Nunn To Run IRL Team

Forget about Roger Penske or Chip Ganassi leaving CART, Mo Nunn beat them to it. Mo Nunn Racing is jumping from the CART FedEx Series to the Indy Racing Northern Light Series in 2002 ... sort of.

The team's officials announced Friday they will field a one-car IRNLS team next year sponsored by Hollywood Cigarettes and driven by 2001 IRNLS Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone.

In addition, team owner Morris Nunn confirmed he will enter two cars in the Indianapolis 500 in May. A driver (and sponsor) of the second car will be announced at a later date. Nunn also said he will continue to run a CART team next year.

"This is certainly great news for our organization and having the ability to take two cars back to the Indy 500 is very exciting for the whole team," Nunn said. "We will continue to field the Pioneer-WorldCom car in CART in 2002, but with the CART situation as it is right now, we felt a real need to spread our wings."

For the past two years, Nunn has fielded a car sponsored by Hollywood in the CART series. The Brazilian tobacco company has been involved in CART since 1994.

“I am delighted that Hollywood has chosen to make this move to the IRL with us,” Nunn explained. “We look forward to providing Felipe with all of the tools necessary to win a championship."

Saying they “valued” their eight seasons on the CART circuit, Mark Hulit, consumer marketing director for Souza Cruz (the parent company for the Brazilian Hollywood brand of British American Tobacco), thinks now is the time for Hollywood to focus on the IRNLS.

“We are delighted to continue our strong partnership with Mo Nunn Racing and about continuing in the Indy Racing League,” Hulit said. “We feel the IRL has a great future. The series is very professional, cost-effective for sponsors, and it is carefully planning for the future.”

Giafonne, 26, spent his rookie season in the IRNLS with Treadway-Hubbard Racing after competing in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship Series the year before. The Brazilian driver surprised many in the IRNLS paddock by finishing sixth in points, with 10 top-10 finishes and a second-place result at Texas in June.

This is Mo Nunn's second year as a CART owner. While serving as chief engineer for Alex Zanardi at Target Chip Ganassi in 1996, 1997 and 1998, Nunn helped the Italian driver to rookie-of-the-year honors (1996) and back-to-back CART titles (1997-1998).

Nunn also guided current Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya to his CART championship in 1999, as well as the legendary Emerson Fittipaldi to an Indy-car championship and an Indy 500 victory in 1989.

Based in Indianapolis, Mo Nunn Racing currently competes in the CART series with Brazilian Tony Kanaan (in the Hollywood car) and American Casey Mears (in the Pioneer-WorldCom car). Mears joined the team in Houston after Nunn’s primary driver, Alex Zanardi, was seriously injured in Germany last month.

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