Kanaan’s CART Boss Making Calls
Much was expected this season from Tony Kanaan, CART’s top rookie of 1998.
Among those with the highest hopes was Steve Horne, who runs Kanaan’s team, one Horne sold before this season to Gerald Forsythe. The sale brought major sponsorship from McDonald’s, opening the door to a full-blown testing program.
Horne and technical director Diane Holl thought that would help a young team move up faster.
But it hasn’t happened.
So, Horne is back in the garage and out in the pits as more than the team president.
``Traditionally, I’ve been very hands-on with setups, adjustments and so forth,″ said Horne, chief mechanic when Bobby Rahal won the 1986 Indianapolis 500. ``This year, I tried to step back a bit _ not all the way, but somewhat.″
And Holl, who called most of the shots as Kanaan finished ninth in the standings last year, took on the responsibility of overseeing the testing program.
She did so in conjunction with the young engineers, and Horne says they were very successful in testing.
``But in the heat of battle _ a 30- or 40-minute qualifying session or a race itself _ there were times when someone needed to get into Tony’s face more, and we weren’t doing that,″ Horne said ``So, I’ve taken it upon myself to step back into that role.″
Holl says young engineers sometimes have trouble when they move from testing to racing, where decisions must be made very quickly, often solely on instinct.
``Our young engineers got into a few problems where they got a little lost,″ she said. ``So we decided to go one step back to where Steve and I do the basic engineering, as we did last year, and the younger engineers do the testing.″
Kanaan is 15th in the points entering the Texaco-Havoline 200 on Sunday in Elkhart Lake, Wis., the 10th of 20 events.
``I just can’t figure out what our problem is, maybe because it isn’t one specific problem,″ the 24-year-old Brazilian said. ``One race it’s a crash, the next race it’s mechanical. There just hasn’t been one day when everything has gone right.
``It’s not for lack of trying. We’re working as hard as we can, but so is everybody else. And with the series as competitive it is, you can’t afford to have an off-day.″
Horne realizes that, so before the Cleveland race two weekends ago, he crossed what he calls a fine line between having experience and allowing people to gain it.
As a young engineer, his education in the sport often gave way to expediency.
``I was told, ‘Shut up and get on with it. We’re too busy to explain why right now,’ and I learned the reasons later,″ Horne said . ``Now I’m playing the same role with our younger staff.″
With Horne leading the way, Kanaan was impressive in Cleveland, one of his best efforts since winning the pole three months ago in Long Beach, Calif. He dominated the first half of the Long Beach race, but crashed while leading and finished 22nd.
In Cleveland, he was among the leaders, but his vision was obscured in a torrential downpour, forcing him to take one more lap before replacing slicks with rain tires. Saying a bicycle could have outrun him, Kanaan nonetheless slid off one of the flat turns at Burke Lakefront Airport, and again wound up 22nd.
Another wasted effort? Horne doesn’t think so.
``Despite the finish in Cleveland, the changes we made worked out well,″ he said. ``We passed nine cars in the race, and I felt we would have finished at least in the top six. Then the rains came.″
End Adv for Thursday, July 8