CHAMPCAR/CART: Mo Nunn Racing Long Beach preview

TONY KANAAN -- ...

TONY KANAAN -- #55 HOLLYWOOD/MO NUNN RACING HONDA-REYNARD

**This weekend marks Kanaan's 57th career Champ Car start and his 18th 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 26 top-10s.

**Kanaan started 15th and placed 16th here last year in the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes-Benz Reynard after contact with Kenny Brack ended his day on Lap 54 of 82 scheduled laps while both were trying to work their way into the top-five.

**In 1999, Kanaan's last visit here driving a Honda-powered entry (that of Forsythe Championship Group), Kanaan secured his first and only career pole to date. He led 44 laps, and was leading when he made heavy contact with the tire barriers on Lap 46, ending his day. He placed 22nd.

**That pole position at Long Beach in 1999 earned Kanaan 18 wristwatches in a bet he made with his team prior to qualifying. Kanaan is an avid collector of wristwatches. Having had a career-best qualifying result of third (twice in his CART Rookie of the Year season of 1998: at Rio de Janeiro and Madison, Ill.) prior to that weekend, Kanaan felt his first career pole was imminent. So he told his Forsythe Championship Group teammates he buy them each a new watch if he didn't. But if he got the pole, Kanaan told his teammates, they would each have to give him the watch off their wrist. He won the pole, and his watch collection grew by 18.

**The 1998 Long Beach event proved to be a momentous one for Kanaan, as well. It was only his third career Champ Car race. But he performed like a veteran, starting 13th and working his way up the order for a fifth-place finish. That was also under Honda power in the Tasman Motorsports Group entry.

**In 18 career starts on temporary street courses, Kanaan has one pole (Long Beach 1999), one podium finish (Houston 1998), seven top-fives, and 10 top-10s.

**At last month's season-opening event in Monterrey, Mexico, Kanaan started 12th and finished seventh, the highest finish yet for second-year Mo Nunn Racing.

TONY KANAAN on Long Beach:

"Long Beach is definitely my type of racetrack. If you look at my record there, it should be a surprise to no one that I really like the place. This year, I definitely have some unfinished business to take care of. The corner I crashed in while leading the race in 1999 isn't there anymore, so the track is much easier. I'm really excited. It's our first street course of the year. I'm back with Honda, and they've won the last five races in a row at Long Beach. I would very much like to make it six in a row, which is my favorite number.

"Actually, race day is going to be a very special day for me. It will be the 13th anniversary of the day my dad passed away. I won a go-kart race in Sao Paolo that day, and even though he was in the hospital that day, my dad really wanted me to be out there racing, and to stick with it. So I'd really like to make him proud one more time this weekend.

"I'm really pleased with where we are as a team. The first race, it was a matter of making the most of our opportunities, making the most of the cards that were dealt to us. Between me and Alex -- even though Alex had a tough weekend in Mexico -- people will see us both running pretty close together. Alex has been a plus to the team, especially to me. He's pushing me, giving me good information, and I'm learning a lot from his experience. He's obviously a very good race car driver. He's proven that before. I just need to work hard, and learn as much as I can from him. The important thing is to work as a team. As long as I know I'm giving 100%, after that, it's all luck and other things that are out of my control.

"The last month has gone by pretty quickly because I've kept pretty busy. I did two weeks of very, very intense workouts in Miami with my trainer from Brazil. One week I biked 400 miles, trying to build up my endurance. That was very tough. Then I went to Cristiano's (da Matta's) house in Brazil and spent a weekend in the mountains relaxing and mountain biking. We went out and celebrated Cristiano's win (in Monterrey). Everybody down there in his hometown knows the little guy. I also took the time to order my new bicycle, which I won in a bet from Cristiano (the bet was the first one between them to win a race this season would buy the other the bike of his choice). Me and my sponsor Hollywood also did some p.r. work to try and keep the momentum going down there even though our race in Rio (originally scheduled for March 25) was cancelled.

"I've been working hard to be fit for Long Beach. As far as my end of things, I'll be 100% when I get there, physically and mentally. We have a strong team. We have strong equipment. It will make all the difference in the world to be in the fast group for qualifying. As long as we all do our jobs, I think we'll do very well this weekend."

ALEX ZANARDI -- #66 PIONEER-WORLDCOM/MO NUNN RACING HONDA-REYNARD

**This weekend marks Zanardi's 53rd career Champ Car start and his second 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. It also marks his fourth visit to Long Beach.

**He won has last two starts here, scoring his first victories of both the 1997 and 1998 seasons, both of which propelled him to the series championship for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing.

