10-31-99 ................. [Lap# 10 Day# 31 Car# 99]
It should have been CART's shining day to decide and celebrate a series champion, instead it
was the day racing said goodbye to one of it's brightest talents, Greg Moore.
ESPN's technical staff are to be commended for handling a very difficult situation with style and class on live television. They started pulling out to the longshot even before the crumbled Players car came to rest. There were no on air replays, closeups of extrication, or attempted speculation on Moore's condition from the press booth. Almost makes me think they are starting to listen to some of our email criticism of botched coverage from prior events this past year. CART calls it a Code 5 on the radio when a crash is suspected to be life threatening. "Code 5, Code 5" came across the scanner on sunday. Technical directors knew from various camera shots that there was virtually no chance of survivability. Said ESPN producer Shawn Murphy, "The guys did their best to deal with a tragic situation under extreme pressure while on the air".
When the Hanford device came upon the scene last year it was praised by fans who saw more lead changes and passing than ever before in Champcar racing. The drivers on the other hand were claiming it made the cars too unstable at high speeds for safe racing. I think we now have proof of what the drivers were trying to say back then. The turbulence generated behind a Hanford device all but negates a front wing of a car following behind, for all practical purposes, rendering it useless. Richie Hearn and Greg Moore spun off in an almost identical manner exiting turn two at Fontana. Their tire marks on the track began within 20ft of one another. The track was clean, and the nose of both cars were in identical positions behind the left rear of the Hanford device of the car ahead of them when they spun. Yes this new wing slowed the cars, [by 5-8mph at Fontana] but is the risk to the drivers worth it? I think not. It's time for smaller displacement engines for the Champcars. Toss the Hanford wing in the garbage and drop 1/2 liter of engine size and 2 inches of [turbo] boost and you instantly have a 25mph slower race car that can run whatever wing it chooses.
You can bet the exit of Fontana's turn two will be redesigned before next season. There will be pavement where today there is grass. There will be some form of energy absorption where today there is concrete wall. The Penske Palace now has identified a flaw that must be dealt with before any other events are held there.
The CART points race could not have ended any closer. Contenders Dario Franchitti and Juan Montoya were tied with the exact same number of points. The championship was awarded to Montoya as he had more race wins than Franchitti. The new sheriff in town is named Chip Ganassi, who now has four straight titles, [Vasser,Zanardi,Zanardi,Montoya] in four years.
I sat in the stands on 10-31-99 listening to the scanner chat, almost in a daze, not wanting to believe what I was hearing and seeing. The sight of the Players crew walking 2x2 through the tunnel onto pitlane to begin taking down the 99 pit is now forever etched into my mind. Like thousands of others in the stands, we cried like a big family of 90,000.
And it should have been such a shining day.......
Several friends requested I repost the scanner chat info that I penned sunday night after the race. The following is how it all went sunday afternoon at California Speedway.
When one hangs around a track on a race weekend you tend to get a 'gut feeling' about how things are going. When the wind spun Gil de Ferran during qualifying saturday, I told those I was with I had a bad feeling about this weekend. Something just didnt feel right to me, I was scared, but at the same time I was unsure why. The CART drivers have made statements about the Hanford wings since their inception. Words to the effect of "it scares me, but its good racing for the fans" or "You just hold your breath and turn into the corner".
That same gut feeling played out when there was no replay of the crash on the Jumbotrons. We knew it was bad. Then came the "who was it?". Then the 99 car started going laps down on the scoring pylon. Ok we knew it was Greg. Locking on the 99 cars scanner freq we start hearing tidbits like, "driver is unconscious" and a very scary "make sure the car is covered". A bit later CART CEO Andrew Craig came on the 99 freq and said something to the effect of "Please contact me immediately if and when anything is heard"
The race resumed as the lifeflight helicopter left the speedway. The speculation began in earnest. On the scanner we start hearing things like, "All  car crew meet at the motorcoach now" [That gut feeling was getting more uncomfortable by the minute! We knew what had happened but did not want to believe it.]
Desperate for information we locked onto the ESPN's technical freq [tv directors prompting the on-air personalities] as they were the ones with the video footage. They knew it was bad as they had already begun composing video tribute footage even before any announcements were made. An ESPN tech director ordered a reporter to the infield medical center for an announcement. We kept the scanner on the ESPN control feed. It was then noticed that the 3 huge flags at the start/finish line had been lowered to half mast. (still no official announcement on air) [Gut feeling confirmed.]
Then came word from the ESPN feed that a yellow flag was coming up but for no on-track incident. CART then threw the debris caution and the official announcent was made on the air. [in effect, a made for tv caution]
In one of the most chilling things I've ever seen, Greg Moore's crew marched, almost as in formation, 2x2 through the tunnel back into pit lane and began to dismantle the 99 cars pit. They were as stoic as robots, fighting back emotion I'm sure. It was one of the most touching, gut werenching things that I'll never forget. The track announcer's words silenced the crowd.
The race went on.....
Near the end of the race I heard on the scanner that there was not going to be any victory lane celebration, but rather a few words from the chaplin. (this from the ESPN tech feed)
After the race, they asked that the fans please remain at their seats over the track PA system. A chaplin then asked for a moment of silence and gave a final prayer for Greg Moore, his family, friends, and crew.
A huge shout out to Linda, Paula, and Theresa for yet another weekend of hospitality in The City Of Angels.