CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi: Mo Nunn Racing preview

Tony Kanaan ...

Tony Kanaan
#10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard
Bridgestone Potenza 500 - April 25-27, 2002
Twin Ring Motegi - 1.5-Mile Oval
Round 3 of 20 on the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series

**Tony Kanaan is in his fifth CART FedEx Championship Series season and his third with Mo Nunn Racing. This weekend's Grand Prix of Long Beach is his 77th career Champ Car start. To date, Kanaan has 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 took over Mo Nunn Racing's #10 Pioneer- and WorldCom-sponsored Honda-powered Reynard at this year's season opener March 10 at Monterrey, Mexico. Last season, two-time series champion Alex Zanardi piloted the team 's Pioneer-WorldCom entry, then #66, until he suffered devastating leg injuries in a racing accident in Germany last September.

**Two weekends ago on the streets of Long Beach, California, Kanaan qualified sixth and was running fifth when a mechanical problem forced him out of the race just 17 laps into the 90-lap event. It was the second consecutive race in which problems plagued the 27-year-old Brazilian. At the Monterrey season opener, he qualified 13th and was running ninth just eight laps into the race when he was forced to pit with electrical problems and lost two laps while the team replaced the electronic control unit ("black box"). That was Kanaan's first DNF in 11 races dating back to the Michigan 500 in July, 2000.

**Last year here at Motegi, Long Beach, Kanaan had his best weekend of the 2001 season. In his 20th start for his then-second-year team, Kanaan qualified fourth, led 40 laps, and brought home Mo Nunn Racing's first-ever podium finish with a third-place effort. It was his fourth career podium finish. It was the 24th CART start for Mo Nunn Racing, which first opened its doors prior to the 2000 season. In the second team car last year, Alex Zanardi started eighth and also was making a podium bid until he ran out of fuel on course late in the race and salvaged a seventh-place finish.

**In his Mo Nunn Racing debut here in 2000, Kanaan and the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes-Benz Reynard qualified ninth and was running seventh when a mechanical problem ended his day in the closing laps. He placed 16th.

**Prior to joining Mo Nunn Racing, Kanaan race here twice with Tasman Motorsports (later to be called Forsythe Championship Racing), finishing sixth with the team in both his CART Rookie of the Year season in 1998 and in 2000.

**After this weekend, Kanaan heads to Indianapolis to compete in his first Indy 500, joining fellow Brazilian Felipe Giaffone in a second Mo Nunn Racing Hollywood-sponsored Chevrolet G-Force. Giaffone, the 2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year, drives the team's full-time IRL entry for the first time this year. He placed second at Nazareth this past weekend, and also has a seventh-place finish at Homestead and a sixth-place finish at Fontana. Giaffone is currently fourth in the IRL driver points. Kanaan and Giaffone spent a day shaking down a brand new race car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 15, the day after the CART Long Beach event.

**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 34 career starts on oval circuits, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500 at Michigan), four top-fives, and 14 top-10s. In his last oval event, last year's season finale at California Speedway in Fontana, he qualified 14th but charged to the front and stayed there for most of the race, only to have his bid ruined by a caution period in the closing laps. He finished fifth. Kanaan started from the pole on the mile oval in Chicago last July and went on to finish eighth in that event. Kanaan also was fastest in every practice session at September oval events in Germany and England, but both races were gridded according to championship points due to rainy conditions during qualifying. Last May, Kanaan qualified fourth here at Motegi, led 40 laps, and went on to finish third for his fourth career and the team's first podium. Last July, Kanaan qualified fifth at Michigan, but then was forced to retire with an alternator failure.

**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. 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.

**Longtime race engineer Morris Nunn began his third season as team owner last month with both the CART and Indy Racing League openers. 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).


"Motegi looks very promising for us. It was our best race last year. We got our first podium finish for Mo Nunn Racing. Now, it's time to go one better. I come there with a new set of sponsors - Pioneer and WorldCom. And just like at Long Beach, I'm going to be busy doing stuff for Pioneer and Honda in the days leading up to the race. It's very exciting. I have friends in Japan that I get to see this time every year. I'm going to get to meet the executives and employees of Pioneer in Japan. And we always have a nice time with the people from Honda over there. Hopefully, after all of that is done, we will be able to go out and finish the race, because you need to do that before you can post any kind of a good result. We've had two DNFs in a row, which is very, very disappointing. But, thank goodness, we have a lot of racing left this season and there's no better way to get back into the points race than with a win. I like the track very much. We had a great setup there last year, and a great race. The ovals seemed to be our strength last year, and I think we can expect the same this year. I love the track at Motegi. It's a wonderful facility, and the fans there really know the CART drivers and teams. I hope Race #3 is a charm for us. It'll be our third race of the season, and our third trip to Motegi with Mo Nunn Racing."


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