**Zanardi has won five of his last seven starts on temporary street courses, all during the 1998 season. The wins came at Long Beach, Detroit, Cleveland and Toronto on consecutive attempts, and at Australia. Overall, he has a phenomenal record on temporary street tracks: seven wins, 11 podiums and 14 top-fives in 19 career starts.

**In his Mo Nunn Racing debut last month (his first Champ Car start in 29months), Zanardi qualified 22nd and placed 24th during a frustrating weekend. He made contact while overtaking another car while working his way into the top 10 and broke suspension pieces that put him out of the race on Lap 40 of 78 laps completed that day.

ALEX ZANARDI on Lon Beach:

"Long Beach is certainly a very, very special event. It's probably the most important race on our calendar. It's a race where everybody likes to go because it's in Southern California, it's a fantastic environment, there are great people, a lot of racing fans. You can literally breathe that atmosphere because you know the whole city comes alive for the weekend. So it's great for a driver to be one of the stars and to be cheered so much. Sure, you have to have a little ego to do this sort of profession, and it really gets fed at Long Beach!

"As a street circuit, Long Beach is difficult and challenging, but everybody likes to do well. To see so many people on Sunday afternoon in the stands is an extra motivation to do well. Long Beach is a place in my previous experiences where I have done well. My good seasons always kicked off in Long Beach. Like 1997, I won the race and I went on to win the championship. Same thing in 1998. It was my first win both of those years. So, I'm hoping I can maybe do the same thing this year. Hey, everybody can dream! The race in 1998 was one of the most exciting races of my life. I came around the hairpin with only a few laps to go to catch Bryan Herta, and I could hear everybody was cheering for me. They always tend to cheer for whoever is coming from behind. That day, it was clear to me I would be the hero of the day if I was going to get Bryan. I went by with three laps to go. I actually was thinking to myself in the race car 'how can it be that I can hear people cheering? That can't be happening.' But the next time we came around, the cheering was even louder and I realized it really was the crowd I was hearing. That was a very special day.

"Hopefully qualifying in the slow group again this weekend will not be such a disadvantage as it was in Mexico when, in reality, it was almost like a race in the rain where whoever is running up front has a huge advantage. Long Beach will be much different. I've been in the slow group before and still had a good race. Paul Tracy won from pretty far back last year. Qualifying is just part of the race weekend at Long Beach. I'm not going to Long Beach thinking how I can overcome that, like at Mexico. But even Mexico would have been a good day if -- I hate to repeat this -- if I wouldn't have spun trying to pass Michael. I could've gotten a good result there. I was in 10th place at the time and there were four cars in front of me that hadn't pitted, yet. We could have been looking at a podium finish. But that is history. This is Long Beach. Never say never. Never say beaten.

"I'm very excited about the weekend, especially getting my first chance to race in the home town of one of my new sponsors, Pioneer, and of course for WorldCom and Honda. Pioneer is headquartered in Long Beach and they're bringing out all their employees and VIPs, so it'd be tremendous if we can get a good result at their home race. Honda's pulling out all the stops, too, so it'd be great for me to get my third win for them here in front of all their people!"

MORRIS NUNN -- TEAM OWNER

**Team owner Morris Nunn, technical director during four consecutive CART series championships at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing from 1996-99, had a four-race winning streak here at Long Beach those years (Jimmy Vasser in 1996, Alex Zanardi in 1997 and 1998, and Juan Montoya in 1999).

**Nunn announced earlier this week that he and his wife Kathryn are moving from their current residence in Florida to Indianapolis to take on an even more hands-on, day-to-day role with the team. It was part of a reorganizational announcement that also featured news that former Mercedes-Benz USA sports marketing head Steve Potter had joined Mo Nunn Racing as its Managing Director, Commerce and he was relocating to Indianapolis from the New York City area.

MORRIS NUNN:

"On Tony's side, we're looking good. Tony should be very competitive. We've done a few more modifications to the cars. A few more 'go-faster' tweaks. We should have a productive day on Friday. We've got some more stuff to try. Under the existing rules, he gets to qualify Saturday in the late session. I think he'll be very competitive. We have high hopes there. With Alex, again we're in the 'slow' session. That's going to be difficult. We've done some more modifications with the car for Alex. More stuff to try on Friday. He seems to be very positive. We've been in touch almost every other day since Mexico, working on all the stuff he wants to do. Long Beach is a great event. I like the place. It's a good race on our calendar. There are lots of spectators every day, lots of enthusiasm. The hotels are close. The restaurants are good, and close. It's one race I really look forward to going to. The racetrack, it's quite bumpy, but it's a neat track."

-MNR

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Bryan Herta , Morris Nunn , Chip Ganassi , Mo Nunn
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing