1999 Marlboro 500
|Race 20 of 20 in the 1999 CART season|
|Date||October 31, 1999|
|Official name||1999 Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota|
|Location||Auto Club Speedway|
2.029 mi / 3.23 km
500 mi / 804.672 km
|Weather||Temperatures reaching up to 93.9 °F (34.4 °C); wind speeds approaching 11.1 miles per hour (17.9 km/h)|
|Driver||Scott Pruett (Arciero-Wells Racing)|
|Time||31.030 (235.398 MPH)|
|Driver||Christian Fittipaldi (Newman/Haas Racing)|
|Time||31.732 (230.190 MPH) (on lap 224 of 250)|
|First||Adrian Fernandez (Patrick Racing)|
|Second||Max Papis (Team Rahal)|
|Third||Christian Fittipaldi (Newman/Haas Racing)|
The 1999 Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota was held on October 31, 1999, at Auto Club Speedway (then known as California Speedway) in Fontana, California as the final race of the 1999 CART World Series season. The race was marred by an accident involving Forsythe Racing driver Greg Moore in the early stages of the race, which resulted in the Canadian racer losing his life.
Adrian Fernandez, driving the Tecate/Quaker State Ford for Patrick Racing, won the race. It was his second victory of 1999 following his earlier victory at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan and the fifth of his career. It was also the second time that Fernandez won a race where another driver was killed; he won the 1996 Molson Indy Toronto street course event that saw Jeff Krosnoff lose his life.
This marked the final Champ Car race for the Two Time Champion Al Unser Jr who moved to the Indy Race League, Scott Pruett, PJ Jones, Robby Gordon left the category to join NASCAR. Also Richie Hearn, Raul Boesel, Dennis Vitolo, Naoki Hattori along with Hogan Racing, All American Racers and Goodyear made their last appearance in the category.
The championship entering the race was still to be decided. The two contenders were Dario Franchitti, driver of the #27 Kool Cigarettes Honda for Team Green, and rookie Juan Pablo Montoya, driving the #4 Target Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. Franchitti had just won the previous race at Surfers Paradise and held a nine-point lead in the season points standings over Montoya, who wrecked out and scored no points.
Scott Pruett won the pole for the race, his final pole in the CART, his only of the season and also for the team. His fastest lap had an average speed of 235.398 miles per hour. The championship contenders Montoya qualified 3rd and Franchitti in 8th. Greg Moore was the only driver that did not make a qualifying run, thus starting at the rear of the field. Moore was not even certain to be in the race due to an accident in the paddock area the weekend before the race, where he was hit by a vehicle while riding his motor scooter. Moore suffered a broken hand in the incident and his team, Forsythe Racing, hired Roberto Moreno as an emergency backup driver if Moore could not run the entire race. After a medical consultation, and an in-car test, he was allowed to race using a hand brace and had the pain dulled with an injection of medicine.
- The championship contenders are in bold
Pruett led the way in his final CART appearance, but he would not held the lead for long as he dropped back and fell out of the race later on, while Michael Andretti took control at the start. Two laps later, Richie Hearn in his final CART race, spun in turn and struck the inside wall; he would walk away. Alex Barron crashed out of the event on the 27th lap; that was the final accident of the event. After leading all but nine of the first seventy-one laps, Andretti's car suffered a fire during his second pit stop, which dropped him out of contention. Dario Franchitti, who was in a championship battle with Juan Pablo Montoya, also had difficulties on pit road; he fell off the pace when his first pit stop led to an improperly fitted right rear wheel, and the replacement tires had incorrect pressure. Raul Boesel, who was running his 3rd race of the season, fell out with an engine blown as he completed 164 laps, this race turned out to be his last of his 173 starts, leaving him with the most starts to never win a CART race. Max Papis led the Marlboro 500 for 111 laps, but was forced to make a pit stop near the end for fuel. Adrián Fernández would take the lead and held him off to get the win after successfully stretching his fuel supply to avoid a late pit stop. Fernandez finished the race approximately seven seconds in front of Papis.
Juan Pablo Montoya and Franchitti ended up in a tie with 212 points. Franchitti had scored more podiums but Montoya won the title by having the most wins with seven to Franchitti's three. The championship was also Chip Ganassi Racing its fourth straight title with three drivers (also including Jimmy Vasser in 1996 and Alex Zanardi in 1997–1998). The finale, however, would be marred by tragedy as Greg Moore was killed on the 9th lap of the race. For Fernandez, it was his second win that was marred by tragedy. He won his first CART win at Toronto three years prior to Moore's death, a race in which Jeff Krosnoff was killed. Fernandez responded, "It's so hard. Greg was such a good friend of ours. We've been racing for a while and shared so many good moments on and off the track."
Fatal accident on lap 9
On lap 9, Moore lost control of his car and crashed in the same area in turn two where Hearn had already crashed six laps earlier and where Jimmy Vasser had crashed in practice. The two earlier incidents were significantly different than Moore's, however. Vasser and Hearn had both been exiting pit road when they crashed, and thus were not traveling at high rates of speed when they spun out onto the grass.
Moore was not as fortunate. Entering the turn at full racing speed (well over 200 miles per hour), Moore also lost control and began to spin out. However, as he was spinning, the rear wheels of the #99 car clipped an access road and turned immediately sideways. The car struck the inside retaining wall cockpit side first. Moore's car broke into numerous pieces almost immediately as a result of the impact and the engine was ripped from the car as it tumbled over and over in the infield. The vehicle was almost completely destroyed in the accident and what was left of the cockpit came to rest upside down several yards away from the impact site. Moore's condition was immediately a concern; Ultimately, he had to be extricated from the remains of his vehicle and was eventually airlifted to a local hospital from the track. Moore had stopped breathing on impact, having hit the wall almost head first.
Moore was just 24 years old when he died and was the second driver to die in the season; Penske Racing driver Gonzalo Rodríguez had been killed in a practice crash at Laguna Seca Raceway just three races earlier. Moore was also the last driver to die in a CART FedEx Championship Series event before the reunion with the IndyCar Series and it was not until 2006 that another open wheel driver lost his life in an accident (Paul Dana).
The drivers were not informed of Moore's death until the race concluded. There were no post race ceremonies for Fernandez's victory or Montoya's championship; instead, a prayer service for Moore was conducted by the track's chaplain and the flags in victory lane were flown at half staff.
An investigation of the fatal crash said the fatal head injury was caused because the car had flown into the wall with Moore's head smashing into the barrier first in a specific angle. The investigation confirmed that had the car hit the wall differently than Greg's head hitting the wall first, Moore would have survived.
This event was to be Moore's last with Forsythe Racing, as he was signed to fill an open seat at Penske for 2000 and was to team with Gil de Ferran of Walker Racing, who signed on to replace Al Unser, Jr. in the Penske stable. Moore was replaced by Hogan Racing's Hélio Castroneves, whose team was shutting down; Castroneves drove for Penske in the CART and IndyCar series until 2017, when he joined the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series; his initial signing with Penske, however, caused tax issues that would later be resolved in 2009.
For safety reasons, International Speedway Corporation paved over the runoff area that Moore had his accident in and later paved over the entire backstretch.
Moore would end up finishing in 10th in the final points standings but soon after his death, the number 99 would be retired by CART in honor of him. Fellow drivers paid tribute to this day, including Dario Franchitti who was one of Moore's best friends, when he won at Vancouver in 2002. Franchitti did so again he won the 2009 IndyCar Series title and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Moore won his final CART victory in the same year of his death. Max Papis to this day still wears red gloves in honor of Moore who wore red gloves during his career.