Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Greg Moore

The photo that is currently up on the blog here is one I took of race car driver Greg Moore at a race in Nazareth, PA, in April, 1999. I was living in New York at the time, and the CART Series (Championship Auto Racing Teams, what everyone knows as IndyCars) came to Nazareth once a year. Even though it was only a couple hours drive away, I got a hotel the first time I went in 1998. When I went again in 1999, I just drove back and forth each day over the race weekend.

I'd been a fan of CART since the early 90's, and got more heavily into it starting in 1996, which was Greg's first year in the series. He came off the most successful season ever in Indy Lights, the top junior series for racing at the time, winning 10 of 12 races that year, and running away with the championship. He immediately made an impact in his first season in CART. While not winning his first race until mid-1997, he was a consistent top-5 finisher, often challenging for the lead, and running well in the season championship. He only managed 5 race victories in his career, and never did win a championship at the CART level, but he was definitely a success.

He was also a very friendly and approachable person. One of the more popular drivers in the series, he was liked by fans and competitors alike. Since CART never approached NASCAR-like success in this country, the drivers were accessible at races. I was able to meet Greg at several races over the late 90's, taking many pictures of him both in and out of the car. The above photo was of him getting his gear on as he prepared to go out for a practice session. I eventually had this shot blown up to 9 X 12", and had him sign it when I met him again at a race in Cleveland in July of 1999. Matted and framed, it's on the wall over the fireplace in my home, underneath a favorite painting by my father.

I think because he was a rookie in 1996, plus that was the first year I followed the series from opener to closer, and the car he drove was sponsored by Player's (a Canadian tobacco brand) and decked out in the coolest shade of blue, made him my favorite. While I enjoyed watching races, and did like some of the other drivers, Greg was always the one I really pulled for, and really wanted to see win. I remember being so thrilled when he pulled out an amazing victory in Detroit in 1997, coming from a very close third to win on the last lap, when both cars of the PacWest team ran out of fuel in front of him! They had gambled big, and lost big, but Greg had been right there all thru the race, and it was fantastic to see him win.

The first time I met him, at Nazareth in April 1998, I got one of my favorite photographs ever. Greg came out to meet the fans for a few minutes, chatted with people, signed autographs, and posed for photos. His father, who was his manager as well, came out to let him know he was needed back at work. As the two of them turned to walk back into their tent, I snapped one last picture on the crappy camera I had at the time. It wasn't until I got the film developed (you see, in the old days, cameras had film...) about a week later that I realized I'd gotten a gem. The picture has Greg on the left, with his father to his right, walking in lockstep away from the camera back into the tent. The two of them were always very close, with Ric being Greg's coach, guide, agent, mentor, manager, and friend all thru his career. I had 8 X 10"s made of that, and separately presented each of them with a copy when I saw them in Nazareth in 1999. I also had them both sign one for me, which is framed and on top of a bookcase here in my home office.

This Halloween will mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Greg Moore, who was killed in the final race of the 1999 CART season, doing what he loved to do. He was 24.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Slipknot, Tom Lehrer, Danzig, The Runaways, The Coasters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bo Diddley, The English Beat, Queen, Queens Of The Stone Age, Alice In Chains, Anthrax, and the Vancouver Canucks visiting the Chicago Blackhawks in the background

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