IRL: Michigan: Mo Nunn Racing preview

** Felipe Giaffone is making his 24th career Indy Racing League start and his 11th with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing with Sunday's inaugural Michigan Indy 400 at Michigan Speedway. ** The 27-year-old Brazilian open-wheel driving veteran finished ...

** Felipe Giaffone is making his 24th career Indy Racing League start and his 11th with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing with Sunday's inaugural Michigan Indy 400 at Michigan Speedway.

** The 27-year-old Brazilian open-wheel driving veteran finished seventh at last weekend's Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway after starting eighth.

** Prior to Saturday night's race at Nashville, Giaffone rode a streak of seven consecutive top-six finishes that included sixth place at California Speedway in March, second at Nazareth in April, third at the Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend, fifth at Texas, fourth at Pikes Peak and third at Richmond in June, and fourth at Kansas earlier this month.

** Giaffone was seventh in the season opener and his Mo Nunn Racing debut at Homestead in early March before recording his only DNF of the season at Phoenix.

** Giaffone still occupies fourth place in the current driver points standings with 295 after the Nashville event. Teammates Gil de Ferran (347) and Helio Castroneves (337) are first and second in the standings, followed by defending series champion Sam Hornish, Jr., in third (333).

** After the first 10 events of the season, Giaffone is closing in on the million-dollar mark in earnings for the season at $983,815. That's second only to Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who leads all drivers with more than $2.18 million in earnings this season.

** Giaffone, the 2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year, had 10 top-10 finishes and three top-fives with Treadway/Hubbard Racing last season, including a season-best finish of second at Texas Motor Speedway in June.

** At the 86th Indy 500 on May 26, Giaffone made a valiant bid for his first career IRL victory. He started fourth, led for 11 laps in all, and was running second when he made a late-race bid to overtake then-leader and eventual race-winner Castroneves, only to be held up by a slower car and dropped back to third.

** For the first and only time this season, Giaffone ran with a teammate at Indy. CART series regular Tony Kanaan drove a second team car, the #17 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force, and appeared headed to a victory himself. Kanaan started fifth (the fastest rookie qualifier in the 33-car field), alongside Giaffone on the second row, and led 23 laps before crashing while leading after spinning in the oil of fellow CART regular Bruno Junqueira.

** During his Indy Lights career, prior to joining the IRL in 2001, Giaffone enjoyed a four-season run in the Indy Lights championship, a run that included a 2000 victory from the pole here at Michigan. He was fourth in Indy Lights driver points in 1998 and 2000, and sixth in 1999 driving for Conquest racing.

** This is Mo Nunn Racing's inaugural Indy Racing League season after spending the first two years of its existence exclusively in CART with Kanaan (2000-2001) and Alex Zanardi (2001). In addition to Giaffone and the Hollywood car in the IRL, Mo Nunn Racing in 2002 is also campaigning Kanaan' s #10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Lola in the CART series, Kanaan' s fifth Champ Car season and third with Mo Nunn Racing. Kanaan and the CART FedEx Championship Series are racing in Vancouver, B.C., Canada this weekend.

** Giaffone's driving coach in 1999 was Brazilian three-time Formula 1 champion Nelson Piquet.

** Giaffone began racing go-karts in Brazil at age 12. His father, Jose, was a longtime Brazilian stock car racer. Giaffone's brother, Jose, and cousin Affonso, also raced in Indy Lights.

** Also new for Giaffone this season: the 2002 season is his first as a married man. He married his longtime girlfriend "Alice" on Jan. 15 in Brazil. As the story goes, Giaffone won the favor of his new bride back in 1994 singing karaoke.

** Engineering Giaffone's #21 Hollywood Chevrolet this season is Eric Cowdin, who moved to Mo Nunn Racing's IRL program after engineering Kanaan in the CART series during the team's first two seasons. Cowdin, in fact, engineered Kanaan's entries dating back to the 1996 and 1997 Dayton Indy Lights Rookie of the Year and series championship seasons, respectively, at Tasman Motorsports, as well as Kanaan's inaugural Champ Car season with Tasman (later Forsythe Championship Racing) in 1999. Kanaan won that year's U.S. 500 and sat on the pole at Long Beach.

** Peter Parrott, longtime Penske Motorsports and International Speedway Corp., executive, joined Mo Nunn Racing this past offseason to take on the role of team manager of the IRL program. Parrott was team manager at Vince Granatelli Racing in the early 1990s when Mo Nunn Racing team owner Morris Nunn was then engineer for Granatelli's entry for driver Arie Luyendyk.

** Prior to starting his own team in 2000, Morris Nunn was technical director at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing during four consecutive CART championships won by the team for drivers Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997-98) and Juan Montoya (1999). Nunn also engineered Emerson Fittipaldi's 1989 Indy 500 victory and CART series title. The former driver and Formula 1 team owner came to the U.S. in the early 1980s and over the years engineered such notable CART drivers as Eddie Cheever, Arie Luyendyk and Michael Andretti. Nunn's list of Formula 1 drivers includes Clay Regazzoni, Roberto Guerrero, Chris Amon, Jackie Ickx, Patrick Tambay, Nelson Piquet, Johnny Cecotto, and Derek Daly.

FELIPE GIAFFONE

"It's going to be great to get back to Michigan. It's the first time for the IRL series, but I know the place very well from my Indy Lights days. I won there from the pole the last time I raced there in Indy Lights, and it's always good to go back to a track where you've won. Especially coming off of a tough race like the one we had on Saturday night in Nashville. I made some decisions on restarts that didn't work out too well. I'll write it off as just a bad night. Michigan will be a whole different story. It's a whole different situation this year from when I won there in 2000, too. We were driving spec cars with spec engines. This year, the cars with the big engines can expect to have the best weekend all the way around. The Infinitis and the Panther team are going to be tough to beat in qualifying. But for the race, I think we'll be in good shape. We have a very reliable engine package, and that's paid off for us just about every weekend this year. The track is very similar to Fontana, and we had a good race setup there this year. We finished sixth, and about the only thing that kept us from finishing higher was that we had a problem that didn't allow me to get out of the pits very quickly, so we lost time on our pit stops. We'll have that figured out for this weekend and, hopefully, we can get that first win!"

-mnr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Arie Luyendyk , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Guerrero , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Chris Amon , Patrick Tambay , Nelson Piquet , Johnny Cecotto , Emerson Fittipaldi , Morris Nunn , Derek Daly , Chip Ganassi , Clay Regazzoni , Mo Nunn , Sam Hornis
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing