts at Long Beach, Kanaan, teammates with Helio Castroneves at Tasman, finished second in 1996 and fifth in 1997. He was the 1997 Indy Lights champion and 1996 series Rookie of the Year.

** In his 35 starts with Mo Nunn Racing during the 2000 and 2001 seasons, Kanaan, driving the team's Hollywood-sponsored entry (Mercedes-Benz power in 2000, Honda power in 2001), had one podium finish (2001 at Twin Ring Motegi), one pole (2001 at Chicago), four top-five finishes, and 18 top-10s.

** The team's Hollywood-sponsored racing program shifted to the Indy Racing League this season with Brazilian Felipe Giaffone driving the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force. Giaffone, the 2001 series Rookie of the Year, has a seventh- (Homestead) and sixth-place finish (Fontana) in his first three starts this season and is currently seventh in the IRL driver points standings.

** Kanaan will join Giaffone at next month's Indianapolis 500 in a second Hollywood-sponsored Chevrolet G-Force for Mo Nunn Racing. It will be Kanaan 's first IRL and Indy 500 start.

** Veteran race engineer Iain Watt joined Mo Nunn Racing this past offseason after working with Max Papis (1999), Cristiano da Matta (2000) and Dario Franchitti (2001) while at Cal Wells' Precision Preparation team (1999-2000) and Team Green (2001) the past three seasons. Thus, Kanaan is working with a new engineer for the first time since he first came to the U.S. to race in the Indy Lights series after the 1995 season. He worked with Eric Cowdin enroute to Indy Lights Rookie of the Year (1996) and the series championship (1997) honors while at Tasman Motorsports, moved up with Cowdin and Tasman to the Champ Car ranks and was CART Rookie of the Year in 1998, then moved to Mo Nunn Racing with Cowdin after the 1999 season. Cowdin is engineering the team's IRL entry this season, and is joined by Kanaan's chief mechanic from the past two seasons, David Popielarz. Don Lambert, who joined Mo Nunn Racing last season as chief mechanic with the Pioneer-WorldCom Honda-Reynard program, will be Kanaan's new chief mechanic and is joined by a majority of the Pioneer-WorldCom crew from last season.

** In 2001, Kanaan piloted the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard to ninth place in the driver points standings. He scored points in 14 of his 19 starts last season, including eight consecutive events from Toronto through Laguna Seca, and nine of the final 10 events of the year. Season highlights included a third-place finish at Twin Ring Motegi for the team's first and his fourth career podium, and a pole qualifying effort on the 1-mile oval at Chicago. He added top-five finishes at Vancouver (fourth), Mid-Ohio (fifth) and the 500-mile season finale at Fontana (fifth). Kanaan had six top-five qualifying efforts on the year (the pole at Chicago, third at Long Beach, fourth at Motegi and Toronto, and fifth at Cleveland and Michigan). The Cleveland (fifth), Toronto (fourth), Michigan (fifth) and Chicago (pole) qualifying efforts came during consecutive events.

** In 24 career Champ Car starts on temporary street circuits, Kanaan has one pole (Long Beach 1999), one podium finish (third at Houston in 1998) and 11 top-10s. He was fourth on the streets of Vancouver and seventh here at Long Beach last season - both temporary circuits.

** Longtime race engineer Morris Nunn began his third season as team owner last month with both the CART and Indy Racing League openers. He founded Mo Nunn Racing just prior to the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series season after leaving Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, where he was technical director during consecutive series championships by Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997-98) and Juan Pablo Montoya (1999). Nunn also engineered Emerson Fittipaldi's 1989 Indianapolis 500 victory and CART championship while the two were with Patrick Racing. This year, Nunn's team will split its time between single-car entries in both CART (Tony Kanaan driving the #10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard) and the IRL (Felipe Giaffone driving the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force).


"I'm so ready to go racing, you wouldn't believe it. That month off since Monterrey was good in a sense that I'm sure everybody is itching to get back out there. I'm rested and relaxed. We tested a few weeks ago and had a little bit of a tough time, but we got a lot done. Then I went down to Brazil for a week-and-a-half over Easter and I had a great time with some old friends that I hadn't seen in 15 years. It was a reunion for Maria Imaculada Junior High School in Sao Paolo, Class of 1988. It was very nostalgic and very emotional, and it put me in just the right frame of mind to get back to work. Long Beach is one of our favorite races all year.

"There's always a lot going on, but for me, this year, it's going to be the toughest race ever off the track. It's "Honda Town," for one thing, and we do a lot for them while we're there. And it's "Pioneer Town," which is one of my new sponsors along with WorldCom. And we'll be doing a lot for them, too. Pioneer is sponsoring the concert on Saturday night by one of my favorite bands - the Goo Goo Dolls - and I will get to introduce them on stage. I have all of their records and know all of their songs, so I'm really looking forward to it. Now, back to business: I'm confident going into Long Beach. I've had a lot of success there in the past, and I'm going there this year confident that I can win the race. Unless it turns out differently than that, I'm going to keep acting like we're going to win the race. There has been a lot going on for all of us Reynard teams, but I'm not going to let it get me down. It's out of my control, so we're going out there and do our very best. I was on the pole there three years ago but crashed while I was leading. I qualified third there last year but had problems in the Sunday morning warmup that hurt us in the race, so we finished only seventh. Now, we have another year under our belt as a team and we're another year smarter and better. So, with all of that, we're feeling great and we are full of confidence."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing