Greg Moore might be playing in the NHL right now if he hadn't been such a sensational driver as a teenager. At 14 he was the starting goalie on an elite Canadian team that starred Paul Kariya, a 50-goal scorer with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. But later that year he abandoned hockey to focus on racing because he enjoyed that sport more. It also didn't hurt that his father, Ric, who owns a Chrysler dealership in the Vancouver suburb of Maple Ridge, had offered to bankroll Greg's racing career for five years.
Moore needed only four years to move from souped up go-karts to a fully sponsored ride in Indy Lights (CART's feeder series). At 18 he became the youngest driver to win an Indy Lights race. At 22 he became the youngest driver to win a CART race, at Milwaukee last year. Earlier this month, after winning the Rio 400 in Brazil, Moore became the youngest driver to win three CART events, and he moved atop this season's point standings. The victory came when he made a daring pass of defending CART champ Alex Zanardi with five laps to go.
"The key is to not make mistakes," says Moore, who developed a veteran's sense of prudence at an early age because he knew a wreck could have blown his budget. "If you watch the great drivers, like Michael Andretti and Al Unser Jr., they wait until the end of the race to make their moves."
Both father and son acknowledge that Greg has been fortunate in a sport in which financial backing can be just as important as driving ability, but they add that some others have had it even easier. "Their names are Unser and Fittipaldi," says Ric of two families that provided even more generous support. "We never had any guarantees with Greg. Of course, we wouldn't have spent so much [approximately $1.5 million in the first four years] if he hadn't been doing so well."
Now Moore is doing very nicely on his own. He makes well over $500,000 a year in driver's salary and prize money, and he says he's close to paying back his father. Yet he still goes home to Maple Ridge for the week or so each month when he's not traveling. He still sleeps in the bedroom he has had since his hockey days, and he still has pictures of his boyhood idol, Formula One great Ayrton Senna, on his walls. Could Formula One be his next step? "If I've won a few [CART] championships by the time I'm 26 or 27, I'll look to F/1 as a next step," he says coolly, with no apparent doubt that this won't be so. "But right now my goal is to win this championship."