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Something Moore

Greg Moore, Who Died in a Crash at Fontana Last Year, Wasn't Only a Great Young Driver: He Was a Great Young Man

October 25, 2000|J.A. ADANDE

What set Greg Moore apart in the high-speed world of auto racing was his ability to slow down just enough to make a difference.

Even when he wasn't zooming around at more than 200 mph, Moore lived his life in perpetual motion, constantly "running to another place," said Patrick Carpentier, his former teammate with Player's Forsythe Racing. "He was running to a dinner or a party or going to the next thing. He was always on the move."

And yet he never missed an opportunity to make the day a little bit better or the mood a little lighter. It might have been a practical joke or an imitation of Inspector Clouseau from "The Pink Panther." It could have been an additional comment while he signed an autograph.

There's a reason why Moore's death in a crash at the Marlboro 500 last Oct. 31 was felt so deeply, why an estimated 1,200 people attended his memorial service in Vancouver, Canada.

It wasn't only the tragic loss of someone so young, 24, or so talented--he had already won five CART races. For people throughout auto racing, from fans to competitors, it was the loss of a friend.

"I think he had a talent for when he talked to somebody, he made them feel important," said his father, Ric Moore.

After he died, the senior Moore said, "We got 10,000 letters and Internet things and whatever. People said they had only met him for 20 seconds.

"He was genuinely interested in people. He liked people and it came through, whether it was a multimillion-dollar sponsor or a 12-year-old kid."

Said Neil Micklewright, the vice president of operations for Player's Forsythe, "He was the kind of person who, it used to bother him if people were down or weren't happy. He had a tendency to go out of his way to bring people up or be supportive."

And he'd take the extra steps for a laugh. One time, Micklewright was being interviewed for a television special. He walked along as he gave a very serious reply to a question about Moore.

"It was long and convoluted," Micklewright said. "I'd pretty much gotten all the way through it, only to find out he had been walking behind me the whole time, making faces and reindeer horns with his hands."

Alex Timmermans, who was Moore's engineer, can still recall Moore coming to him before last year's Marlboro 500 and telling him to relax. The introductions were finished, the cars were in the grid. Timmermans was visibly nervous, feeling the pressure of the race, and Moore said a few reassuring words to calm him down.

It was to be Moore's last race for the Player's Forsythe team. He was scheduled to switch to Team Penske this season.

No one could have imagined that it would be his last race, period.

As he came out of Turn 2 on the 10th lap at California Speedway, Moore lost control of his car and slid sideways, across the backstretch apron and the infield grass. It was on its side when it hit the retaining wall on the inside of the track, cockpit-first, before bouncing off the wall and sliding upside down.

Speedway workers have made some changes to the track, paving the grassy area out of Turn 2 toward Turn 3, installing a tire barrier in front of the wall on the backstretch and raising the outside fence of the track.

"Every year we take a look at the safety of the track and the facility in general," California Speedway President and General Manager Bill Miller said. "It's an evolutionary process with the Speedway. As you move forward, you're always looking how the facility is set up."

Micklewright said, "I think [the changes] go a long way toward [helping] it. I think the accident in and of itself was maybe a little bit freakish. In this sport, with the speeds that the cars are running, there's always an element of risk. All you can do is try to minimize it."

Sooner or later it always gets back to the element of danger, which is an accepted part of the sport. Moore was well aware of every aspect of racing. He practically grew up with his hands on the steering wheel. His father was an amateur race driver and Greg used to watch him race and help out. He had a go-kart as a kid.

As a teenager, he won 13 times in the Indy Lights series before joining CART in 1996. He became the youngest driver to win a CART event when he finished first in Milwaukee at 22.

He was a gifted driver, with an "ability that only comes along very infrequently, at best," Micklewright said. "An absolute natural."

Moore also sought to hone his skills at Human Performance International. The physical fitness and mental skills program, based in Huntersville, N.C., is designed for everyone from athletes to astronauts. When Moore first met Dr. Jacques Dallaire, the president of HPI, "He kind of blew me off," Dallaire said.

"As far as he was concerned, he had it covered. All he had to do was get in the car and step on the pedal. As he got into it, into the Indy Lights, he realized there was a lot more to it than that.

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