As hard as it is to believe, it’s been 10 years since Greg Moore died 10 laps into the 1999 CART finale at the California Speedway. He was only 24.
Yes, its sounds like a cliche, but Moore died just as his star was beginning to rise. Widely thought to be one of the most talented drivers to hit the series in years, Moore won five times and scored 17 podiums in 72 starts. His fatal crash came in the final race of 1999 just as he was preparing to make the jump to the powerful Penske Team in 2000.
“Sometimes I'm sitting around with Tony [Kanaan] or Max [Papis] and with some of the younger drivers like Marco [Andretti], and we tell them if Greg were here driving with Penske, there would be days we shouldn't even show up,” 2009 IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti told me a couple of years ago.
Franchitti recalled watching the 1996 CART season opener on television with Mercedes Motorsport boss Norbert Haug. At the time, Franchitti was racing in the FIA International Touring Car Championship.
“I said to Norbert: ‘Who's this kid driving up against the wall in the marbles blasting by everybody sideways?’ And then after the race this guy got out of the car wearing these little round glasses and that was Greg Moore. From that day on, he showed the world what he could do.”
A year later, a 22-year-old Moore became the youngest driver to win an IndyCar race when he took the chequered flag in Milwaukee.
Had Moore joined Penske, former Player’s teammate Patrick Carpentier feels he would have dominated and likely won multiple Indianapolis 500 and CART championships.
“I learned lots of stuff from him: Greg taught me how to get around Mid-Ohio where I won my first race in Champ Car. He was fast — very, very, fast,” Carpentier said.
“On ovals, Greg could run so close to the wall in the marbles and for the rest of us, it was impossible. Sometimes I think about him and where he would be today, and I think he would have had amazing success.”
Moore’s death brought many changes to racing, including spurring the development of the HANS device and the paving of infields at high-banked ovals to help cars stay on their wheels when they spun.
Two years ago, the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame opened a new 800 sq. ft. Greg Moore Wing in its Vancouver museum. The new Canadian Motorsport Heritage Museum plans a permanent Greg Moore display when it opens next year.
“It was interesting for me to walk around and see the little bits and pieces that [his father] Rick had kept and people had donated,” Franchitti said at the Toronto Indy when asked about his visit to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame. “I think the one thing that really sticks in my mind was seeing his first go-kart licence.”
That licence was the reason he raced under the No. 99. He was the 99th member of the Westwood Kart Track.
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