IRL: Phoenix: Felipe Giaffone preview

Felipe Giaffone ...

Felipe Giaffone
#21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force
Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 - Sunday, March 17, 2002
Phoenix International Raceway - Phoenix, Ariz. - 1-Mile Oval
Round 2 of 15 on the 2002 Indy Racing League

**Felipe Giaffone is making his 15th career Indy Racing League start and his second with Mo Nunn Racing. The 27-year-old Brazilian had 10 top-10 finishes and three top-fives during his 2001 IRL Rookie of the Year season with Treadway/Hubbard Racing last season, including a season-best finish of second at Texas Motor Speedway in June.

**Two weekends ago, Giaffone opened the 2002 season with a seventh-place finish from the 17th starting position on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead, Fla.

**Last year here at Phoenix International Raceway, in the 2001 series season-opener, Giaffone made his IRL debut with a sixth-place finish from the ninth starting position. His only other appearance here at Phoenix was in 1995 while competing in the Toyota Atlantic series, and he scored a top-10 finish. It was his first-ever oval race, and he went on to earn that series' Rookie of the Year honors.

**Prior to joining the IRL in 2001, Giaffone enjoyed a four-season run in the Dayton Indy Lights championship, a run that included a 2000 victory from the pole 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 in the CART FedEx Championship Series with drivers Tony Kanaan (2000-2001) and Alex Zanardi (2002). 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-Reynard in the CART series, Kanaan's fifth Champ Car season and third with Mo Nunn Racing. The 20-event CART season commenced last weekend at Monterrey, Mexico, where Kanaan placed 16th.

**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 was a longtime Brazilian stock car racer. Giaffone's brother Affonso and cousin Zeca 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.

**David Popielarz, Giaffone's crew chief at Homestead two weekends ago, left Mo Nunn Racing last week to pursue other interests. Popielarz was Kanaan's CART series crew chief the past two seasons with Mo Nunn Racing. Tom Vasi, lead mechanic on Giaffone's Hollywood-sponsored IRL entry, will assume crew chief responsibilities this weekend, as well as next weekend at Fontana. Don Lambert, crew chief on Kanaan's #10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard in the CART series, will join the crew here this weekend with a primary focus on pit stop duties.

**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.

**Race time for Sunday's 200-lap event is 2 p.m. MST (4 p.m. EST) and it will be broadcast live by ABC-TV and the IMS Radio Network. Pre-race programming includes "Indy Racing 2Day" Sunday at noon EST on ESPN2. Practice begins Friday morning with qualifying set for Saturday at noon MST (2 p.m. EST).

FELIPE GIAFFONE

"I'm really looking forward to getting back in the race car after that opening weekend at Homestead. It was our first time together as a team on a race weekend and it was a real learning experience. We some excellent tests during the offseason at Homestead and Phoenix, but no matter how well you do in tests, it seems like race weekends are a whole different story. It's just a matter of experience, and we now have one race weekend under our belts with my new team. For sure, our best days are ahead of us. Not to say that seventh place is bad. It's just that I know we have what it takes to do so much better. We will start that at Phoenix, for sure. I really enjoy that track. You run with a lot of downforce, so there is a lot of grip as you go around the track. And with the elevation changes, it's a really run race to run on as a driver. It was my first-ever IRL race last year, so I showed up and felt a little bit lost. I struggled a bit to get used to running in a new kind of car with a new team. This year, I feel much more confident. I plan to stay on a few extra days with my wife (Alice, married this past January) and enjoy the city a little bit. I really love the area, so hopefully we'll be in a great mood with something to celebrate after the race weekend!"

-mnr-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Arie Luyendyk , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Guerrero , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Chris Amon , Patrick Tambay , Nelson Piquet , Johnny Cecotto , Emerson Fittipaldi , Morris Nunn , Derek Daly , Chip Ganassi , Clay Regazzoni , Mo Nunn
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing