By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
April 22, 1975 – October 31, 1999
Five-Time CART Winner
1998 U.S. 500 Champion
1995 Indy Lights Champion
No. 99 Retired by CART
This is the first article of a four-part series focusing on the life of Greg Moore, who lost his life at Auto Club Speedway on October 31, 1999.
Whenever a CART competitor saw Greg Moore’s red gloves in their mirrors, they would always expect a hellacious battle, especially on ovals.
Greg’s blistering light blue No. 99 Player’s machine was easy to identify because of his raw nature of pushing it to the limit, resulting in unforgettable moments that made the Maple Ridge native a star on the rise.
Away from the track, you can expect Greg to pull harmless shenanigans such as buying 747 replica airplanes at Toys-R-Us, throwing it off the 22nd floor hotel in Miami or playing cards with his Forsythe Racing squad.
Greg was also man of his word when a promise was made with his closest peers. Examples were convincing Max Papis to eat macaroni and cheese or throwing a big party to celebrate Dario Franchitti’s maiden triumph at Road America in 1998.
Those extraordinary characteristics made Greg standout from the rest of the paddock that carries on 20 years later.
The most notable representation of Greg’s legacy comes from fellow Canadian James Hinchcliffe, who wears red gloves because of his idol.
Then of course are Greg’s closest pals of Franchitti and Papis, who reflected on the impact he’s made to their lives in such a short amount of time.
Rather than dwelling about October 31, 1999, the day Greg lost his life at Fontana, Papis focuses on celebrating his life with tremendous fondness, putting him up there with mentor Ayrton Senna.
“I didn’t realize it back then but the reason why I really loved Greg because he was the most similar person to Ayrton was for me,” Papis explaining the similarities Moore has with Senna. “Ayrton was a super tough competitor on the track but was the guy that called me for my first ever Formula 3 wins in my house. He did everything to guide me and help me.
“Greg was kind of the same. He was happy to win and was a guy that would’ve done no mercy when he raced with you.”
Franchitti recalls Greg’s mastery on pushing it to the edge on ovals, powered by an inferior Mercedes-Benz compared to the almighty Honda powered entries of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team KOOL Green.
“(Greg) had this ability to drive the car right on the edge on ovals more so than anybody I knew at that time,” said Franchitti. “For those cars, that was quite something because they tend to bite back, and he just had this ability to drive it out in the grey where nobody else drove it.
“He drove sort of it more oversteer than anybody else I’ve ever saw. When he got the sense of making a pass, he did it.”
One of Greg’s fantastic drives was at The Milwaukee Mile in 1997 when he duked it out with Paul Tracy throughout the day and ultimately held off Michael Andretti to score his first of five victories during his four-year career.
Papis vividly remembers spending time at Greg’s bus the night before, asking he and father Ric Moore if a limit can be found as it was “Mad Max’s” first full season in CART.
The Moore’s said he wouldn’t be able to find the limit, leading Greg to open a box of one of his preferred food choices – macaroni and cheese.
Papis critiqued as it wasn’t something a driver ate and placed a bet.
“I told (Greg) if tomorrow you win—I was sure that it wasn’t going to happen because he wrecked a few times—I’m going to eat mac and cheese for the next 60 days at the track,” Papis’ message to Greg.
“I ended up wrecking, trying to find that limit. He ended up in winner’s circle for his first win. I remember walking on the side of the winner’s circle. Me, Ric and Greg—eyes found each other—and the only word they came up was mac and cheese. That’s it.
“I didn’t say word or congrats, but they said ‘mac and cheese.’
“For every race weekend, he made sure that I ate mac and cheese Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning. That was my punishment for not believing that he would win.”
The Indianapolis 500 was a race Greg never had a chance to compete in but without hesitance, Franchitti believes the 2.5-mile circuit would’ve fit his driving style and attributes.
“The way he drove a car, that would’ve allowed him to enjoy tremendous success there,” said Franchitti. “The way he thought and planned a 500-mile race.
“Let’s not forget at Michigan when he did the move on both Target cars and won that race. That showed how smart he was, which you need to be at Indianapolis.”
“The talent and feel he had for the car, the way he drove the car – it would’ve all come together at Indianapolis in my opinion. He would be a contender every time he went there.
“Again, as his friend and fan of him, it would’ve been really cool to see. As someone that was racing against him, it might’ve been tough to race against him.
“We were very fortunate to him in the series. I was incredibly fortunate to have him as a friend.”
Papis forever remembers Greg in multiple ways – whether it’s wearing John Fluevog shoes on special occasions or bearing a decal of his fallen competitor and close friend.
“Like Senna, I celebrate every day he’s born and the same thing for Greg. He lives in my heart every day,” said Papis. “I know he’s not here, but he’s in the back of my helmet. Every time I put my helmet on. I have his sticker and look at that and I know that every win that I have, he’s a part of that because he made me better.
“Although he’s not there celebrating with me, it’s pretty much like that. He’s part of what I do, so I can’t wait to see him again. It would be a bad ass day the day we see each other up in the sky.”