CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto: 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 Molson Indy Toronto will be his 82nd career Champ Car start. To date, Kanaan has one win (1999 U.S. 500), two poles (1999 at Long...

Tony Kanaan is in his fifth CART FedEx Championship Series season and his third with Mo Nunn Racing. This weekend's Molson Indy Toronto will be his 82nd 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 40 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).

Last July here at Exhibition Place, Kanaan qualified fourth and worked his way into the lead with 30 laps remaining when he made what was supposed to be his final stop of the race for tires and fuel. Not enough fuel made it into the car on that stop, under yellow, so he pitted one lap later, again under yellow, for more fuel. That dropped him back to 11th. He worked his way up to eighth in the closing laps, but lost two more spots when he ran out of fuel on course in the final lap.

Kanaan's teammate last year, Alex Zanardi, had his best run of the season in the #66 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard with a fourth-place finish. Zanardi, consequently, is making his first appearance at a CART event here this weekend since he suffered devastating leg injuries in an accident at Lausitz, Germany, last September 15.

At last weekend's CART Grand Prix of Chicago, Kanaan qualified fourth and finished eighth despite a problem with the car's on-board air jack system on his third and final pit stop late in the race. He also finished eighth after qualifying 14th at the G.I. Joe's 200 three weekends ago at Portland, Ore., and 12th after qualifying fourth at the Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway.

The first weekend of June, 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 an 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.

Kanaan qualified seventh in his first two Molson Indy Toronto events, with Tasman Motorsports (later to be called Forsythe Championship Racing) in 1998 and 1999. He placed 22nd during his CART Rookie of the Year season of 1998, and 17th in 1999.

He missed his first opportunity to drive here during Mo Nunn Racing's inaugural 2000 season as he was sidelined with an injury for the fourth race in a row and was replaced by Bryan Herta in the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes-Benz Reynard. Herta qualified 18th and placed 18th after an early race mechanical failure.

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 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 25 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.

Veteran race engineer Iain Watt joined Mo Nunn Racing this season 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 engineered Zanardi's 1998 victory here at Toronto after the two-time champion finished second both in 1996 and 1997 while the two were at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing.

In addition to this weekend's Molson Indy Toronto, Mo Nunn Racing is also at Kansas Speedway campaigning Felipe Giaffone's #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force in the ninth of 15 Indy Racing League events scheduled for 2002. Giaffone finished third last weekend at Richmond to extend his streak of top-five finishes to five races. Giaffone was second at Nazareth in April, third at the Indy 500 on Memorial Day Weekend, fifth at Texas, and fourth at Pikes Peak.


"It's another race weekend and we just going to keep trying. Obviously, it' s not been a very good season, so far. We have to get our act together, our whole team, everybody. Toronto is a place where I did pretty well last year. I had a little misfortune during the race, but we had a good car. Alex (Zanardi, last year's teammate) did really well, too. He finished fourth, and if it wasn't for my misfortune, we both could have been in the top five. I'm looking forward to the weekend in a big way. Obviously it's a special weekend with Alex being there. I asked him to bring us some luck. If it turns out that we win or something, then we'll have to bring him back every race. It will be so good to see him. We'll definitely have a few surprises for him."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , ART Grand Prix