Greg Moore had a promising career in motor sports ahead of him. He was one of the up and coming stars in the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) Champ Car division, until he crashed during 1999's Marlboro 500 and died, leaving many to wonder what could have been.
Grew up around cars
That Moore grew up to be a race-car driver is only natural, given his environment. Born April 22, 1975, in New Westminster, British Columbia, Moore was raised around cars. In fact, he couldn't escape them. His father, Ric, owned a Chrysler dealership in Maple Ridge, just outside Vancouver. He also raced CanAm cars. As a child Moore would climb into his father's garaged race car, grip the steering wheel and pretend to race. The impressionable young Moore followed his father to the track and became interested in racing, so his father got him a go-kart, and he began to race.
Despite his proclivity toward racing, the young Canadian also loved ice hockey. By 13, he was a serious ice hockey goalie, playing on the same junior hockey team as standout forward Paul Kariya of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Many say he had what it would take to go pro. But his two pastimes were competing for attention.
"I told Greg he needed to choose between hockey and racing if he was going to develop beyond a certain point," Ric Moore told On Track's David Hatter. Moore's childhood heroes included hockey great Wayne Gretzky and race-car legend Ayrton Senna, who died after a crash in 1994. The decision was tough, but Moore chose racing. Later, he found a way to merge his two loves: he would race car No. 99 the jersey number of hockey great Wayne Gretzky.
Moore's parents had divorced when he was five, and he'd lived with his mother, Donna, following the separation. But when he dedicated himself to racing, he moved in with his father, who became his manager, mentor, and coach.
In his teens, Moore won two North American go-kart championships. His father wondered if his success had to do with his skill or with the equipment. He wanted to find out, so he took Moore to the Spenard-David racing school in Shannonville, Ontario, to see if he had what it takes. Moore handily won the school's end-of-the session run-offs and turned to his career full-throttle.
On track to become superstar
In 1991, the 16-year-old competed in Canada's Esso Protec Formula 1600 series and, with one win and two poles, placed fourth overall, easily snatching up rookie-of-the-year honors.
In 1992, his four wins and four poles garnered him the United States Auto Club Formula 2000 West championship. In 1993, the year he graduated from Pitt Meadows High School in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Moore raced in the PPG-Firestone Indy Lights Championship series. The young and lanky Moore had a run-in with a security guard during a race in Milwaukee when the guard denied him access to the paddocks. (He didn't believe Moore was old enough to be a driver.) That year, he started all 12 races, had eight top-ten finishes, and ended the year placing ninth overall in points.
In 1994, he won the Indy Lights season opener at Phoenix. At 18, this made him the youngest-ever winner of a CART-sanctioned event. That year proved to be good for Moore, who won two more races and two poles, placing third overall in points. His reputation earned him a contract with Player's/Forsythe Racing. His father, who had been bankrolling Moore's career, was relieved, as the pair had been living race to race off Moore's earnings.
In 1995, driving a Player's Lola Buick GS, he won 10 of the 12 Indy Lights races a record for most victories in a single season--earning 242 of a possible 264 points. He outscored the runner-up by 102 points. That year he led in 375 of 583 laps and completed all 847 miles to win the championship rifle.
Moore set another benchmark in 1997 when, at age 22, he became the youngest driver to win a CART race. He ended the year seventh in points standings.
Died doing what he loved best
Moore won the 1999 season opener in Homestead, Florida, but his luck seemed to run out. He wasn't shy about letting people know he was unsatisfied with his car's Mercedes motor. In August 1999, two months before his death, he announced that he would spend his next season with Team Penske, a move that would bring him Honda power instead of Mercedes. Though he was leaving, he made it clear he was still chasing a championship for Player's/Forsythe.
He headed to the California Speedway in Fontana for the final CART race of the 1999 season, the Marlboro 500, held October 31. But 10 laps into the race, he crashed his pale blue No. 99 Reynard- Mercedes into a concrete retaining wall at 230 miles per hour. He was pronounced dead before the race ended. Post-race ceremonies were canceled, flags were lowered to half-mast, and Adrian Fernandez, who won the race, told reporters: "This is a tragedy for all of us. The win doesn't mean anything."
In his career, Moore had five victories and 17 podium finishes in 72 CART starts. Though his stats don't reflect it, many thought he was destined to be a champion. "Greg was clearly a champion of tomorrow," CART chairman Andrew Craig told On Track. "He was everything that is good about this sport: talented, committed, courageous, fit. Everything that Champ Car racing stands for, I think, was embodied in Greg Moore."
When he wasn't racing, Moore, who was single, loved tooling around Maple Ridge in his black and bulky Hummer or going mountain-biking. He spent his free-time fly-fishing at British Columbia's Golden Ears Provincial Park, where he found solitude from the fast and furious world of racing. "Nature intrigues me," he once told The Toronto Star. "It's so unlike what I do for a living."
But the fun-loving naturalist also knew the risks of his sport. "You'll never be able to make race cars completely safe," Maclean's quoted him as saying two days before his death. "Things happen at speed."
North American Enduro Kart Racing Championship, 1989, 1990; Canada's Esso Protec Formula 1600 Series Rookie of the Year, 1991; United States Auto Club Formula 2000 West Championship, 1992; PPG-Firestone Indy Lights Champion, 1995.
- Maclean's, November 15, 1999, p. 154.
- On Track, November 18, 1999, p.26.
- Toronto Star, July 16, 1998.
- Greg Moore, http://www.internet-ad.com/moore/greg.html (March 23, 2000).
- Greg Moore Tribute, http://www.geocities.com/moore_tribute/cart_results.html (March 23, 2000).