CHAMPCAR/CART: Montreal: Mo Nunn Racing preview

Tony Kanaan is in his fifth CART FedEx Championship Series season and his third with Mo Nunn Racing. This weekend's inaugural Molson Indy Montreal will be his 87th career Champ Car start. To date, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500), two poles ...

Tony Kanaan is in his fifth CART FedEx Championship Series season and his third with Mo Nunn Racing. This weekend's inaugural Molson Indy Montreal will be his 87th career Champ Car start. To date, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500), two poles (1999 at Long Beach, 2001 at Chicago), five podium finishes, 13 top-fives, and 42 top-10s.

Kanaan took over Mo Nunn Racing's #10 Pioneer- and WorldCom-sponsored CART entry this season after driving the third-year team's Hollywood-sponsored car in 2000 (Mercedes-Benz Reynard) and 2001 (Honda-powered Reynard).

At The Grand Prix of Road America last weekend, Kanaan made a remarkable charge to a fourth-place finish from the 18th and final spot on the starting grid. He failed to record a qualifying time as a practice accident on Friday and mechanical trouble with the back-up car on both Friday and Saturday set the team back. It was Kanaan's second top-four finish in the last three events.

The fourth-place finish at Road America last weekend vaulted Kanaan to 13th in the current driver points standings with 43.

Last weekend's performance at Road America earned Kanaan and the team the $3,000 Motorola Call of the Race Award, which will be presented during pre-race ceremonies this weekend.

Two weekends ago at Mid-Ohio, Kanaan was headed for what appeared to be a sure podium finish when, while running third to eventual race-winner Patrick Carpentier and runner-up Christian Fittipaldi, he was forced to retire with a mechanical failure just 14 laps from the end of the 92-lap race.

The team and Kanaan's latest podium finish came last month at the Molson Indy Vancouver, where the 27-year-old Brazilian started sixth, grabbed one spot by the very first turn of the race, and ran with the leaders the rest of the way. It was the team's second Champ Car podium and the fifth of Kanaan's career.

The third-place finish at Vancouver on July 28 was the team's top finish of the 2002 season. After a disappointing string of DNFs at the first four events (Monterrey, Long Beach, Twin Ring Motegi and Milwaukee), Kanaan scored his first points of the season with a 12th-place finish at Laguna Seca. He followed that with eighth-place finishes at three of the next four races (Portland, Chicago and Cleveland) before the podium result at Vancouver.

At the Milwaukee event the first weekend of June, Kanaan debuted a Lola chassis as the team made the switch from Reynard for the first time in its two-plus years of existence. He qualified eighth after running as high as third following Saturday-morning practice. In Sunday's race, Kanaan moved from eighth to fourth on the very first lap, and was running third when, on Lap 92, he was forced to retire from the 250-lap event with an oil leak.

Kanaan's most promising performance this season came at Japan's Twin Ring Motegi, where he qualified second, led a race-high 72 laps, and recorded the fastest lap of the race before retiring with a mechanical failure on Lap 121of a scheduled 201 laps.

On Memorial Day weekend, Kanaan competed in his first-ever Indianapolis 500, joining Mo Nunn Racing's full-time Indy Racing League driver Felipe Giaffone in a second Hollywood-sponsored team car. Kanaan qualified fifth in the #17 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force entry - the fastest rookie qualifier in the 33-car field - and dominated the early stages of the race, leading 23 laps in all before an ill-fated accident while running first on Lap 89. Kanaan spun in the oil of fellow CART regular Bruno Junqueira, who suffered a mechanical failure in Turn 3, and made heavy contact with the outside wall. Kanaan was unhurt, but saw a promising day come to an end. He clocked the third-fastest race lap. Giaffone, meanwhile, went on to finish third in the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force.

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 the pole qualifying effort on the 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 19 career Champ Car starts on permanent road courses, Kanaan has one podium finish, four top-fives, and nine top-10s.

Veteran race engineer Iain Watt joined Mo Nunn Racing this season after working with Max Papis (1997-98), Cristiano da Matta (1999-2000) and Dario Franchitti (2001) while at Cal Wells' Precision Preparation team (1997-2000) and Team Green (2001) the previous five 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. Don Lambert, who joined Mo Nunn Racing last season as chief mechanic with the Pioneer-WorldCom Honda-Reynard program, is Kanaan's chief mechanic this season and is joined by a majority of the Pioneer-WorldCom crew from last season.

Longtime race engineer Morris Nunn is in his third season as CART FedEx Championship Series team owner and his first in the Indy Racing League. He founded Mo Nunn Racing just prior to the 2000 CART 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 is splitting its time between single-car entries in both CART (Tony Kanaan driving the #10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Lola) and the Indy Racing League (Felipe Giaffone driving the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force). Giaffone earned the team's first-ever victory two weekends ago at Kentucky Speedway and is currently fourth in the IRL points standings, just 17 points behind leader and defending series champion Sam Hornish, Jr., with three events to go. The IRL is at Gateway International Raceway outside St. Louis this weekend.

TONY KANAAN QUOTES

"I've been looking forward to this race since I first saw it on the schedule. It will be my first time racing on the circuit, which will be really exciting because I've been there to see Formula One races and always wanted to try it for myself. Even though it's a first-time CART event, you can bet that it's going to be an exciting weekend if it's anything like the other races we do in Canada at Toronto and Vancouver. The Canadians really love to come out and see us and make the race a happening. It's always fun, no matter what happens on the racetrack. We got a big shot in the arm with our result on Sunday. It wasn't a win, but it sure felt like one because we started dead last. Things were going so bad on Friday and Saturday, and even in the warm-up on Sunday morning. Suddenly, everything kicked into gear for the race and it was like magic. We stayed in sequence, for the most part, and made up 14 places on the racetrack. That really tells you I had a good car. Hopefully, we can go without all the heartache on Friday and Saturday this weekend and get to the podium. The top spot would sure be nice. It's coming."

-mnr-

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