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INDYCAR BLOG: The Day of the Dead

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31 Oct 1999: A closeup of a smiling Greg Moore prior to the start of the the CART FedEx Championship Series Marlboro 500 at the California Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo: David Taylor/Getty Images)
31 Oct 1999: A closeup of a smiling Greg Moore prior to the start of the the CART FedEx Championship Series Marlboro 500 at the California Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo: David Taylor/Getty Images)

I suppose it's appropriate that the anniversary of Greg Moore's death falls on Halloween. Eleven years on, it still feels like a sick joke or prank.

Halloween is a day when Americans giddily indulge in every sort of nightmarish cultural quirk - skeletons, zombies, mutilations, blood and guts are all part of the fun.

Some nightmares don't go away the next day, though, and anyone who watched Greg Moore's light-blue-and-white Reynard-Mercedes go flying cockpit first into the California Speedway infield retaining wall eleven years ago today will never forget that particular horror.

I wasn't a contemporary of Moore's, unlike many in the IndyCar world. Back in 1999, I was on the other side of the street plying my trade in stock car circles. As an open-wheel fan, I followed Greg's career from a distance. But it was hard, even at that distance, not to like the skinny Canadian with the lightning smile, the bookish appearance that belied his boundless energy, and the undeniable skill that went on display every time he turned a wheel in anger.

ESPN's John Oreovicz has a stellar writeup about Moore that he crafted on the tenth anniversary of Moore's passing last year. You can get to know Greg from the way his peers still mourn him even today. To a man, they all say that Moore could have been the best of his generation - even, perchance, a legend - had he not been cut down in his prime.

In the brutal calculus of reality, we will never know if that would have been true. Moore only scored five wins and 17 podium finishes in 72 career CART starts. His best points finish was fifth. It is easy to extrapolate what he might have accomplished had he survived to race with Roger Penske, based on what Helio Castroneves has gone on to do in the car meant for Greg. But again, we will never know.

That hasn't stopped the large number of Moore's fans from wishing, pleading and demanding that Moore's #99 be retired in the IZOD IndyCar Series. What Moore lacked in hard numbers, he made up for it in spades in attitude and on-track verve, and the "99 cult" that still thrives today is as passionate as any grizzled, aging Southerner who still worships at his shrine to Dale Earnhardt's #3 (the irony that Moore would have driven the #3 for Roger Penske in 2000 is especially poignant given the context).

It is unlikely to ever happen - at least not officially. Unofficially, I doubt there are many who would want to use the 99 again for a good long while. Personally, though, I wish someone would use it, because then every time I saw it circulating on the track it would bring back the memory of that jovial, energetic Canuck with the red gloves. The kid who, for the all-too-brief time we knew him, held us captive with his skill, his potential, and his love for life.

Tomorrow, when the spiderwebs come down and the pumpkins are thrown away, many of us will still be haunted by ghosts.