17 years ago today, my childhood racing hero Greg Moore died when he crashed into a wall at extremely high rate of speed. Simply put, I am here to tell you his story.
Greg was born in New Westminster BC and grew up in the Vancouver suburb of Maple Ridge BC. Greg’s dad Ric, owned a Chrysler dealership. According to an article I once read which was sort of a summary of Greg’s funeral ceremony, Greg started washing the cars on the dealership when he was aged 8. A few years after that, Greg’s dad Ric, got a go kart as a trade in on one of the Chryslers he sold. I read that Greg “claimed the go kart was his” and crashed into every damn drain pipe the dealership had.
A young Greg on his father’s boat.
Luckily drain pipes are pretty cheap I guess.
When Greg was a bit older his Dad bought him a kart, and he joined the Westwood Karting Club. (Now West Coast Kart Club) It was there that Greg got his racing number that would stay with him throughout his career. Number 99. Some say that hockey great Wayne Gretzky was the inspiration for the number. This is incorrect.
Greg was the 99th member to join the Westwood Karting Club and this is where his number came from.
A young Greg Moore, with his Kart. This would be around 1987.
When Greg was 15 he went to a racing school called “Spenard David Racing School” right here in Ontario.
He finished first out of 40 who went. In the fall of that year (1990) he went back to the school for “playoffs”. He finished first of 40 again, which put him at the top of 800 tryouts. Clearly the talent was there.
In 1990 Greg also won the North American Enduro Kart Championship.
In 1991 Greg started racing in Esso Formula Ford 1600 Series here in Eastern Canada. He was named “Rookie of the Year”, when he won one race and finished 4th overall in the standings.
This is the only picture of Greg in Formula Ford I could find.
But there he is with his number 99 right on the front.
In 1992, Greg moved on USAC Formula 2000. He won four races and took four pole positions. He was the USAC Formula 2000 West Champion and Rookie of the year.
In 1993, Greg was granted a provisional racing licence for the Indy Lights series. However, there was a twist. In order to be in the pits, one has to be 18 or older. Greg was 17, so he couldn’t exit his car in the pits, no matter what. He had to stay in the pits until his car was towed back to the paddock where he could exit.
Thankfully Greg turned 18 just before the start of the 3rd race in the series. However this was a “typical Greg” type of problem. He was a better driver than his years would suggest.
This next story may just be urban legend, but I have heard that when Greg travelled down to California he at first couldn’t get a rental car. Sure, he was qualified to drive a half million dollar car at 130 mph, but you had to be 19 to get your hands on that rental Dodge Shadow. 18 Just wouldn’t due, so he had to drive around with another Canadian racing driver, Paul Tracy.
In Greg’s first Indy Lights Race, he finished 5th which was pretty good. Greg was just 17, and finished high school just after the season ended. Here is Greg in one of his early Indy lights seasons either 1993 or 1994.
However in year 2 of Indy Lights, things almost came crashing down on Greg and Ric. There were money problems. The team budget was only a meager $380,000. Sure, it sounds like a lot, but to run a racing team even 20 years ago it wasn’t. It was not near enough, they were broke, and the family home and dealership were mortgaged to the hilt to keep the venture alive.
(Greg (front) turns a corner during an Indy Lights race).
Despite running an underfunded team in 1994, Greg set some milestones. He won the 1994 season opener in Phoenix April 10 1994 becoming the youngest EVER driver to win a CART Sanctioned event.
Greg followed up Phoenix with wins at Nazareth, Pennsylvania and Loudon New Hampshire. He had 9 top 5 finishes in 12 races that season, including 3 podium finishes to start the season. Greg finished the season in 3rd place, an incredible accomplishment given the fact he had to run tires about 3x as long as his competitors due to funding problems.
However without a sponsor...Greg and Ric were running out of money. Thankfully in the off season in between 1994 and 1995 Greg signed with Players Forsythe Racing who was an active sponsor in Indy Lights, and had watched Moore “mature”.
With proper backing, the 1995 Indy Lights series became dominated by Greg Moore. He won 10 of 12 races, including the first 5. He led 375 out of 583 total laps, and beat his nearest rival Robbie Buhl, by 102 points. Somewhat sadly for us hometown boys, his worst finish of the year came at his hometown Vancouver, where he finished 5th.
Oh well. You can see Greg talking about his season in this clip.
I think that’s the Coquitlam River in the background.
The minor leagues were conquered. Onto the big time. That’s coming in Part 2 which will be published at the same time and place tomorrow. Thank you very much for reading!