CHAMPCAR/CART: Mont?rr?y: Mo Nunn Racing preview

TONY KANAAN ...

TONY KANAAN
#10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard

Tony Kanaan begins his fifth CART FedEx Championship Series season and his third with Mo Nunn Racing with this weekend's Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey. In his Champ Car career, Kanaan has 75 starts, 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 takes over Mo Nunn Racing's #10 Pioneer- and WorldCom-sponsored Honda-powered Reynard this season. Last season, two-time series champion Alex Zanardi piloted the entry, then #66, until he suffered devastating leg injuries in a racing accident in Germany last September.

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), has 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, opened the 2002 IRL season last weekend with a seventh-place finish at Homestead, Fla.

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 the inaugural Grand Prix of Monterrey here last year, Kanaan consistently ran in the top four during practice. But CART qualifying rules last season had drivers grouped according to points standings. Kanaan was 19th in the points after the team's first-ever CART season. He easily was fastest among the "slow" group qualifiers, but on a brand new track surface that got better every lap, he ended up just 10th on the grid after the "fast" group was finished. On race day, it proved to be a treacherous track to pass on, but Kanaan had a strong run from beginning to end for a seventh-place finish.

In 23 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 on the streets of Long Beach last season - both temporary circuits.

Longtime race engineer Morris Nunn began his third season as team owner last weekend at the Indy Racing League opener at Homestead. 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).

Tony Kanaan
"Last year, I won a really nice bicycle at Monterrey in a running bet we had with Cristiano all last season. The winner of a race would have to buy the other guy a bike, and Cristiano went out and won the race down there. This year, I don't want a bike. I want the first-place trophy. I'm really looking forward to starting the season. We worked really, really hard in testing. Now, I'm ready to go to work so we can start earning points for all of our hard work. It's bound to pay off. We made good progress in every area, from our Honda engine program to our new Reynard chassis and our new Bridgestone tires. We'll get to put it all together at Monterrey on one of the most interesting race courses we go to all year. It was a little difficult because grip was a real problem all weekend long. I had to qualify with the slow group last year because they broke us into groups based on points from the previous season. So even though we ran in the top four or five in all the practice sessions, we had to start 10th, and the best we could do was to finish seventh. It was really difficult to pass. Hopefully, this being our second year on the racetrack, all of that will improve. We're all going to have a fair shot at the pole with the new qualifying rules. Otherwise, it's a great place to race. The people down there really fell in love with us. The atmosphere was electric on the grid on Sunday. I remember getting goosebumps. I'm ready!"

Morris Nunn
"Well, we begin our third CART season and it will be, by far, the most interesting one, yet. We took our Hollywood program over to the IRL because that's what the sponsor decided is best for them, and we're back down to a one-car team on the CART side. Believe me, there is a lot more juggling than you can imagine with one car each in two different racing series. It's a lot different, as you can imagine, than running two cars in the same series. In a way, it's probably a natural part of the evolution of this racing team. We grew to a two-car team last year and put solid people in place on both sides of our operation. We added some new faces here and there, but the core of the team remains. We had a very productive winter of testing. So we're as ready as we will ever be. Tony has done particularly well on the test track, and he and Iain (Watt) are working better and better together every day, as he is with his entire crew from last year's Pioneer-WorldCom car. This racetrack was particularly tricky a year ago, and we suspect it will be the same again this year. But with new qualifying rules, we'll have a fair shot and starting up front and, hopefully, staying up front."

-mnr-

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