CHAMPCAR/CART: Mo Nunn Racing Motegi preview

-- This weekend marks Kanaan's 59th career Champ Car start and his 20th 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 ...

-- This weekend marks Kanaan's 59th career Champ Car start and his 20th 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.

-- Earlier this month at Nazareth, Pa., Kanaan qualified 10th and worked his way into the top five early in the race, and went on to lead 64 laps before having to pit for fuel and tires late in the race, dropping back to 16th, where he finished. Kanaan did come away with the fastest lap of the race.

-- Last year here at Twin Ring Motegi, Kanaan started ninth and appeared headed for his first top-five finish for the then-first-year Mo Nunn Racing team. But his #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes-Benz Reynard expired just 12 laps from the finish. He finished sixth here during his 1998 CART Rookie of the Year season for Tasman Motorsports, and sixth again in 1999 with Forsythe Championship Group, both Honda-powered teams.

-- In 27 career starts on oval circuits, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500 at Michigan), two top-fives, and nine top-10s.

-- 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.


"Every year this is one of the really important races for Honda. All nine of us Honda drivers want to get them the win at Twin Ring Motegi. It's been a very special place for me over the years. I've run well there, in the top six every time. Last year, I didn't finish because we had an engine problem. But it's the kind of track that I like and the car tends to work well there. I love Turn 1 because it's a really fast corner, but then you come to Turn 2, which is a tight corner. It's a tricky combination and you really have to set your car up for both corners, which isn't always easy. Overall, Motegi is always an enjoyable trip, especially when you do well in the race. The fans there are awesome. They love the CART drivers ... especially the Honda drivers. It's a great place for the series to race. We had an excellent day at Nazareth until our strategy didn't quite work out. But it's always a learning experience, and we definitely are ready to bring Morris (Nunn) his first win as a CART team owner. For sure we have our stuff together this year. We've just had some bad breaks. One of these days, sooner than later, we'll put together a good, solid, smart race and celebrate at the end. I really hope that first one comes at Motegi!"

-- This weekend marks Zanardi's 55th career Champ Car start and his fourth 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.

-- Earlier this month at Nazareth, Pa., Zanardi had a rough outing in his #66 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard. He qualified 21st and saw his efforts to move up in the order go away when his car developed handling problems. He retired 49 laps from the finish with gearbox problems.

-- In his only previous outing at Twin Ring Motegi, with Target/Chip Ganassi Racing during his second of two consecutive CART championship seasons, Zanardi qualified fourth but had a brush with the outside wall midway through the race, ending his day.

-- In 24 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.

-- 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.


"We have a saying in Italy, which is 'a three always follows a two.' I guess it's the English equivalent to 'good things (or bad things) happen in threes.' Anyway, in Italian it means if you have two good things happen to you, then you will have a third one, and if you have two bad things happen to you, then it will be followed by another bad one. I thought nothing could have been worse than our first race Monterrey. But then Long Beach came and it was worse. But I was convinced from there we would do better. And sure enough, I had an even worse weekend in Nazareth. I'm really looking forward to a change of scenery in Japan, and finally righting this ship at Motegi. We're better than what we've shown so far. I'm as hungry as can be. But I'm going to try not just my best, but even better than that. We definitely have the equipment and the people and the talent to do great things. Let's just try to get our strengths working together. It's going to be a very, very important race for us with Pioneer being our title sponsor and Honda powering our car. We've got all sorts of activity going on with Pioneer at their world headquarters early in the week. And being a Honda track, this is obviously a very important race, so it would be fantastic to really be able to break through with a positive result."

-- Team owner Morris Nunn, technical director for four CART FedEx Championship Series champions (1996-99) while at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, is looking for his first points-producing finish here at Motegi. He started 15th and finished 13th with Juan Montoya last year, and started fourth but placed 23rd with Alex Zanardi in 1998.

-- Last year, Nunn guided Tony Kanaan to a ninth-place qualifying position but saw Kanaan's bid for a top-five finish end 12 laps from the end of the race when the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes-Benz Reynard expired.


"I think this will be the weekend we break through and show our mettle. Motegi is a very driver-friendly track, and we're back to using our normal wing configuration, so we'll be able to stretch our driving legs, a bit. Nazareth turned out to be a tough weekend, in large part because we didn't test there while a good many teams did. There was much less downforce there compared to years past because of the wings we had to run. Qualifying was frustrating because it rained before the session, and Alex was the first car out there. And then he developed problems during the race. His confidence is still there, from what I can tell, so that's a good thing. For Tony, it was even more frustrating at Nazareth because he had clearly one of the fastest cars on the track and the strategy didn't work out. I think we should run pretty strong at Motegi. I know everybody on both sides of the team is getting really hungry because they know what we're capable of doing. I'm looking for good things this weekend."


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