CHAMPCAR/CART: Michigan Tasman Motorsports Preview

Michigan Madness To this day, Tony Kanaan still cites the 1996 Indy Lights race at Michigan Speedway as one of his all-time favorite events. One would automatically assume that a win or podium finish prefaced his statement, but that was not the...

Michigan Madness

To this day, Tony Kanaan still cites the 1996 Indy Lights race at Michigan Speedway as one of his all-time favorite events. One would automatically assume that a win or podium finish prefaced his statement, but that was not the case. Kanaan retired six laps from the end of the 100-mile race with an electrical problem. He had been vying with 1996 Indy Lights champion David Empringham when his car lost power.

"For me, I felt like I won that race," said Kanaan. "Steve (Horne) was on the radio telling me to be patient and hang back until the white flag came out before I made a pass for the lead. Unfortunately, we didn't make it that far. My car was so good. I was able to run where I wanted on the track."

To say that Kanaan is looking forward to his Champ Car debut on the two-mile superspeedway would be an understatement, particularly given the team's success there the last three years. (Tasman has led a total of 236 laps at Michigan Speedway, and has led laps in every race contested there dating back to its first appearance in 1995.)

"I am approaching Michigan like a video game," said Kanaan. "You know those racing games where you can pick the team, driver and equipment package? I am going to be Steve's (Horne) 'player' and just follow his instructions."

Too Close For Comfort

Cristiano da Matta is a man on a mission -- a points mission that is. The current PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship leader has watched his lead dwindle from 35 to ten points following a string of misfortunes in the last three events. Da Matta was collected in a first lap incident in Portland, had a mechanical failure at Cleveland and was involved in another first lap incident at Toronto this past weekend.

Both da Matta and teammate Airton Dare, currently ranked fifth, will make their Michigan debut this weekend when the Indy Lights cars return after a one-year hiatus.

"It's been a frustrating few weeks," said da Matta. "Hopefully we have used up all of our bad luck."

Tools Of The Trade

Most people are not aware that Champ Car mechanics are responsible for purchasing the tools necessary to practice their trade. At Tasman Motorsports, new mechanics are given a list of tools required for their position, be it a chief mechanic, #1, #2 or #3 mechanic. This specialized tool list includes items ranging from $5 to $250, making the average mechanic's toolbox worth about $2500.

"The tools that a mechanic needs to work on a airplane and a Champ Car are the same," explained Champ Car team manager Jeff Eischen. "Many of the pieces of hardware, hydraulic fittings, fasteners, etc. come directly from the aircraft industry, and the same attention to detail is required."

Winging It

The new Handford rear wing represents a major change in the aerodynamic package for Michigan Speedway, challenging both drivers and engineers this weekend.

"The new rear wing has a dramatic effect," explained engineer Diane Holl. "It reduces the level of downforce and increases the drag. The speeds, including cornering speeds, will be reduced and the car will have significantly more turbulence behind it which the drivers will have to deal with once they get in traffic."

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Airton Daré , Tony Kanaan , David Empringham , Cristiano da Matta