Greg Moore Biography

The untimely death of CART star Greg Moore could possibly make him a legend of the likes of James Dean. What made him so special?

On October 31, 1999, I, like many other CART racing fans settled in for the final race of the season, the California 500 at the California Speedway. This race was not going to be a battle for the championship since Juan Montoya had already run away with that title. The excitement of that day lay in the very nature of a 500-mile race, a race where anything could happen.

On the 10th lap, approaching turn two, something did. As Greg Moore's #99 Players Mercedes suddenly went first airborne and then seemed to soar sideways into the retaining wall, driver's head first. It was a horrifying crash, the kind you rarely see in the sport and the kind that in my heart, I knew no one could ever survive.

I sat through the race watching every other driver on the track finish his job and complete their 500 miles in their offices, oblivious to the loss of their friend. Just pass the halfway mark, an announcement was made at the track, the flags were lowered to half-mast, and Greg Moore, 24 years old was pronounced dead, from injuries sustained in the crash. The drivers went on.

It was not until 500 miles were completed that the other drivers were informed of the death of their friend. Men who spend their lives at 200+ mile per hour speeds were consumed with tears, which quickly spread throughout the paddock. It was a bittersweet victory for Adrian Fernandez and runner-up Max Papis, both close friends of Moore. The post race press conference saw more tears and remembrances. Even the following nights post-season awards banquet was filled with memories and tribute. For months following the incident, it was Greg Moore who filled the pages of the CART and motor sports publications. Drivers had died on the track before, others have died since, but something made this hero's passing special, different.

At the age of 19, Greg Moore started his brief career in CART, the fastest cars in the world of motor sports. He was fresh from a championship season in the Indy Lights circuit. He showed up a gawky teenager with glasses and immediately endeared himself to fans, the press and the CART community as a whole. His performance on track was strong and stable and for that, he was the runner-up for the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year award (overshadowed for the title by future CART champion, Alex Zanardi). It wasn't just his performance that made him #1 in everyone's heart, it was his calm demeanor, easygoing nature, and articulate communication. As a teenager, he was already a gentleman.

In his second season of CART, the 1997 season, he won his first race, the Milwaukee Mile, and was the youngest in the sport to ever win a race (besting Al Unser Jr. by just a couple of months). In his next two years in the sport, he only won three more races ("˜98 Rio de Janeiro, "˜98 US 500 and "˜99 Homestead). Yet it was his performance off-track as much as his performance on-track that will make him an indelible memory in the minds of open-wheel racing fans all over the world. Like many before him who died too young, at 24, Greg Moore never reached his full potential as a driver or as a person.

Just shortly before his final race, it was announced that Greg would be joining Marlboro Team Penske, the most successful team in CART history. In this case it is only fitting that Helio Castroneves, the young driver who took the seat left vacant with Team Penske, was the first driver to receive the Greg Moore Legacy Award at the conclusion of the 2000 season. The award is given to the driver who best exemplifies Moore's legacy of being an outstanding personality among the fans, the media and the CART community. We can only hope that Greg's legacy permeates for a long, long time.

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