INDIANAPOLIS (April 1, 2002) - CART FedEx Championship Series veteran Tony Kanaan will join 2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone in a two-car Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing entry at this year's 86th running of the Indianapolis ...
INDIANAPOLIS (April 1, 2002) - CART FedEx Championship Series veteran Tony Kanaan will join 2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone in a two-car Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing entry at this year's 86th running of the Indianapolis 500.
It will be the first-ever appearance at the legendary Brickyard for Kanaan, the 27-year-old Brazilian in his third season with Mo Nunn Racing and his fifth on the CART circuit. Giaffone, also a 27-year-old Brazilian, started 33rd and finished 10th in his first Indy 500 in 2001 enroute to earning top rookie honors for the season driving for Treadway/Hubbard Racing with Hollywood sponsorship. Kanaan and Giaffone will pilot identical Hollywood-sponsored Chevrolet G-Force Indy cars, with associate sponsorship provided by Mo Nunn Racing IRL and CART partner WorldCom on both Indy 500 entries.
"This is truly exciting from an owner's standpoint, taking our own team to the greatest event in all of motorsports for the very first time," said longtime open-wheel racing engineer Morris Nunn, who founded his own Indianapolis-based team in December of 1999. "Thanks to Hollywood, our charter sponsor, we have assembled a very solid, two-car entry that has every reason in the world to run for the race win. Felipe is well into his second IRL season and has proven to be a very steady driver who's almost always there at the finish. And even though this is Tony's first time here, he's proven to be a very quick study and is a fierce competitor. He certainly wouldn't be the first driver in recent years to pull out a top finish here in his first attempt. We can't wait for the month of May to get started."
Nunn is no stranger to the Indy 500. He engineered Emerson Fittipaldi's 1989 victory here and CART championship while with Patrick Racing. In his 12 appearances at the Brickyard, Nunn as worked with a long list of notable drivers that also includes Roberto Guerrero (1984, '85, '87 and '90), Mario Andretti (1986), Arie Luyendyk (1991 and '93), Eddie Cheever (1992), Raul Boesel and Michael Andretti (1994). Guerrero finished second and third here in 1984 and 1985, respectively while he and Nunn were at Bignotti-Carter Racing. Luyendyk finished third here in 1991 (Vince Granatelli Racing) and finished second from the pole in 1993 (Ganassi Racing). Cheever and Boesel also started second in the Indy 500 during their terms with Nunn, Cheever going on to finish fourth in the 1992 race here. Nunn's last Indy 500 was in 1995, when he guided Bryan Herta to a 13th-place finish from the 33rd starting position while both were at Ganassi Racing. Nunn then went on a storied, four-year run while technical director at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, during which Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997 and 1998) and Juan Montoya (1999) all won CART titles.
Kanaan, the 1997 Indy Lights series champion and 1998 CART Rookie of the Year, made his 75th career Champ Car start in the 2002 CART season opener at Monterrey, Mexico last month, driving the #10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard. During his four-plus seasons on the Champ Car circuit, Kanaan has the 1999 U.S. 500 victory to his credit, as well as two pole qualifying efforts (1999 at Long Beach, 2001 at Chicago), four podium finishes in all, 11 top-fives, and 38 top-10s.
"I'm really thankful that Morris and Hollywood have given me this opportunity," said Kanaan, whose Mo Nunn Racing Champ Car effort was sponsored by Hollywood in 2000 and 2001. "I owe them a lot of things since I joined the team. I still owe them a victory. I can't think of a better place to do that than my first Indy 500. It's a race I've had my eye on since I was born. I only went to the Speedway for the first time at last year's Formula 1 race, and right then I knew I would do anything to be able to race there. It's very special. It's going to be my first time racing there, which a lot of people say is going to make it difficult. But, hey, if I can pull off a Montoya (2000 winner) or a Helio (Castroneves, 2001 winner), that would make it three winners in a row by Indy 500 rookies. So we have that going for us!"
With a new team this season, Giaffone is also encouraged by his chances for a solid finish at this year's event. In his first three starts with Mo Nunn Racing in 2002, he has a seventh-place finish at the IRL season opener at Homestead and a sixth place at the 400-miler at California Speedway two weekends ago. He stands seventh in the driver points standings thus far.
"Hollywood has been so good to me over the years, and now I get to race with Mo Nunn, an engineer who really has a passion for the Indy 500 and who really knows how to get a car set up right for the Speedway," Giaffone said. "I have a year of IRL and Indy 500 experience under my belt, and we have a very strong and talented group of people on this two-car effort. It will be great to have a teammate to make our work during the month of May more efficient. I can't wait to go to work."
"This is very exciting for everyone at Hollywood," said Sacha Ruffier, sponsorship manager for the Hollywood brand of Rio de Janeiro-based tobacco company Souza Cruz, which was a CART series sponsor for nine years before shifting its attention exclusively to the IRL this season. "Last year, we just got our feet wet for the first time in the IRL at Indy and Felipe had a very strong finish. This year, we are going for the win with a very strong, good-looking two-car team with two top Brazilian drivers. It doesn't get much better than that, unless, of course, one of them is drinking milk on May 26!"
Indy 500 practice begins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 5, with Pole Qualifying set for Saturday, May 11. Qualifying resumes Sunday, May 12, with the traditional Bump Day of final qualifying on Saturday, May 18. Final practice, or "Carburetion Day," will be Thursday, May 23. Race day is Sunday, May 26.
The current Indy Racing League schedule for Giaffone's #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force team has one more race prior to the Indy 500 - April 21 at Nazareth, Pa. Kanaan's #10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard team has two CART FedEx Championship Series events remaining prior to the Indy 500 - April 14 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif., and April 27 at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan.