By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
This is the final 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.
The term “what if” is often tossed around the world of motorsports and Greg Moore is among those racers who are heavily associated in that category.
Each story you’ve heard validates Greg’s case as one of the biggest “what ifs” as he was on the verge of joining Team Penske after the 1999 season. Greg had spent four hard fought seasons driving for Forsythe Racing, becoming one of CART’s most exciting young stars in the process.
James Hinchcliffe said it’s easy to look back and understand Greg’s potential, especially what he would’ve brought to the table at Penske, a team that’s struggled horrendously to close out the 1990s.
“When you look back at the history books and look what Greg had accomplished, you know that his career was about to take a huge step forward, moving to the Penske organization,” Hinchcliffe said. “I think everybody knows that the talent Greg had and the approach that he had was perfectly suited for that team.
“The run of success that team went on in the years immediately following his death, that was going to be one of the highlight periods of Penske’s very storied history and Greg would’ve been an integral part of that.”
When I did these interviews at Texas Motor Speedway in June, it’s super certain than ever before that multiple victories at the Indianapolis 500 or even a crack at NASCAR would’ve been the path for the Maple Ridge native.
Former Forsythe team member George Klotz commented that Greg would’ve been a multi-time winner at Indy and his personality when he straps himself into a racing machine would suit him well at the 2.5-mile circuit.
“I can’t even imagine how many wins he would’ve got with Penske and how successful he would’ve been there,” Klotz said. “I truly believe he would be rivaling the four-time winners at the speedway.”
Dario Franchitti, who went on to win three Indy 500s, agreed wholeheartedly that Greg would’ve mastered Indy as oval racing was where he shined brightest.
“His style and attributes, he would’ve been ridiculously good at Indianapolis,” Franchitti said. “In some ways, it would’ve been fun to see. In other ways, it would’ve been very dispiriting to be in the opposition. If there was ever a driver made for Indianapolis, it was Greg.”
For Max Papis however, it’s hard to predict what he could’ve done had that tragic day in Fontana didn’t happened 20 years ago.
He knew what Greg’s long-term goals were when he signed his deal with Penske, but would rather think about the impact Greg left on his life.
“He would’ve done his career in open wheel and would have moved to stock cars for sure. Eventually, he would’ve been older, but I knew what he wanted to do for sure,” Papis said. “It was part of his plan. That’s why I think he actually ended up with Mr. Penske because he had the two entities.
“Nobody can say what didn’t happen. I can only tell you the sport lost one of the greatest souls and one of the greatest talents. At the same time, I use that as an example to my kids and my wife and say if you asked me how I would I want to go out and see my dad again, it would be running wide open with my race car.
Whenever Franchitti accomplished something tremendous such as those wins at Indianapolis and four INDYCAR championships, Greg was always on Franchitti’s mind.
“Whenever I won a race, I think he was always in my head,” Franchitti said. “Those days, especially the championships and the 500 wins, I thought of him because in those moments he came into my thoughts. It would’ve been cool to share those times with him but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”
Every story told about Greg, from the countless pranks to his unforgettable drives on ovals, it remains one of the paddock’s most cherished tales because he left the world making a difference.
There’s a reason why the No. 99 was retired after his death due to his awe-inspiring impact in his short career that could’ve been much bigger than it already is.
It’s the type of difference where his spirits lives on forever to those who’ve worked, idolized and raced with the man who wore those intimidating red gloves.
“He’s a very unique individual. I just don’t think anybody didn’t not like Greg,” Klotz said. “He was great to be around and again, I can’t say enough that once he’s in a car, he was completely different person. Very good at what he did, and you can tell right off that he was an extraordinary talent. He was an all-around joy to be around, professionally and personally.”
“He’s a unique mix for sure. The talent on track and sort of humble approach off,” Hinchcliffe said. “Sure, there’s maybe other guys that exudes some of his same characteristics but when you’re a 9, 10, 11-year-old kid, you’re easily influenced so I’m always going to be partial to Greg. I don’t know if anyone else has managed to get the combination the exact same as he did.
“I think as is the case with most drivers, the human being of and the competitor are very different. As a person outside the car, he was really fun loving,” Franchitti said. “It was always an adventure going on. There was always some kind of thing that he was trying to plan and some group activity he wanted everybody to get involved with. It was always something going on and to me that was very helpful.”
“When I think about Greg, I’m not sad. He did what he loved and went out his way. Wide open,” Papis said. “It’s just sad because he’s not there with us and cannot share the stories with you. I need to be his voice. I’m 100% sure he’s listening to what we’re talking about, so that’s why I’m trying to keep it as realistically as he was.
“He was not a guy he would’ve like for us to celebrate his death. He would’ve liked to celebrate his life. That’s how I’ll always remember and will always talk to people about.”