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  CART hit hard by fatal crash of popular and talented Moore

Posted: Mon November 1, 1999 at 1:05 a.m EST

SportsTicker Contributing Editor

FONTANA, California (Ticker) -- There were no tears of joy following today's season-ending CART race, only tears of sadness. The horrific death of Greg Moore gave no one reason to celebrate.

Malrboro 500 winner Adrian Fernandez could barely speak in the postrace interview, describing his victory as "meaningless." PPG Cup champion Juan Montoya also found it difficult to enjoy the fruits of his title due of the death of a competitor.

Moore, a 24-year-old from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, was not only a great driver but also displayed an extremely positive image for CART off the track. With his boyish good looks and pleasant personality, Moore displayed a star quality as he represented the sport of high-speed, open-wheel racing.

CART drivers are supposed to look like Greg Moore. Most racers only wish they could drive like Greg Moore.

"Greg was one of the new young tigers of Champ Car racing," CART president and CEO Andrew Craig said. "Clearly, and unequivocally, a champion of tomorrow. He was everything that is good about this sport -- talented, committed, courageous, fit. Everything that symbolizes what Champ Car racing stands for was embodied in Greg Moore.

"It is a very, very profound loss indeed. It was a young man, a great talent. As his dad said at the hospital, he really loved life. He loved having fun. As a competitor, he really wanted to get in this race. The results are tragic. He was one of the breed of young and talented, highl -positive drivers that was involved in our sport for the future."

Racing demands a high price for those who compete. Today, Moore paid the ultimate price with his life.

Fernandez had been through this before. When he won for the first time at the 1996 Molson Indy Toronto, Jeff Krosnoff was killed in a crash that also killed two corner workers. Again, he was unable to celebrate a victory due to tragedy.

"It's so hard because Greg was such a good friend of ours," Fernandez said, his voice choked with emotion, tears streaming down his face. "We had been racing for a while and shared so many good moments in CART, both on and off the race track. This is a tragedy for all of us.

"The win doesn't matter to me. My heart goes to his dad. This is very hard for me right now. I will remember Greg as a great gentleman, great friend and as a positive competitor."

Max Papis, who finished second todya, also had some difficulty talking about the loss of Moore.

"He is up there in the sky looking down on us," Papis said. "I'm so sad. You just don't understand why things like this happen. My prayers are with Greg's family. Greg was a special person, on and off the track. There is to understand why things are done or to accept them.

"There is no word, nothing to say. Greg was one of my best friends in racing. I had no idea about Greg's accident. Bobby (team owner Bobby Rahal) came on the radio after the race and said he had some very bad news to tell me. It is such a tragedy. We must pray for Greg."

Christian Fittipaldi, who was third, comes from one of racing's most famous families. His uncle, Emerson, was a two-time Formula One world champion and two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500.

"It's a very sad moment for all of us, there is no doubt about it," Fittipaldi said. "It's hard to put it into words. We are out there to participate in a very nice sport, a very competitive sport. We are really not out there to kill ourselves. This year, we've lost two drivers (Gonzalo Rodriguez was killed at Laguna Seca on Sept. 11).

"We can't let these things happen in order for us to think of changing things to keep this from happening. We are out there to try to be competitive and put on a very nice show for all of the fans. We're not out there to give our lives. Greg will definitely be missed everywhere, both on and off the track. This is a very difficult moment."

The drivers were not told of Moore's death, which occurred on the first lap of a restart on lap 10. According to a CART official, Moore was battling a group of four cars but brushed the wall in the first turn. That may have been enough to either upset the suspension on the car or cause a tire to deflate by the time he went into the second turn.

That is where Moore lost control and hurtled toward the end of his life.

"We need to understand, we are not here to kill ourselves or hurt people," Papis said. "We are not here for this. Something has to be done to keep this from happening."

One possible change that may be looked into at California Speedway is paving over the large grassy portion that separates the apron of the race track to the infield retaining wall. A paved surface would have scrubbed off much of the speed and may have allowed Moore to regain control of his Reynard-Mercedes.

"We would look at something like that, but today that is speculation," International Speedway Corporation executive Greg Penske said.

The death of Moore also affects Penske in a different way. His father, Roger Penske, had hired Moore and Gil de Ferran as the drivers for his revamped CART team for next year. Now, without ever climbing into the cockpit of one of Penske's cars, Moore is dead.

"Today, I'm sad for their family," Greg Penske said. "We were excited about having Greg come on Team Penske. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen. Our hearts go out to the family."

Moore's death dwarfed the closest CART championship battle in history. Both Juan Montoya and Dario Franchitti finished with 212 points. Montoya was crowned champion via tiebreaker -- he had seven victories to Franchitti's three.

"I'm really sad what happened to Greg," Montoya said. "I think he was a great guy. He was one of the nicest guys around here. It's really a big loss for CART and everyone."

Montoya's team owner, Chip Ganassi, had just won his fourth CART title in a row. But even the normally hard-bitten Ganassi was struck by the tragedy that tarnished what was to have been a day of celebration.

"I've know Greg for five or six years," Ganassi said. "I think everybody who has ever driven one of these cars can tell you maybe he is not burdened with things anymore. He doesn't have to worry about these senseless things we do or worry about shock absorbers or wings or rules and fights. Our sport seems fairly insignificant at times like this.

"Maybe this is a good time for everybody to take a step back. I think everybody in this sport needs each other. Maybe this is a good time to be all back together like we used to be."

The day was devastating to Franchitti, whose stunning title loss paled in comparison to the loss of his best friend in racing. Franchitti was given the bad news that his buddy was dead after he climbed out of his car.

"Today, I lost one of the best friends I ever had," Franchitti said. "In the last couple of years, ever since I've known him, we shared a lot of good times together. He was the guy I competed the hardest with on the track, and he was the guy that I had the most fun with away from the track. The guy was going to be champion many, many times over. He was my friend.

"With that has happened, nothing else matters."

Bobby Rahal is a survivor in auto racing. He enjoyed a glorious career until retiring as a driver after last season and remains in the sport as a team owner for drivers Papis and Bryan Herta.

Rahal has seen the glory this sport can give by winning the 1986 Indianapolis 500 and three CART titles. Today, he saw the dark side of racing.

"It is a horrible day," Rahal said. "I hate this sport when this happens. The only saving grace is he didn't know what hit him. I hate this part of this sport.

"He was a good guy. It's just a damn shame, a real damn shame."

© 2000 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP


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