After reading Jaynelle Ramon's blog about how she hasn't gone to an Indy race in Houston since the death of driver Greg Moore, and she wouldn't know what to do if Jeff Gordon were to suffer the same fate, I got to thinking about Greg. Its been a while since I thought about him. He was the sole reason that I started to get interested in CART again. Both his personality and ability to handle a race car could captivate you. What does this have to do with a NASCAR Blog? Not much really, I guess ... except for the fact that a lot of people feel the same way about Jeff Gordon and were shaken quite substantially after his wreck at Pocono in June. Earnhardt fans know what its like to lose their favourite driver - as do Kenny Irwin and Adam Petty fans.
I've got an interesting tale about Greg that only a few people know about that I'm going to share with you now.
About five months before Greg died he visited McMaster University as part of a promotional tour for Molson Breweries. The tour was to provide good public relations for the beer company in promoting a 'Drink Responsibly' campaign as well as to promote the upcoming Molson Indy running a few months later down the highway in Toronto. Greg's visit wasn't heavily advertised as the target audience was university students, so not too many people knew about his visit off of the University campus. I happened to be taking a night course at the University on Mondays to help move myself up higher on the pay grid at work. One Monday evening I noticed a flyer posted near the cafeteria about Greg's visit later that week in the middle of the day (I'm almost positive it was a Thursday at about 2:00 pm) and immediately started thinking of how to get out of work so I could go. My dedication to work won out and I did not go, and given what happened a few months later I now regret that decision - but hind-sight is 20/20 as they say.
I'm a teacher, and at that time I had an 8th grade class. One child in my class was a huge Greg Moore fan, about as big of a fan of Greg's as I was of Dale Earnhardt - and those of you who know me know how much of an Earnhardt fan I was and still am. Anyway, I called this student's parents and told them about Greg coming to the University and that I thought he should go if they could arrange it. They were a little apprehensive about taking their son out of school to go visit a race car driver, but I reassured them that meeting his hero would have a far greater impact on his life than the boring History and Math lessons I had planned for that afternoon. Education is not just about what you learn in school, it is also about experiencing things. I was able to sell the parents on the idea and the boy's mother ended up taking him along with his cousin to see Greg.
The two boys were the youngest people there, the only kids in fact, and the mom was the oldest and she was only in her late 30's at the time. Anyway, Greg gave his lecture, answered questions and signed autographs. Once most everyone left, Greg went over to the two boys, sat down and talked with them for about 45 minutes. They talked about the areodynamics of Indy cars, which the two boys had learned about in science class recently and he was impressed about how much they knew about drag co-efficients and so on. He was also surprised that they found out about his appearance through one of their teachers and that he suggested they take the time off of school to go and see him. He then pulled out some pictures of himself and signed them for the kids, and then he asked my student what my name was and signed a picture for me, which I got the next day.
Every time I look at that picture now I remember that student's face when he was telling me about his experience of meeting Greg and how he took the time to sit down with him and talk. It really was rewarding for me to see his face light up about his encounter with Greg. Yet when I look at that autographed picture I'm also sadden by the great loss of a person who was as genuine as any one person can be. Racing really lost a good one in him, and he didn't even have his career fully off the ground when he died. Imagine what could have been.
The racing deaths of Greg Moore, Dale Earnhardt, Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin, Aryton Senna, and the like are all tragic and emphasize the need for better safety features on the track and in the race car. Every time something like what happened to Jeff Gordon in June occurs, we all hold our breath, pray, and wait, and hopefully breath a sigh of relief. We all know the realities of racing, but every now and then something happens to remind us of them, I just hope that these reminders continue to have the same outcomes as Jeff's and not like Greg's.