Felipe Giaffone is making his 21st career Indy Racing League start and his eighth with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing with Saturday night's SunTrust Indy Challenge. The 27-year-old Brazilian finished fourth at the Radisson Indy 225 at Pikes Peak ...
Felipe Giaffone is making his 21st career Indy Racing League start and his eighth with Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing with Saturday night's SunTrust Indy Challenge. The 27-year-old Brazilian finished fourth at the Radisson Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway two weekends ago, a week after finished fifth at the Boomtown 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. He recorded consecutive top-three finishes at Nazareth (second) and the Indianapolis 500 (third) in the two races prior to that. Giaffone has six top-seven finishes in his first seven starts this season, including seventh at Homestead and sixth at Fontana. He is currently fourth in the 2002 IRL driver points standings with 202, just four points shy of defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr., who is third with 206 points.
After the first seven events of the season, Giaffone is second on the 2002 IRL earnings list with $797,465. Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves leads with more than $2.03 million.
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. Last year here at Richmond, Giaffone started eighth and finished 11th
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 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 is participating this weekend in the CART Grand Prix of Chicago.
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.
"I really enjoy Richmond. It's one of my favorite tracks. It kind of reminds me of a road course the way you drive it. It's the shortest oval that we go to. It's tough racing. It's not the easiest place to go by people. But, at the same time, we had a very good race car there last year, but we finished 11th after I got together with Dare. But I'm hopeful. You can probably expect a lot of unfinished cars, as usual. That's because it's close racing and there is not a lot of room. It makes it more exciting, but you can get into trouble really easily. If you get to the end of the race, you should be in good shape. It's a tough track to get to the end of the race. This is one of the races where you really don't know what to expect. You have to take a lot more chances than you do at a lot of other tracks. You have to make a decision quickly and go for it because if you wait, your chances will go away. We tested there a couple of months ago and e had a good car. We have to try to come up with a good strategy and be there at the end."