CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Mo Nunn Racing preview

Tony Kanaan ...

Tony Kanaan
#10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Lola
G.I. Joe's 200 - June 14-16, 2002 - Pre-Race Notes/Quotes
Portland (Ore.) International Raceway - 1.969-Mile Road Course
Round 6 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 G.I. Joe's 200 will be his 80th 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 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 last weekend's Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Kanaan qualified fourth and was running fourth when, on Lap 17, was penalized for a pit lane infraction. He ran over the air hose of the right-front tire-changer of Tora Takagi, who was pitted directly behind the Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda team. Kanaan was sent to the back of the field and ended up with a 12th-place finish.

** Two weekends ago, at the Miller Lite 250 near Milwaukee, 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.

** In the season's first three events, Kanaan also recorded DNFs at Monterrey, Mexico (March 10, late-race accident after early race pit stop for a new electronic control unit cost two laps), Long Beach, Calif. (April 14, mechanical failure on Lap 17 of 90) and Japan's Twin Ring Motegi (April 27, mid-race mechanical failure). He qualified sixth and was running fifth at Long Beach when forced to retire. He qualified second and was leading his 72nd lap when forced to retire on Lap 121 at Motegi. The Monterrey DNF was his first in 11 races dating back to the Michigan 500 in July, 2000.

** 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.

** Last June here at PIR, Kanaan qualified 21st and was out of the race on the opening lap after an accident that also involved, and also put out of the race, his then-teammate, Alex Zanardi. In the team's first season here in 2000, Bryan Herta sat in for an injured Kanaan in the Hollywood-sponsored, Mercedes-Benz powered entry, qualified 20th and finished 16th after an early-race fuel-filler problem.

** In his first two CART seasons, Kanaan raced here twice with Tasman Motorsports (later to be called Forsythe Championship Racing), finishing fourth enroute to series Rookie of the Year honors in 1998, and 15th during his sophomore season of 1999.

** 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 16 career starts on permanent road courses, Kanaan has one podium, three top-fives, and seven top-10s.

** 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, is Kanaan's new chief mechanic 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 IRL (Felipe Giaffone driving the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force).

** Nunn won here at PIR with Zanardi in 1996 and again in 1998, and also engineered Montoya's pole-qualifying effort and second-place finish in 1999.

** In addition to this weekend's G.I. Joe's 200 here at PIR, Mo Nunn Racing is also at Pikes Peak International Raceway near Colorado Springs campaigning Felipe Giaffone's #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force in the seventh of 15 Indy Racing League events scheduled for 2002. Giaffone finished fifth last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway and third at this year's Indy 500.

TONY KANAAN QUOTES

"I've been anxious to get back to Portland since race day last year. It was definitely a struggle for us. We qualified in the back of the pack and didn't even get through the first lap in the rain on race day. I'd have to say that it was our wake-up call at that point of the season. We did a lot of soul searching and, sure enough, we came back better and better every race after that. We really were able to bear down and get things done on the racetrack after that weekend. I guess you have to have those every once in a while. It was especially bad for me because I never got to drive here in 2000 with my broken arm (suffered in a qualifying accident at Detroit earlier that month). This year, we've shown up at the track ready to race every single weekend. The car has been great on every track. We've been strong in qualifying. It's just the nagging problems on race day that have gotten in the way of a good result. We're learning more and more about our Lola every session. I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent comfortable, yet, but we're getting really close. A good result this weekend should do the trick!"

-mnr-

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